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Geingob, the measure of a man

2024-02-23  Correspondent

Geingob, the measure of a man

Jemima Beukes

President Hage Geingob will be sorely missed, but certainly not for the prosperity he gleefully promised the Namibian people. 

As it is said, “The easiest man to be forgiven is a dead man”. Marc Anthony, on the other hand, argues that “the good that men do is oft interred with their bones.”

Geingob, fondly known as “Omes, Hagelulu”, connected with people genuinely, earning their trust and respect, and will forever be carved in the hearts of Namibians as “the people’s president”.

He was undoubtedly a champion for a free press and access to information, but he was also extremely condescending with the media. As a result, I mentally prepared myself for a few years before I dared to ask him a question because he would usually sweep the floor with journalists.

But, let me not lie, we had easy access to him and if it were not for the Press Secretary Alfredo Hengari, we would have had unhindered access to Geingob who wore his heart on his sleeve. 

At times when we arrived before guests and found him waiting in the chamber, we could chit-chat with him and even put him on the spot, and that is my best memory of him. This was a privilege that no other journalists in this world can boast of.

I recall once when an international guest visited, they walked off to tête-à-tête in the Chamber after a photo-opportunity and I shouted “Mr. President I have a question,” though I cannot recall the question at this point. He turned around and said, “Please wait so the guests can leave before we as a family discuss things of home”.

As a journalist, my memory of Geingob is a mixed bag. I will cherish his commitment to press freedom which allowed us to have several field days per se, but on the other hand, he will certainly be remembered as a president who fumbled the bag.

In 2015, Geingob was overwhelmingly elected with 87% of the votes, but in the recent election, his support dropped to a sorry 56%. This decline tells a story of a leader who drifted away from the people who had placed their trust in him, and seemingly, he wasn’t bothered by it.

He tiptoed around corruption, downplaying it at any given time, insisting that it was not systemic despite several studies and reports showing the contrary. Geingob failed to decisively deal with non-performing officials, instead, he reshuffled “his problems” as The Namibian once wrote.

He insulted the Nama and Ovaherero people repeatedly concerning negotiations for reparations. He bamboozled the nation. Six years ago, he declared informal settlements a humanitarian crisis that he wanted gone in five years. Ironically, as I write this, it is the year he declared as the Year of Expectations, yet those shack dwellers are yet to have their expectations that Hage created, fulfilled.

Instead of improving, the crisis worsened, with shacks continuing to sprawl across Windhoek’s hillsides. Then there was the Fishrot bribery scandal and allegations that its proceeds were used to fund his re-election campaign in 2019.

Because of this scandal, many fishermen committed suicide due to the loss of their jobs as fishing quotas were diverted to benefit the political elite. 

Geingob’s dismissive attitude towards inquiries about Swapo and the dungeon, as well as his reluctance to address the Ovaherero and Nama genocide discussions, further complicates his legacy.

Another nail in the coffin of his legacy was when he said that apartheid South Africa’s actions were “worse” than the genocide committed by Germany against the Nama and Ovaherero people.

The real tragedy about Geingob’s passing is that a man who came with so much promise to turn around this country’s fortunes will only be remembered for dancing and joking around.

And as Marc Anthony said, Geingob’s good deeds will indeed be interred with his bones. 


* Jemima Beukes is a political reporter and research fellow for Africa Asia Dialogue (AfraSid) an independent think tank and serves as the acting secretary general of the Namibia Media Professionals Union. The views expressed are her own.

2024-02-23  Correspondent

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