Martin ‘Bazooka’ Nanyemba
It is said, “ignorance is an enemy, even to its owner, and knowledge is a friend, even to its hater.”
Although the ignorant might not understand the gravity of this statement, it is pertinent that in the interest of truth and understanding, one must rectify the lack of insight displayed by certain sections of the local media, who choose to remain headstrong in operating from a position of self-imposed ignorance.
These misguided few agents of the fourth estate generally fail to ask the right questions when it comes to matters concerning governance, economics and politics. At the expense of many, headlines and articles are published with the intent to rouse negative emotion rather than stimulate thought-provoking debate and intelligent discourse. The result is a media environment that is fuelled by innuendos, gossip, assumptions and misguided delusions of investigative acumen.
Is it then any surprise that our journalists in this context never ask the important question: “How do the president’s foreign travel and that of government officials benefit the Namibian citizen in terms of overall economic welfare, political peace, security, safety and social benefits?”
Instead, without contextualising, they published emotional gerrymandering articles with headlines that generate anger, resentment and hostility towards our political leaders and government officials such as ‘Govt VIPs chop N$54m in S&Ts in two years’, or ‘Geingob’s N$3m pocket money from 19 trips’. Such journalistic irresponsibility could be comical, except that it is downright dangerous and compromises the security of state functionaries and the nation.
The aim is not to promote good governance or ensure the public good, but it is rather to provoke citizens towards personal hatred of the President and his administration, cause social disturbances, effect regime change to replace the ruling party, with the opposition.
We should be frank that some sections of the local media, either motivated by some tribal instincts and prejudice, or simply “base” hatred, from the start never wanted President Hage Geingob to become the president of this country.
Some of our misguided media must understand that despite their best efforts to portray our third president as a “wrong” candidate since he is not originating from northern Namibia, the majority of Namibians, including those from northern, central, southern, eastern and western Namibia, elected him in 2014 with an unprecedented majority of 86%.
For a few, this was a bitter pill to swallow, and to date, the pill remains lodged in their esophagi. The truth is, it would have been better for them to swallow that bitter pill and not the blades.
However, these elements were not deterred by the president’s national popularity, and set out to wreck his image and reputation at every turn from 2015 to date.
They try to discredit him by always painting a bleak picture, claiming that nothing is working and that all things are bad in the country. Yet, against all odds, HPPI and II authored under the president’s guidance, are finally starting to bear fruit!
Some may say but the journalists are simply doing their duty to keep the president accountable as the fourth estate, so what’s the problem? The answer is simple: when one has not been “proudly tracking” the S&T spending and travelling since 25 years of independence during the tenure of the two previous presidents, to determine the S&T “chopping” presidential objective; and only make it the mainstay of your “job” for the third president, it shows a lack of any investigative honesty or integrity.
The appropriate exercise would have been to provide a blow-by-blow comparison of the trip expenditures of the three presidents. Instead, these so-called journalists, like political opponents put on the president a false but harmful moniker of extravagance, flamboyance and wastefulness.
They ignore with regularity the president’s philanthropic disposition, and frantically continue to paint him as a man of avarice. But as the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln once said, “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
The people are not fooled. Our eyes see that some agents of bedlam sponsored by foreign agencies masquerade as investigative journalists while desperately trying to foment division, hatred, tribalism and political unrest in Namibia in the quest to destroy the ruling party.
Constitutional mandate to act
Coming back to the principal question of whether the President’s and his officials’ foreign travels are delivering any tangible value, let us consider the following facts.
First, the president as the Head of State of Namibia is enjoined by the Constitution as well as by Vision 2030 to give expression to the high statements contained therein, specifically such as the maintenance of territorial integrity, peace, safety and stability, and the economic welfare and progress of all citizens.
To translate these policy commitments into prosperity, the president and his officials have to go out in the world, and literally “zula for life” for the nation. He has to interact at different levels, such as political, diplomatic, economic, security, environmental and social, with all types of people to attend to Namibia’s needs and aspirations.
It is in this spirit that the president and his officials frequent meetings at the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), SADC, Southern African Customs Union (SACU), World Trade Organisation (WTO), UN Climate Change conferences, World Economic Forum (WEF), Commonwealth and others. It is pertinent that the president engages in political and diplomatic discourse with his fellow heads of State and non-state actors to address issues which will help Namibia realise its constitutional objectives.
Necessity to pursue national interest
It is likewise obligatory that he engages bilaterally to maintain, establish and nurture friendship and solidarity with other countries, and seek assistance, expertise or exchange views on matters of mutual interests. This is the statecraft of classical diplomacy. The objective is to always employ obtained advantages or concessions as inputs for Namibia’s development process. Some call these national interests. Countries value healthy friendships, and help each other on a friendship basis to promote their national interests. Thus, without a network of friends such as Namibia has under president Geingob’s dictum of “friend to all and enemy to none”, countries drown in their problems on the day that they need a helping hand the most. It is never about the President and ministers chopping S&T, but always about what is good for Namibia and its people, and national interests.
In the area of safety and security, presidents are expected by their constituencies to interact with peers internationally as a means of maintaining peace and stability. Recently, we hosted presidents and their delegations from South Africa, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the SADC Extraordinary Troika meeting, which the president chaired. Why was that the case? To diplomatically advance and secure their national interests in the safety and security area.
At the environmental level, given Namibia’s precarious environmental situation of sustained droughts due to global warming, the president and officials have no other choice but to regularly participate in the UN Climate Change conferences to seek collective solutions to help alleviate Namibia’s droughts.
Without such collaboration involving international travel, it will not be possible for the president to be effective in his governance mandate. For this reason, we understand that official travelling is not about “chopping S&T”, but is a non-negotiable necessity of statecraft. As someone stated, “peace, stability and security do not have a price tag, except the price of Namibian lives. [We can, therefore, not corporatise the Namibian government as if it is a business, and always expect returns in the form of hard cash.] The government’s profit is the effective provision of public goods such as personal safety, security, stability and peace. Stability is a return, peace is a return, and so is security.”
Harvesting dividends for prosperity
Having said that, it is self-evident that president Geingob’s last term is going to end with a successful bang. In the investment area, through economic diplomacy, the president and his ministers created a conducive business environment for the development of the green hydrogen industry, and oil and gas, which are finally bearing good returns.
In this context, Namibia secured N$1.52 billion in grants through a European Union partnership agreement at COP27 in Egypt this year. This will jump-start green hydrogen pilot projects in the Erongo and //Kharas regions, and support manufacturing. Also, 60 Master’s and 30 technical and vocational scholarships were awarded this year under the Youth for Green Hydrogen Scholarship to ensure their meaningful participation in the green hydrogen revolution. Additionally, billions of investments, thousands of jobs, new infrastructure and increased exports are expected in this sector via Hyphen company investors and others.
Finally, due to Namibia’s robust investment promotion architecture, the recent oil reserve discoveries near Lüderitz by Qatar Energy, Shell and TotalEnergies, are a game- changer for which all Namibians, poor and rich, white and black, should be grateful! Experts estimate that Namibia stands to receive N$500 billion in FDI; N$60 to N$95 billion in annual taxes and royalties; 3 600 jobs; and a doubling of our GDP to N$636 billion by 2040. This is not daydreaming, as the activities are happening right now. However, the perennial enemies of progress in Namibia (the EPNs) are busy prophesying that the oil will bring a resource curse, and that only the political elite will benefit. To counter such a possibility, the government established the Welwitschia Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Value added is priceless
In conclusion, we have demonstrated that the focus on the president’s travels and claims of S&T “chopping” is ill-placed. Travel is part of his mandate, and he owes it to the Namibian people to give expression to the high goals of the Constitution and Vision 2030 by executing his work diligently for the sake of Namibia’s national interest. We also responded with an emphatic self-evident YES to the main question of whether the president’s travels and diplomatic, political and investment engagements are beneficial to the citizens. It is from the partnerships forged during such travels that Namibia is today receiving billions of investments in green hydrogen and oil and gas to provide high-paying jobs to all its citizens. Through new or enhance bonds of friendships during such travels, Namibia at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, received critical vaccines and aid that saved millions of Namibian lives from certain death. Namibia, through such travels, continuously strengthens at bilateral and multilateral (SADC, AU & UN) levels its security and safety architecture, and today none of our citizens, poor or rich, are refugees displaced by internal civil strife and wars. Clearly, the president’s value- addition to our national interest via international engagements is priceless, beyond comparison to any S&T expenditure.
Therefore, we dismiss this shameful and degrading obsession with the president’s travels and the claim of “S&T chopping“ as a small-minded nullity, a “much ado about nothing exercise,” and encourage our president to continue doing his job with the vigour, passion and courage that we have become accustomed to since he assumed office in 2015. Rest assured, comrade president, the nation and its people are behind you, every step of the way, on the march to prosperity.