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Hage is a weapon against inequality

17/11/2017
by Chris-Paul
Columns


Since becoming the president of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob’s actions have not only suggested an attempt to take power away from unelected establishment "elites" who previously had been permitted to pratfall around the world taking large amounts of money outside the country, but also an amazing foreign policy doctrine.

It is already taking shape, characterised by a shift from political engagement to economic engagement. In his short period in office, the President has been taking strides in marketing the country across the world than ever seen before.

Contrary to popular belief, inequality between all people in the world has declined consistently since 1990, but we can hardly feel or see it. That’s the matrixes, but trends have suggested that within-country inequality has been falling in many places; unfortunately the same can hardly be said in the SADC region.

In our country, for instance, inequality is still far too high, however, and important concerns remain around the concentration of wealth among those at the top of the income distribution.

Given the projected growth trends, we can see that reducing inequality is a necessary component in our goal of complete poverty eradication as stated in the Harambee Prosperity Plan.

Though we have made little progress in trying to deal with this issue, the larger picture painted seems to suggest that we have not succeeded.

President Hage seems to understand that as a nation we need to be driven by the same forces towards prosperity, we need to speak in one voice and drive at the same speed if we are to find that robust social cohesion that will lead to eliminating that layer of inequality.

This is why he has been speaking about “pulling together in the same direction.”

He believes that the social cohesion of our democratic Namibian society should be built on the premise of equality, that there are checks and balances to prevent the gap between rich and poor becoming so wide that people question the whole basis of a system and government that leaves large numbers in poverty. 

There is also evidence that strong growth in emerging and developing countries in recent years which have raised living standards have not necessarily made people happier, at least partly due to growing inequality and high youth unemployment.

Well to an extent it may be that money cannot buy you happiness as the haves would like us the have-nots to believe, but it is my sentiments that this only makes sense if you have enough money in the first place to meet your basic needs such as food, shelter and clothes for your family, education for your children.  

What happens then when that very basic equation breaks down, the majority of the people in the country see no hope of improving themselves? How can governments address inequality?

When things start to get a tougher in the country, without a thriving middle class earning money to pay taxes, provide for their families and save for their retirement, governments will see public coffers emptying and their economies faltering.

When government is limiting public expenditure and employing all sorts of measures in order to curtail the problems, people’s attention doesn’t naturally turn to the question of whether they have the opportunities to improve their lives, they also start to listen to messages of distraction and become susceptible to the ideas of those who do not have the interest of the country at heart.

That’s when problems mount; we start to halt our progress by trying to turn against the very force, in this case, President Hage,  that are trying to take us forward and listen to backwardness because we are made to believe that they are the only way out. 

We don’t only start listening to music by disgruntled crowd pleaser. We start dancing to it.  Instead of learning from countries where growth is strong and invest our resources in social development through better health care, education, social protection and other services, we get to distaste every developmental project that government is trying to embark on.

Instead of encouraging ourselves to value our relationship with the public service and help make public policies more efficient, we start looking at it as the enemy of our progress because we are so blinded by the divisive message of the crowd pleasers. 

Growing demand for social cohesion comes from a rapidly expanding middle class, and we in Namibia are not worse off.

Just think about it, we have a robust middle class with rising expectations, desire and ability to participate in civic activities and aspirations for better standards of living and these should truly be our driving force for change.

We can achieve this if we stop derailing ourselves and join forces with our government. We have a free press and let us use it to criticise and hold government accountable positively.

Namibian as a country is strong on social mobility, the prospect of us young people having a better life than our parents. This should be embraced and be used as a strong motivation for young people to commit to education, some of it which we have finally managed to make free for every Namibian child and to work hard.

I’m advocating for this knowing that when high youth unemployment limits the chances of finding a job and widening inequality saps the chances of upward mobility. There is a high risk of young people becoming disillusioned and angry as we have in recent times.

There will be a lot of anger and confusion so they become prone to being turned against their government by power hungry opportunists, who will make them see their government as the enemy and would not acknowledge any progress government is making.

Not to mention their parents, who may have made sacrifices for a longer period of their lives just to ensure a good education for their children in the belief it would bring them a better life.

As the youth, we can champion that social cohesion and be the vanguard for our prosperity. We have the rising expectations, desire and ability to participate in civic activities and aspirations for better standards of living, so let us use that to the best of our interests.

The government, at least in Namibia, can never and will never be our Achilles heel. We don’t need to look any further for solutions to our problems as they are embedded in own minds.

Truth be told in this country we do not only have the means and the resources to achieve prosperity, but we also have the leader to guide us to such as President Hage. A notion or reality we tend to take for granted many times, helped by those trying to steer the ruling party backwards such as the so-called Team Swapo.

But if you look carefully right now you will see that something is afoot in the so-called Team Swapo. Despite their pledge of to restore the Swapo Party, they have thus far not only failed to provide what it is exactly what they are going to do, but there’s also no honest acknowledgement yet of what lies behind their sordid agenda.

If you have observed the so-called Team Swapo, you would have noticed that there is something peculiar about them. While Jerry Ekandjo believes he's in the driver's seat, someone else is controlling the gas pedal, and yet another guy is pumping the breaks – and such is the confusion in the Team Swapo.

For years, Jerry and Nahas Angula have both followed a policy of promise but never deliver. They are making the right noises in an attempt to convince delegates to the congress to prefer them over President Hage Geingob,  and yet even they know when it comes down to it, they hardly come up with the goods. We don’t need to look far, but a quick glance at their track record shows that.

The team has been employing all sorts of trickery to win over delegates to congress, but I was stunned and saddened by how they tried to position the Founding Father as partial and one-sided.

I'm not sure if the whole leadership understands what it is currently conveying to its gullible followers or people in this country when it undermines a president who was chosen by the Namibian people. As things are at the moment, they are undermining the people's elected representative and thus ignoring the will of the people.

Don’t get me wrong, of course; every president faces partisan opposition. That's how democracy works. President Hage, on the other hand, is facing a nonstop onslaught of obstruction from one angle, which is problematic because it is from within the institutions tasked with leading government. Instead of supporting him to carry out his agenda on behalf of those who elected him by letting him stand unopposed, they have declared war against him.

If that is too much to ask, then campaign against the man in a dignified way. Then a presidential candidate, John McCan demonstrated this very well during a campaign in Columbus, Ohio in 2008 when he urged his supporters to “fight respectfully” against their opponents.

The move by McCain at a town-hall meeting in Lakeville, Minn, came after days of rising tensions as the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign repeatedly attacked Obama as a friend of a 1960s radical they called a terrorist.

Growing angry about Obama’s increasing lead in polls, supporters of McCain and running mate Sarah Palin responded with loud cries of “terrorist” and “traitor.”

At one rally I watched on TV as McCain winced when his mention of Obama’s name was greeted by the shout of “terrorist,” but the candidate said nothing.

His supporters continued to press him to get tougher on Obama. But when one man said he was scared to raise his unborn child in a country that might be led by President Obama, as you would expect from any dignified leader, McCain disagreed.

“I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States,” McCain said told the deranged supporter.  “If you want a fight, we will fight,” McCain said.

“But we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments. I don’t mean that has to reduce your ferocity; I just mean to say you have to be respectful.”

As he continued with his speech, I saw him at one point grabbed the microphone from a woman who had begun to say she didn’t like Obama because he is an Arab. Shaking his head and indicating that he disagreed with her, McCain said, “No, ma’am. No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen who I just happen to have serious differences with on fundamental questions.”

His comments came a day after an angry Wisconsin crowd shouted epithets about Obama, pumped fists angrily and repeatedly catcalled when Obama’s name was mentioned. But he stood firm in correcting his audience and followers, as any dignified leader would.

While Campaigning in different regions, President Hage has not reduced himself to their level, nor has he felt the need to defend his character against the attacks, daring them to run as negatively as they want while predicting that, in light of increasing support from delegates, it will not work.

It seems like the only solutions they are offering are insulting and disrespecting our President, doing exactly what you would expect from deranged supporters.

Their low blows have been appalling for people with aspirations to lead the county. None of them has thus so displayed an iota of leadership quality thus far.

Their constant whining about the economic challenges is just an attempt to delegitimize Trump's presidency, and what we know is that he is still going to win at congress regardless of how and what they feel about him because we have witnessed a number of neutrals and those who were previously said to be supporting the so-called Team Swapo lean more and more towards Team Harambee.

 So regardless of how they feel, the strength of his President Hage’s base will carry him and the slate to the finish line, and that’s no question. If members of the so-called Team Swapo want to make themselves useful, how about joining the weapon against inequality that is President Hage and not filtering every one of his solutions through a purely political prism?