President Hage Geingob continually blaming colonialism for Namibia’s underdevelopment and other woes points to a head of state running out of ideas on how to fix a mess created by the political elite over the past 32 years.
The president has a point about the devastating effects of colonialism on Namibia. But it’s common currency that it would take not only time but a concerted effort to fix this.
As if colonialism was not enough of a challenge, corruption reared its ugly head and, almost from the outset of independence, became a public enemy.
It has not only impeded development, but had a debilitating effect on the national psyche.
Some 25 years ago, The Namibian published an article titled ‘Corruption Set to Derail Economic Activities’.
Published a mere seven years after independence – on 22 August 1997 – it reported on a meeting held that month to discuss possible ways to fix Namibia.
“We need to re-examine what we have failed to do to promote development, and dialogue is therefore of vital importance if we are to come up with winning solutions for Namibia,” said founding president Sam Nujoma.
Namibians have since lost count of the number of dialogues supposedly aimed at fixing the country.
It is shocking that Geingob continues to blame colonialism for Namibia’s woes.
“It was a hundred years of oppression. Yet there is an expectation that we must solve problems in 30 years,” he said last week.
He said the same thing last month.
Frankly, Geingob has been part of the problem. He served as Namibia’s prime minister for close to 15 years and has been president for more than seven years.
Yet the president keeps bringing up colonialism to defend Swapo’s poor governance and why things continue to fall apart.
Is colonialism also to blame for the government’s massive wage bill which is expected to total around N$30,1 billion – half of the budgeted revenue of N$59,7 billion?
Like his predecessors, Geingob has increased the parliament despite warnings about the need to trim the civil service.
In addition, he has chosen to introduce an unnecessary vice-presidential position and has continued the chain of patronage.
Is colonialism to blame for the vanity construction projects such as the petroleum storage facility, ministerial head offices and projects like the Neckartal Dam, which together cost close to N$20 billion?
Add to that our mainly overpaid and largely underperforming parastatals.
Two weeks ago, The Namibian reported on the N$80 million retirement package for former presidents.
These are but a few examples that illustrate how blaming colonialism has become the fallback position of the powers that be.
Not only does it not change anything, but it is also the wrong approach.
This week, Geingob took issue with shack dwellers over the poor conditions they live in.
“You just come and settle in an area where no water, no toilet facilities were planned for, and you go and say ‘we are suffering’,” Geingob said when addressing church leaders at State House.
His comments are misplaced and akin to a father who bans children from entering the kitchen because there is no pot on the stove.
The public expectation is that the government should fulfil its housing promises, including removing unnecessary bureaucracies to sustainably build more houses.
Geingob’s administration has been sitting on close to 1 000 houses built under a mass housing programme under former president Hifkepunye Pohamba.
Three years ago, Geingob said the widespread shacks across the country offended him.
He wanted them gone in five years.
The clock is now ticking on whether Geingob will achieve that.
Or should the failure to deliver be blamed on colonialism too?
Adapted from the Namibian