5050 Is the Way to Go

APARTHEID South Africa infamously claimed that their natives and those of South West Africa were not ready to govern themselves.

All over the world such condescending remarks have been commonplace by those in power, despite proof to the contrary. History is, indeed, replete with people who resist change.

But we hope the Swapo hierarchy is not suffering from similar colonial or oppressor hangovers as it is apparently backtracking on the giant 5050 leap they took with regard to women representation.

It is not about mere principle that the ruling party must push through with a decision they took nor is it a matter of merely making up the numbers because more than half of Namibia’s population are women. It is about being progressive – a synonym for “doing the right thing” and thinking much further forward than immediate and narrow interests.

Like the colonial rulers, some Swapo leaders would have us believe that there are not enough women of calibre to fill many important positions of national leadership. Ironically, among those who make such statements, are mainly men who have themselves been so mediocre that Namibia’s development has stalled.

Arguments that there are not enough women of quality are similar to those used against the principle of affirmative action. Ideally, there should be no laws like affirmative action or 5050 women representation policies to enforce what is beneficial to society.

The logical line is that the majority of people should be productively and equitably involved in the country’s economic activity, because if they are not, the few will have to shoulder the burden of uplifting the many. It is obvious, therefore, which way the scale will tip and collapse is guaranteed if the logical steps are ignored.

Just as it was foolhardy for colonisers to deny the majority in a society the right and responsibility to help build the economy as equals, Namibians must appreciate that our country can only go backward if we keep finding excuses against implementing the 5050 principle. (For nearly a quarter of a century we have had no colonisers to blame except ourselves to correct apartheid and traditional legacies).

What might be true is that skilled and quality leaders, who happen to be women, have not come to the fore within the ruling party and in politics generally. But the same can be said about men of high integrity, skills and expertise. Such is the indictment on the way the nation’s political economy is run, proving that proper and systematic training is not being provided so that all Namibians have a fair shot at leadership.

Having gone through the rigours of pre-congress research and debates to change the party constitution for equal women representation, Swapo leaders who claim that they cannot proceed because a formula has not been found to integrate women sounds intellectually dishonest.

To be fair, there will always be obstacles to change and in doing something unusual and new. But the emphasis should be placed on solving problems rather than resisting necessary change.

Most importantly, in pushing the 5050 agenda, Swapo and other political parties must avoid the kind of tokenism that we have seen in many businesses (public and private) whereby the most useless people are deliberately aanced at the expense of the the most competent. In fact, that has been the case in the ruling since the Sam Nujoma era, where it has become obvious that competencies and hard work were hardly rewarded, both for men and women.

But Namibia will be the poorer if the best, the brightest and ultimately the majority of its citizens are deliberately kept on the margins of the economy, politics and social structures because they are women, they have the wrong colour or are not sychophantic or so-called loyalists.

The progressive thing to do in Swapo’s case, will be to change the way things have been done in the past and source the best patriots to fill the right positions. After all, political ideologies between parties are no longer massively different enough to serve as obstacle in search of good candidates.

Source : The Namibian