An Unprecedented Move, Mr President! [editorial]

In January this year, the UK government was declared the most open and transparent in the world, according to global rankings looking at public access to official data.

But even with that ranking, web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose organisation compiled the table, said at the time that the UK still has “a long way to go” before it has a fully open government.

Here in Africa, something unprecedented happened this week. President Hage Geingob’s declaration of assets and those of his wife are not something to be confined to Namibia only.

Geingob is the first among his peers on the continent, if not the first ever African head of state to go public about his net wealth. Even anywhere else in the world, such a move is as rare as a simile.

It is an unmatched decision, more so if one considers the fact that there is no law in the land requiring the President to declare his wealth.

Critics were at it again with foolish innuendos that the President could use proxies behind whom he can hide his other assets.

It is a narrow insinuation because if the President had something to hide, he wouldn’t in the first place go public about his riches, particularly when there is no mandatory legal pressure to do so.

The President’s bold decision should therefore be viewed in the true sense of a leader who yearns to lead a transparent administration and inspire his lieutenants to follow suit.

The first family’s declaration of assets does not in any way make Namibia a transparent country overnight, but it sets in motion a new tradition of openness in the public sector.

The challenge is now for Geingob to ensure that his spirit of transparency is felt and applied in all spheres of his government, so that the entire administration as an institution is viewed in the same manner as the first couple.

Corruption has harassed this nation for decades and any slight relief will come in handy for an average citizen. It is sad, for example, that lawmakers have been violating the asset-declaration policy at will since 2009.

Professor Peter Katjavivi, the Speaker of the National Assembly, must see to it that all MPs in the House he presides over declare their assets as is required.

By so doing, Katjavivi would be helping President Geingob in tightening the system that for so long has let Namibians down. Transparency in government should not be a voluntary exercise. It must be an obligation.

In essence therefore, the declaration by the first family will serve no purpose if the remainder of people managing our resources, ministers and other high-ranking government officials, do not follow suit.

The first family’s wealth represents only a tiny fraction of the national wealth of our country. The rest of our riches lies in the hands of people other than Geingob and his wife. It is those individuals who must realise the President’s vision for the country, and dance to its tune.

We therefore implore Namibians from all walks of life to share in the dream of the President and create a winning nation, one that is built on honesty, trustworthiness and transparency. These, and others, are tenets of a nation aspiring to be the best on the face of the earth.

Source : New Era