Fly High, Fall Hard? [opinion]

Did I really hear an apparently senior airport safety or ministry official explaining how the fact that the Hosea Kutako airport’s lack of fire engines was OK as no planes were on fire – or was I dreaming, only to be told in the same announcement that international flights were transferred to Gaborone due to a downgrade of the Windhoek international airport as fire equipment was all broken down but not to worry, new stuff was arriving in 4 days.

Whatever the truth, something stinks! Or why was new, and very expensive equipment due for imminent delivery? And why was relatively new equipment in such poor condition as in most environments such safety equipment lasts for decades with occasional updates to keep up with technical improvements but the basic chassis and hardware change little!

Naturally, all will hide behind a blanket of secrecy and reports that may appear in 5 years when all involved have made their economic killing and moved on! At political level, little need to be said but resignations are not our way whereas ducking the issue and firing the cleaner or tea maker are!

However, it is of some concern that air travel, while on main international routes outside zones involving violence, remains incredibly safe, there seems to be bursts of unsafe insanity from time to time. We only have to look at Malaysian Airlines which for years has had an impeccable safety record but recently lost MH370, a nearly new plane, that inexplicably seems to have diverted from its Chinese destination and ended up in the South Pacific, west of Australia and MH17, admittedly an older but still sound plane, being downed somehow when flying over a Ukraine war zone.

Equally puzzling is the crash of the Mozambique plane in the Moremi area of Namibia for which no explanation has been forthcoming (nearly 40 lives lost) apart from suggesting the pilot “lost it”. Or very recently, the loss of an Air Algerie plane with over 100 passengers over the Chad Algeria border seemingly without cause. A look at the internet shows climbing statistics of planes going missing which is probably understandable as the number of planes in the sky increases.

The basis of the problem could be that as skies are becoming overcrowded, the reliable supervision of pilots, maintenance and common sense rules are being downgraded by economic and practical factors, thus making the air world more dangerous for all, especially in the “wilder” and less law abiding areas of our world. Maybe the lowering of skill levels to be replaced by technology, in theory, is not a reality. Maybe we are just losing control! But what to do, if anything?

Have we perhaps reached the limits of our capacity to organise our increasingly interdependent world, even with massive computer power and sophisticated organisational structures? Somehow, we have to simplify each environment’s existence to match its capacity to manage its components.

I see a strange parallel between air traffic and political, economic and social situations within each locality, region and country as complexity and volume have overtaken our human capacity to manage. After all, only a few actually want to be managers beyond that of picking up the cash! And it is those few that make things happen.

This is how I watch our current last minute pre-election thinking and possible change of organisational dispensations with both fear and an understanding that what we have at the moment is not working. As I have been saying for some time now, much of our intended output for the nation is just not happening. Our thinking has got logjammed with the mental constipation of our aging politicians and their acolytes and whether we like it or not, the number of state funerals are going to take up more and more money and time in the next parliamentary term!

Thus some form of revolutionary change is needed now. Complexity has got to be changed to more simplicity and fewer priorities targeted. We can at least improve the lot of the majority and poor Namibians, especially the youth. We must stop trying to be too clever, and start doing the things that matter.

If this involves risky changes to our democracy, say the elimination of a Prime Minister position, the bringing together of a parliament as one body, and the creation of a small cabinet with each portfolio covering a simplified but also larger share of activity in order to speed up decision-making and eliminate much of the seemingly banal debate and obscuring the necessary debate, maybe this is where we should go!

We have been flying high, we have to avoid a hard fall.

Source : The Namibian