Indifference or Mediocrity? – Pohamba’s Legacy in Perspective

“I STAND before you today filled with pride, gratitude and humility. A little while ago, I took a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. I swore that I will, from this day on, dedicate myself to the service and well-being of the people of Namibia, without exception, and to do right to all.”

These were among the first of sentences of a long speech marking the inaugural speech of Lukas Hifikepunye Pohamba as the President of the Republic of Namibia at the Independence Stadium on 21 March 2005.

Looking back, as we look forward to celebrating our Independence Day, which marks the last 12 months of his second term, I am tempted to take a transcript analysis of the past nine years under President Pohamba both as a head of state and of Swapo.

His time at the helm of the government and the ruling party cannot largely be deemed a total failure. Peace and stability has been maintained, the institution of the State continued to function, albeit with imperfections, Swapo maintained some degree of unity at least in public eye as factionalism and cliques did not deepen their roots in the party.

Contrary to expectations he was not a surrogate for continued rule by Sam Nujoma, and he adopted an inclusive and less autocratic style of governance and at his inauguration declared the fight against corruption as number one priority for his administration.

First and foremost President Pohamba will be judged more on bread and butter issues rather than the toyi-toying of his party, he inherited a rather stagnant economy, rising unemployment and a governance system failing to counter declining incomes. The point would be how he handled a burning issue, which was non-responsive and of a reactive nature.

On State affairs his approach was mainly rooted in rhetorics, his responses to current affairs and crisis were slow. After declaring war on corruption at the onset there was high expectation among the populace, nine years down the line there are no indication that he meant it though.

Corruption has continued unabated throughout his tenure, mostly by top officials in his government and in most cases beneficiaries are linked to his own party and family members. His anti-corruption propagation gave birth to the establishment of Anti-Corruption Commission, which has proved to be ineffective.

On the party front Pohamba inherited a highly divided organisation with Nujoma’s patronage network on one side hell bent for party domination, moderate liberals in the middle and sympathisers of Hidipo Hamutenya within the ranks of Swapo hiding in anger over the way their candidate was treated at the 2004 congress.

The formation of the Rally for Democracy and Progress by senior Swapo leaders under the leadership of Hamutenya catalysed what seemed at a time to be a blow to the party and this was viewed as a rather big test of his leadership.

Pohamba silently handled this storm successfully, albeit unclear if it was his personal style or he was just indeed having support of his comrades from all the groups including those who in 2004 congress sided with Hamutenya at the presidential nomination contest which took him to power. So it remained unclear if these successes were personally driven or just a result of indifference among the party faithful.

Swapo under Pohamba also drafted positive reforms and resolutions on paper which were tabled and implemented by the politburo, a body he chairs, even though not much good came out of it. He also managed to cull down witch-hunting among the party factions. He can also be credited partly for managing to neutralise the powerful so-called Omusati clique and shenanganism among the youth wing of the party to ensure the victory for his preferred successor just as his predecessor did in 2004.

Pohamba took over a nation relatively stable but with gigantic challenges: poverty, income inequality and a failing education system. The gap between rich and poor is wider in Namibia, more than 50% of Namibians remained well under the poverty line. Pohamba failed to dent most burning problems facing the country since independence.

Apart from individual poverty, the main problems have been growing – lack of healthcare facilities, lack of housing and, the big one, institutionalised corruption. His government has tried to throw up various initiatives and projects to these areas, but they continued to fail.

The Targetted Intervenetion Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg), for example, failed to create employment opportunities as promised and the Grade 10 and 12 results, inspire no confidence comparing to the amount of money thrown at solving the problems.

In the end as a Namibian youth, who once had higher expectations for Pohamba to improve the life of our generation, uplift the living standards of our people and keep our country competitive, sadly I cannot say I am not disappointed. I, therefore, place my hopes on hold for better days to come.

Tobby Sheya is a Namibian youth commentator and blogger of politics and socio-economic development.

Source : The Namibian