Ex-American president Herbert Hoover, an orphan whose first job was picking bugs off potato plants, for which he was paid a dollar per hundred bugs, donated all of his presidential salary to charity. When he first got into politics, he decided to never accept money for performing any public service, so that no one would ever accuse him of corruption. He only took the presidential salary because he was required to do so by law. This week, armchair critics were at it again, this time castigating President Hage Geingob’s decision to donate 20 percent of his salary towards the education of less privileged Namibians. Naysayers had a field day all week. Sections of the opposition – in their traditional style of nagging like the drip of a leaky faucet – opened up to the local media at their supposed disgust at the President’s well-intended gesture. Youth activist Job Amupanda was also quoted in the media as saying the President must rather focus his energies on radical policy transformations instead of donating ‘crumbs’ of his salary to the less fortunate. True, government has to arrest spiralling poverty as a matter of high priority. During his seven months in office so far, the President has made inroads in key areas such as land, a key means of production. Glimpses from those seven months are that Geingob has the political will to change Namibia for the better. He has called on the nation to unite in the fight against poverty – asking every citizen to put shoulder to the wheel. It would have been selfish of Geingob to ask everyone but himself to bring their part to the fight against poverty. To criticise him for availing part of his earnings is in itself wrong because there are poor Namibians for whom those ‘crumbs’, as his efforts were described by some, will come in handy. Uruguay’s former president, Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica, a former guerrilla who lived on a farm during his entire time in office, stepped down as one of the world’s most popular leaders ever for his charitable deeds. He donated 90 percent of his $12 000/month salary to charity, and the world hailed him for that overly generous gesture. Mujica managed to turn his cattle-ranching country, home to 3.4 million people, into an energy-exporting nation, grew the economy by an average 5.7 percent annually and government maintained its decreasing trend in public debt-to-GDP ratio under him. Mujica knew too well that his legacy depended on what he did in the execution of his presidential duties, and not what share of his salary went to charity. President Geingob too knows that he would be judged on an avalanche of national issues and not how much of his personal wealth he parted with. There was therefore nothing wrong with him parting with a portion of his fortune, while keeping his eyes on what needs to be done in order to achieve greater socio-economic success in the country. Our position is therefore that there is not an iota of wrongdoing in the President offering a donation to the needy as long as he did this in parallel with carrying out the mandate for which he was voted into the presidency 11 months ago. Amupanda too has been hailed for his charity work in recent years. The charity space can be occupied by any warm-hearted Namibian who – even in their private capacity – are willing to sacrifice for the needy person next to them.
2015-10-23 09:29:02 2 years ago