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Opinion - A third term for President Geingob: Political considerations

2021-11-18  Staff Reporter

Opinion - A third term for President Geingob: Political considerations
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The contents inherent in this brief article are to be viewed as my personal observations. I do not want to claim expertise as to what is happening within the inner Swapo Party circle. I am a bonafide staunch member and a student of political science; however, I cannot claim ignorance either.

My interest in and appreciation of my article stem from the fact that utilising a mixed-method case study approach, I am of the view and support of the American adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. 

President Hage Geingob is popular, competent and does a good job – perhaps he should stay in office for a third term. Conversely, Namibia is involved in a crisis of succession, and the economy and government organisation can be thrown off balance by a change in leadership. In addition, a President with impeccable experience can be more beneficial to the nation’s wellbeing.

True, Article 29 of the Namibian constitution explicitly states that the President’s term of office shall be five years, and that a person shall hold office as President for not more than two terms. I also take cognisance of the fact that the purpose of term limits acts as a method of curbing the potential for monopoly where a leader effectively becomes “President for life”. 

But Article 29 is not cast in stone as the national interest must prevail.

History teaches us that apart from constitutional factors, incumbents’ individual characteristics matter. 

Presidents considered to be father figures; for instance, the founding fathers Dr Sam Nujoma, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi or Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe are more likely to contest the term limit; older incumbents tend to respect the term limit.

A string of  African leaders in countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and Cameroon have extended presidential term limits or amended the constitution to remain in power, and countries such as Rwanda and Uganda have stellar economies with accelerated economic growth the same way European leaders such as Angel Merkel of Germany or Putin of Russia have been in power for decades.

In Burundi, current conflict involves governance problems, a prolonged history of violent ethnic divisions between Tutsis and the Hutus, lack of equal access to resources and power, and systematic structural violence and overtures by the incumbent President to seek for a third term have been a disaster.

Some people argue that the voters should be able to choose the president regardless of time in the presidential office – just the same way European leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany has been in power for decades without someone crying wolf as is the case with African leaders.

President Geingob has begun to be good at the job, but this takes 6-8 years just in time to prepare for the next person.

There is no job in the world quite like that of the President of the Republic of Namibia. Nothing really prepares the newcomer. The job is so multifaceted; so difficult – so big that even learning it takes considerable time.

 It vexes Namibia’s doomsayers that President Geingob is being blamed for all the unprecedented headwinds that Namibia is going through but despite the odds, the Geingob administration continues to weather the storm and soar even higher.

Yet inexplicably, the same prophets of doom are not even in the least bothered that the President’s predecessors have roles to play in the mess we find ourselves in today.

 The elusive commissions of inquiry conducted immediately after independence are vivid examples of the origin of endemic corruption in Namibia. So is the lame-duck presidency of the second president.

In my humble opinion, it only confirms that these doomsayers are tribalists playing the part of being “willing and mischievous” accomplices in demonising the current Head of State.

Admittedly, these people have a perverted gift of regurgitating false narratives without any smidgeon of virtue, thereby making them the enigma of a morally emaciated political clique.

President Hage Geingob identified the nation-building priorities for Namibia as education, which he described as “the greatest equaliser”; access to energy; food security; affordable housing; land and wealth distribution; protection of the environment; entrepreneurial activity, and job creation – not necessarily in that order. 

While he welcomes foreign investors and other partners in development, their engagement in Namibia must be on Namibia’s terms. One of those terms is the use of Namibian labour in investment projects.

Under the willing-buyer willing-seller model, the government buys land from 4 000 white farmers, who own 74% of the country’s best arable land private farmers and settles people on it, notably poor people who own cattle. 

As of 2013, close to 7 million hectares of land were bought and settled in this way. The practice, which has been in effect since 1991, initially led to a drop in the value of farms because those who were settled lacked the necessary skills to maintain them. “If you settle people without skills, they are not being helped. We made a mistake. We had to correct that mistake,” Geingob said.

In conclusion, as he steers his nation towards becoming a prosperous middle-income country by 2030, President Geingob is driven by the firm conviction that increasing productivity and socio-economic development is a function of a prosperous citizenry. President Geingob deserves to serve a third term to enable him to accomplish the programmes he embarked upon when he took over the Presidency in 2015.

2021-11-18  Staff Reporter

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