Research in political science is mostly problem-driven (George and Bennett, 2005). Among the many issues, that political science deals with, the problem of leadership clearly stands out. Politics, in its broader sense, is the activity through which people make, preserve and amend the general rules under which they live (Heywood, 2007). In comparison, leadership is an essential feature of all government and governance, weak leadership contributes to government failures, and strong leadership is indispensable if the government is to succeed. Wise leadership secures prosperity in the long run; foolhardy leadership may bring about catastrophe while over-assertive leadership pay little attention to institutional constraints in the sense that it may bring about sudden, unexpected changes, and disrupt the normal flow of the political process, thus detracting from its transparency and predictability (Masciulli, Molchanov and Knight, 2009). Consequently, leadership can be understood either as a pattern of behaviour or personal quality. As a pattern of behaviour, leadership is the influence exerted by an individual or a group over a larger body to organize or direct its efforts towards the achievement of desired goals. As a personal attribute, leadership refers to the character traits that enable the leader to exert influence over others; leadership is thus effectively equated with charisma (Heywood, 2007).
What is political leadership? Who is a politician?
Political leadership is a highly complex phenomenon, which has eluded attempts by political scientists in arriving at a generally acceptable comprehensive definition. However, according to Redd, Rair and Seshadri (1979), political leadership is the arbiter of, rather than one participant or factor among many in the process of national development. A political leader/politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an office in government or anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution (Google, 2020).
To get running, the world is full of aspiring political leaders but sadly, very few live up to the leadership ideals. In fact, many political leaders seem to severely lack some of the most important leadership qualities, such as integrity and accountability (Cohen, 2020). The November 2020 regional and local government elections are imminent. Namibians (including myself) from all corners of Namibia will exercise their democratic rights, whereby their idle political candidates will be elected to represent them on a regional and local level. Namibia is a unitary democratic republic with three spheres of government, namely: national, regional and local. Regional and local government is enshrined in Chapter 12 of the Namibian constitution and the main governing legislation consists of the Regional Councils Act, Act 22 of 1992 and the Local Authorities Act, Act 23 of 1992.
In recent years, in fact, down from Sam Nujoma’s charisma administration, through Lucas Pohamba’s diplomatic reign and including Hage Geingob’s ongoing perturbed presidency, Namibia has gone through some weighty and unfavourable moments. Among substantial moments, the Namibian government under Swapo party is praised for maintaining peace and political stability, human rights protection, and promotion of foreign direct investment among others. On the other hand, government corruption, nepotism in government structures, political clientelism, patronage politics and tribal politics has ballooned unopposed.
Leadership in a political framework
Cohen (2020) observes that political leaders are vitally important, through the authority of government; they assess the distribution of power and resources, build relationships with other stakeholders and make decisions that can have a great impact on the well-being of a nation and its people. Leadership in the political framework requires a focus on the long-term good of a country, above and ahead of any personal short-term gains. Good political leadership requires a combination of charisma and integrity, as well as the ability to assess a situation and make a decision based on what would be best for the greatest number of people. Most of all, leadership in a political framework requires “statesmanship” as opposed to just being a “politician”, this means having the integrity and willingness to stand up for what is right, even if it means resigning a position in government or losing an election.
What makes a good political leader?
In most cases, those who make good political leaders are often those who least want the position in the first place. These are individuals who do not seek power but who have authority conferred upon them by others who value their judgment. So, what makes a good political leader?
According to Okachikwu (2018), a good political leader should be intellectually sound in his knowledge of the society, the theories and issues of politics, law and the behavioural sciences. While on the leadership job, he/she could be trained on military and strategic studies, international relations, basic economics and technology. What intellectuality does in the leader is to imbue him/her with the innate higher ability of rationalism in handling the affairs of the society or the state. Moreover, a good political leader is one who is always prepared to do the right things, obey the rule of law and positive traditions and customs of the people. To this leader, the behaviour is important in the lives of everybody and so he/she leads by example. Furthermore, a good political leader is an accountable leader; the one who is ready at all times to render stewardship account of how the people’s resources were used by him/her and the output and outcomes of such utilization. In doing his/her work, a good political leader is transparent by ensuring that nothing is hidden from the people and decisions are made by those who should make them. Therefore, a disciplined, accountable and transparent leader will always insist that he/she should be prosecuted if it is suspected that he did wrong. Additionally, a good political leader is someone who will be honest and responsible for their own actions and decisions and who is willing to admit when they have made a mistake. They will focus their energies and time on representing the people rather than spending all the time “covering their backs” and their “political associates” (Okachikwu, 2018).
More so, Cohen (2020) maintains that a good political leader is someone with good communication and interpersonal skills, who can work with a range of other people, regardless of political party or opinion, to achieve the greatest good for the general population, someone of strong character, with both conscience and charisma, someone willing to listen to the needs of the common people and to represent them faithfully. Equally important, the fear of God is yet another quality of a good political leader in my views. As a student of liberal politics, I know that all religions have knowledge of the almighty God who created the heavens and the earth. It is therefore rational to consider the fear and respect for God by whoever wants to lead a people created by God.
Considering the above qualities of a good political leader, ask yourself, are you going to vote for a good political leader or a substandard one during these upcoming elections? Under the Swapo party government, unsatisfactory and controversial political leaders have been deployed to head crucial government institutions, sideling the formidable and potent ones. This has negatively affected Namibia’s economic performance.
The Zambezi region
Zambezi region, known as “The Arm of Namibia”, or “Gate Way to Central Africa”, is situated on the northeastern part of Namibia. It connects Namibia to four neighbouring countries, Botswana in the east, Zimbabwe in the northeast, Zambia in the north and Angola in the northwest. The region is divided into eight constituencies namely: Kabbe North, Kabbe South, Katima Mulilo Urban, Katima Mulilo Rural, Kongola, Linyanti, Sibbinda and Judea Lyaboloma. Despite its great potential in agriculture, tourism and other economic activities, Zambezi remains one of the poorest regions in Namibia by default (Namibia Statistic Agency, 2011). The Zambezi being one of Swapo’s strongholds, the political leadership has been accused of gruesome corruption, greedy, incompetent and lack of political will to develop the region.
The tragic of Sibbinda and the Linyanti constituencies
Sibbinda and the Linyanti constituencies are one of the electoral constituencies of the Zambezi region. Affirmatively, these two great wards are close to my heart, not because of their geographical patterns but because they house most of my family members. According to the Poverty and Deprivation report (2015), which was released by Namibia’s National Planning Commission, Sibbinda and the Linyanti constituencies are ranked among Namibia’s twenty poorest constituencies, thus Sibbinda claiming 12th spot and the Linyanti languishing in the 16th place. On health deprivation, the Linyanti is ranked the 2nd after Khorixas constituency of the Kunene region while the Sibbinda is ranked 16th on material deprivation. Additionally, both constituencies are ranked poorly on the overall Namibia Index of Multiple Deprivation (NIMD), Linyanti withering in the 9th and Sibbinda in 14th position. Shockingly, the two constituencies with agricultural potential due to flat and well-drained soils remain the least developed in the whole of Zambezi region! Proper water supplies, adequate health facilities, social and economic development remains elusive. Worryingly, the political leadership in charge of the affairs of these two constituencies has been accused of allocating state resources to their family members and their close cronies thus leaving the general populace fuming!
In the final analysis, political leaders affect social and economic outcomes through their attempts to intelligently use soft and hard power innovatively and adaptively. Thus, for Namibia to progress, it needs political leadership that has integrity, intellectualism and patriotism. Political leaders in our country should strive for political unity, equal distribution of state resources, guard against tribalism and racism, insuring that, all government institutions function to the tunes of the electorates. Political leadership in Namibia is lacking trust; most political leaders have taken the route of manipulation to get what they want instead of coalition and building. Instead of leading out of love and a heart of service, most political leaders in our country are inspired by greedy and personal interests. Instead of building trust and working with the electorates to a greater end, they manipulate and threaten those who question their political leadership capabilities.
*Reagan Munyungano Musisanyani is a liberalist and a food security activist currently persuading his Master’s Degree in Political Science at the University of Namibia.