No pun intended, but it vexes Namibia’s doomsayers that President Hage Geingob is being blamed for all the unprecedented headwinds that Namibia is going through – but in spite of 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.
In my humble opinion, it only confirms that these doomsayers are tribalists playing the part of being “willing and mischievous” accomplices in demonizing 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.
Under President Hage Geingob, he identified the nation-building priorities for Namibia as education, which he described as “the greatest equalizer;” 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 welcomed foreign investors and other partners in development, their engagement in Namibia must be on Namibia’s terms, he insisted. One of those terms is the use of Namibian labour in investment projects.
“I am strongly against Chinese employees. We have high unemployment - 27%. We are telling the Chinese they can bring any investor and management to control their money, but not ordinary workers. They responded positively,” he told a small invitation-only gathering during an investment mission to the United States in 2013, which he led in his capacity as prime minister. “In China, the Chinese say ‘whoever is here comes on our terms.’ That is what we don’t do in Africa. People just walk in on their own terms. So I told them you have to come to Namibia on our terms.”
At the same gathering, he explained the “willing-seller/willing-buyer” model he pursues to both redistribute to landless Namibians the 74% of the country’s best arable land held by 4 000 white farmers at the time of independence and address the nettlesome issues of rural flight and unchecked urbanisation.
“We have taken a two-pronged approach to urbanization, training, and farm facilitation for those who want to go to the farms. Land, per se, is not the problem. It’s what you do with the land. You must live off the land not starve on the land,” he said.
Under the willing buyer/willing seller model, the government buys land from 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, Geingob said.
He admits 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. The government now provides training for those who want to return to the land.
For a country that “used to be the dumping ground for South Africa,” where 100% of the meat and “even tomatoes came from South Africa,” food security is a primary concern, President Geingob says. If you don’t produce your own food you remain at the mercy of those who are feeding you, he argues.
The greatest challenge to nation-building, however, has to do with changing the mindset of Namibians - bridging the “social gap,” he said at the African Business Leadership Forum. It is a point he makes repeatedly. “Namibia is coming from apartheid. There is a social gap. The mentality has to change. You are trained so that you can be an employer and hire others, and not always to look for somebody to hire you. Our duty is to arm you - provide education and training, and then you must become a job creator,” he confessed to the gathering in 2013. The achievements under his stewardship on his achievements barely scratch the surface, there is more. When President Geingob receives his AAI award on 29 September, he will share the limelight with Zimbabwean technology entrepreneur and Philanthropist Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of the global telecommunications group Econet Wireless and recipient of AAI’s 2015 Business Leader Award; and with IBM, winner of the 2015 Corporate Responsibility Award.
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. No wonder President Hage Gottfried Geingob is considered, by the majority of Namibians, the best president for post-independent Namibia.
*Josephat Inambao Sinvula is a holder of a B.Sc and MPA from Virginia Commonwealth University and Atlanta University (USA) and is a PhD candidate in Political Science, specialising in Public Administration. He is currently a managing partner of JIS Management Consultancy.