History repeats itself. President Hage G. Geingob commenced his second term in the same manner in which he commenced the first – with a crisis. These facts summon consciously biased journalists, opposition benches and the general commentariat of “experts” to think with clarity about what it means to lead a domestic agenda under uncommon circumstances.
On this, and distressingly so, we have not seen journalistic honesty and fairness, nor have we seen policy depth and intelligibility in the opposition benches and the commentariat of experts who provide snippets and quotes to the gallery and newspapers. The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in her outstanding book Leadership in Turbulent Times, chronicles comparatively the times of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, including how they dealt with ‘dramatic reversals’ to take the American people forward. Just like these great American leaders whose terms in office were characterised by fracture, crisis and fear in the general public, President Geingob (in the theory of the providential man) has been summoned to lead a post-independent Namibia during its most difficult hours. Not once – but twice.
With the nation reeling under the dark clouds of Covid-19 and its inevitable socio-economic reversals, on 4 June 2020, President Hage G. Geingob delivered with resilience and valour the first SONA of his second and final term as President of the Republic. The President delivered a candid SONA against the locale of what has been five years occasioned by a global economic downturn and recurrent droughts. Still, we are holding together as a nation. In fact, with an increase of 110% to reach N$1 300 in the grant for over 180 000 pensioners, including increased coverage for people with disability, vulnerable orphans and children, the most anxious sectors of our population are better protected than at any point in our 30-year post-independence history. The food bank across our 14 regions provides relief to over 42 000 food insecure Namibians, who in their large numbers are fully appreciative of this important initiative. Drought relief, at over N$2 billion, reached more than 500 000 Namibians per annum in the past five years.
Looking to the next five years President Geingob, who over a decade ago was part of the formative discussions about a basic income grant, highlighted in the SONA policy proposals to implement a modified basic income grant. Infrastructure in our schools will be upgraded, agriculture will be mechanized and our ports will become better and more competitive to stimulate economic growth and employment opportunities for our youth.
The list of successes does suggest that the Harambee Prosperity Plan, in essence a transformational agenda, provided Government with the remit to turn around what would have otherwise been a crisis of epic proportions with far reaching implications for our stability. With the focus on effective governance, our fight against corruption has been strengthened and our governance architecture has over the past five years emerged stronger, better and more able to enlarge opportunities for Namibians.
In light of these, can we frankly argue that transformational and turnaround leadership has been absent over the past five years of crises? Of course not! It is unquestionably insincere, if not intellectually lazy for the loud commentariat to pretend that our country has been going through a normal trajectory, deserving simplistic quotes, and hardly robust analyses with context and facts.
On the contrary, we have been going through uncommon hardships, which called for result-driven leadership, with empathy and moral purpose. Moral purpose, empathy and vision were on display in the year 2020 SONA. But consciously biased reporting on the SONA ignored the big issues in the text, focusing excessively on trivia with the obvious and saturated intention to make transformational leadership a banal exercise, which it is not. Yet, in this post-SONA environment and as opposition leaders, editorials and analysts tally shortcomings, and successes (as they ought to), they should not lose sight of the macro contexts in which a leader marshals the resources of a nation to safety. President Geingob is seized with Covid-19, which tumultuously intervened at the dawn of his second term. Under these arduous circumstances, just as it was the case with the first crisis of 2015-2020, President Geingob will skillfully marshal Namibia to safety. He will do so with his trademark idealism and pragmatism, focused with dexterity on the multiple and complex tasks of unity, crisis management, transformation and turnaround leadership.