Namibia: Statement attributable to the Press Secretary
Alex Kaure’s letter “The President is Shaming the Nation” demonstrates ignorance about diplomacy and how global events shape domestic outcomes. It is regrettable that the public conversation in Namibia is fuelled by inaccuracies and anonymous SMSes to newspapers, with the expectation of responses from politicians, Offices, Ministries and Agencies without knowing if these are invented or cleared in a fairminded manner. SMSes as published often reflect the biases of the editors and seek to reinforce certain perceptions, which are not reflective of public opinion. The fabrication of bias through anonymity is regrettable in light of the fact that President Hage G. Geingob, a democrat by conviction continues to emphasize transparent and effective governance, which explicitly calls for Namibians to raise their concerns openly. It is how a Republic should work.
In light of the new journalistic normal of anonymous attacks on elected and public officials, the letter in The Namibian by Alex Kaure “The President is Shaming the Nation” deserves a bit of attention. The valid question as to why Alex Kaure, who used to write Op-Eds in the same newspaper is relegated to the letters pages is a moot point. Alex Kaure in a meek attempt to outshine the slanted title of the report in The Namibian of 3 April 2020 “Geingob asks for help from Chinese President” fails to tell the reader why President Geingob is shaming the nation. That obvious failure notwithstanding, there are two issues Alex Kaure ramblingly tried to put together, and to which a response is necessary. First, it is essential to remind that the workings of diplomacy are not always accessible to the majority, and the expectation is that when journalists and intellectuals (including Alex Kaure) write about public affairs, the objective is enlightened critique and not confusion.
President Geingob has made statecraft/diplomacy transparent and accessible through open meetings, frequent statements, press releases and media briefings. President Geingob and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan held a bilateral meeting on the margins of TICAD 7 in Yokohoma last year, leading to a grant of 42 Million Namibian Dollars into the Vocational Training sector in Namibia. In the middle of a global health pandemic, on 3 April 2020, President Geingob exchanged telephonically for thirty minutes with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Alex Kaure should be the first to appreciate that COVID-19 has changed the face of diplomacy and statecraft. And yes, it is noteworthy that President Geingob was the first African Head of State to speak to President Xi, the leader of the second largest economy about the fight against COVID-19. Moreover, it goes without saying that Namibia-Sino relations constituted the core of that consequential conversation.
When President Geingob interacts with world leaders, the objective is always to advance national development and the African interests. Yes, from the phone call with President Xi, the rates for the loan for the construction of a critical infrastructure in the form of Hosea Kutako Airport was revised downwards. That is a tangible gain!
Second, President Geingob has continued to advance the contextual and scholarly argument that Namibia’s classification, as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank is flawed and unhelpful. Failing to appreciate the full complexity of that argument and how it impacts negatively our developmental trajectory, Alex Kaure naively domesticates the argument. Superficially, Alex Kaure says that Namibia is to blame. On the contrary, Namibia operates in a competitive, unequal global environment and country classification determines the types of assistance, grants, and loans Namibia can access. Namibia’s classification as an upper middle-income country led to a reduction in preferential pricing, trade concessions, grants, development assistance, and less competitive interests rates for loans. A number of programs were phased out, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) closed shop, leading to job losses. The flawed argument is, Namibia by virtue of classification as an upper middle-income country is able to fund its own development and NGOs. Yet, the argument of President Geingob, which has gained traction in many quarters in the development discourse, advances global equity and the fight for equality within nations. It should be supported for its common sense.