14 thought leaders Friday, August 18 2017| NEW ERA Explaining the ugly face of tribalism (Part 1) Without doubt, there are more unhelpful c o n v e r s a t i o n s , discussions and debates about tribalism in Namibia than at any stage since independence. The unfortunate events of 1998 of the Caprivi secessionism were not about tribalism, but geo-historical incongruencies of our national puzzle and poor management of regionalism. Like most post-colonial Afrikan countries, Namibia took many things for granted in its efforts to build and mould a new nation. In the excitement of political independence and the trappings of power that go with this whole dance of freedom, we were not crafty enough to create a new nation in the image we wished for ourselves out of different historical communities and societies in their formations long before independence and therefore before they were considered one nation. The background against which we ought to have laboured to recreate the new Namibia is as follows: (a) The entities that are called tribes are anthropological communities that existed as autonomous ‘nations’ with their own patterns of authority and patterns of governance and warand peace-making. The structures that informed who they were and how they related to other ‘nations’ evolved organically over time and generations, with their own mechanisms of conflict management and education protocols for their young. (b) These entities or ‘nations’ were autonomous from any other and never perceived or considered themselves as extensions or subsets of other nations, big or small, never mind as adjuncts sets of bigger wholes. (c) The various parts of the Namibian nation as we wish to see it today would arguably not have been the diverse parts of one nation had it not been for the colonial adventurism, whereby European potentates arrogated to themselves the right to arbitrarily draw up the borders of the modern Afrikan countries in an effort to recreate themselves in Afrika and in so doing forced communities together and split up others as part of the new logic of international economic development. In the absence of suitable terms to describe these hitherto autonomous nations, the colonial administrators invented terms, such as tribe, ethnic groups, chiefs, headmen and the like, with the main purpose of divide et impera (divide and rule). (d) After the attainment of political independence, the new political elite never crafted a template with the same vigour and methodical planning and management deliberateness as colonialists did to redirect focus the direction of these communities towards One Namibia One nation. T h e p r e m i e r A f r i k a n psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon was on point when he alerted in his book, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, that the mental condition of post-independence Afrikan leaders was a serious problem that shortchanged socio-economic development in Afrika after independence. Fanon read the future of free Afrika well when he warned that the mental disposition of Afrikan liberators was bereft of forward thinking. He saw what was coming, namely that those who took over the political roles of colonial administrators would suffer constantly from the diseases of spiritual or moral bankruptcy and intellectual laziness to think beyond the goal of independence and selfglory, by which the new rulers are no different from those they replaced, except in the colour of their epidermis and their obesity for eating alone all the time. Fanon is correct in that the political leaders that replaced colonial administrators - legitimate though they were - stopped being the planners and theorists that they were during the struggle for freedom, when vigorous debates about the future were allowed as part of the political leadership and its socialisation. Come independence, those in decision-making roles took it for granted that the fruits of independence, and perhaps, given their benevolence and patronage, the nation would come about without much effort. The project of nation building in Namibia has been left to chance for the most part, and what we are seeing now is the consequence of failing to plan how to manage diversity in its many manifestations. To be clear, apartheid was a diversity management proposal cum a multiplicity of acts of parliament and regional plans that went pear-shaped later, but was able to develop the most efficient modern economy on the Afrikan continent. Whereas the colonial leaderships were based on merit and qualifications to understand and execute the socio-political plans and programmes of the regime, our post-independence leadership has gotten progressively worse. The older we get as a nation, the less capable our leaders are to simply comprehend the composition of Namibia, let alone align development plans to the historical specificities of the people in this new family, such that they are part of their own futures: good, bad or ugly. The State has not been adequately adapted to address the perennial issues affecting the people on the ground, so that in the medium- and long-term, socio-economic development becomes organic and linked to the people’s well-being. As a result, development planning has stayed in the mode of pre-independence Namibia, with the political leadership assuming that the permanent problem of Namibia remains white colonialism or white monopoly capital. We choose to forget that the real problems postindependence are the absence of self-definition of communities in the scheme of decision-making about education, healthcare, safety and security, human settlement and land reform. For instance, instead of trying to understand how divide and rule exacerbated historical dissimilarities, such that we could have developed mechanisms to combat the artificial differences and to amplify what is common to all, we assumed that the mere celebration of independence would erase all memories and perceptions of the past, including the fear of the unknown that was utilised by colonial administrations to effect the new needs for separateness and safety and security. There were 12 homeland administrations in Namibia prior to independence, and fears and perceptions were anchored during these years of potential abuse of power by one group over the others. This was never addressed – just like the abuses in exile were never addressed. This led to the dependency on the ruler to be the enforcer of law and order and the harbinger of peace and all facets of national wellbeing. For instance, the traditional rulers of pre-colonial nations in Namibia were the providers of peace and security and the custodians of the nations’ collective wealth. Without a careful and deliberate plan to transform a divided society into One Namibia One Nation, we see throwbacks to identities that we assumed had died, but were hibernating in search of new self-definition, self-affirmation and self-direction – all of which are permanent traits of being human in a rational society as a zoon politikon, a political animal. The first explanation of the rise of tribalism in the post-Nujoma era in Namibia is the question of legitimacy of the top political leadership. The question is: why was tribalism not as rife during Tatekulu Nujoma’s time as it is now. We are Afrikans in the main. Tatekulu Nujoma was seen as the most legitimate father of all, with the appropriate credentials to lead, from the family and tribe that met the qualifications to lead, and he was never boastful as a ruler. At the heart of the rise of tribalism in the country is the absence of the centre that can hold all the parts together. Let us recall the efforts of the First and Second Republics, as they went out of the way to accommodate minority groups and entities that history did not automatically dispose to be part of the political elite. The second explanation of the rise of tribalism in Namibia is the absence of a national(ist) ideology. It would appear that instead of developing a national character out of the current and future generations of Namibians, we have reverted to political party ideologies that are inherently and patently divisive and sectarian in nature and by design. Political parties are not nations, and to raise the life of a political party above the nation is a license for disaster, as we are witnessing now. Political parties are about winning, whereas nationalism is about survival as a nation in the face of internal and external threats. It must be said with modesty, considerateness and respect (met beskeidenheid, mit Bescheidenheit) that the governing party has either abandoned or unlearned the importance of building a nation. All efforts seem to be to strengthen the party and very much at the expense of the Greater Namibia. There are more party scarfs, shirts, trousers and caps than ten years ago. There is more intolerance in the party than three years ago. The fighting for the heart of Swapo is part of what is pushing tribalism to the fore. At the moment there is no leadership that champions the nation above all the sectarian edifices that, unless they are replaced with something more wholesome, can only take people to their tribes to feel more secure. Political party membership in Namibia is inseparable from tribal or ethnic identity, not because people do not wish to be Namibian, but because there is nothing coherent and moral to replace the primordial permanent and comforting home relations of Omukwashike? Omukwasinke? Ghomukanye? Ejanda roje orae? Uwa mushiku maῆi? O moeng? Satsa a ma !hao? The point is that tribes have their kings, who are the custodians of the tribes’ values and interests. The Namibian nation is without a king, who represents only the interests of the nation. Therefore, Namibia is without a singular moral voice who is above party politics, as was Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela. The one who came close to it was Tatekulu Nujoma whom we in our small-mindedness as a nation sold short to the world by cheapening him as a Swapo activist and not a unifier of the nation. That is why Tatekulu Nujoma is never invited to mediate in international conflicts when leaders, such as Chissano of Mozambique, Mbeki of South Africa and the recently departed Masire of Botswana could. Nujoma is head and shoulders above these men, but is seen in the world as an unrefined restless political party leader who never rose above the ‘us versus them’ politics of yesterday and yesteryear! Our party politics failed the founding president by confining him in party uniform, whereas he as the father of the nation ought to be above party and tribal interests and have the standing to address any political party rally in the country. At the moment we have political party leaders who are doing everything to punish and are dangerously oblivious to the fact that they have taken an oath to defend the Namibian Constitution and protect all Namibian inhabitants. National symbols are second to party symbols 27 years after independence. The language of politics remains that of victims and war against some enemy, with renewed vigour against new and invented enemies, such as the intellectuals and the youth. We are now our own worst enemy. In the absence of nationalist leadership, tribalism escorts political party chauvinism. The return of community celebrations, such as Olufuko, totem and cultural festivals, all over the show are all expressions of the search for identities that were once lost due to colonial marginalisation. Yet we forget that the primacy of these identities and the claims that they shall make on our republican life are incompatible with the noble ideals of One Namibia One Nation. - To be continued.
Friday, August 18 2017 | NEW ERA thought leaders 15 oody’s downgrade based on speculation Calle Schlettwein The government of Namibia took note with concern of the decision by Moody’s Investor Services to downgrade Namibia’s international credit rating to Ba1, from Baa3-in December 2016, while maintaining its negative outlook. This essentially put Namibia’s international debt issuances in the category of “junk status”, an assessment that we do not concur with for reasons elaborated in subsequent paragraphs. We further note, that Namibia’s local currency bond and bank deposit ceilings were also lowered to A2 from A1; the foreign currency bank deposit ceiling to Ba2 from Baa3; and the foreign-currency bond ceiling to Baa2 from A3. While these ratings still reflect investment grade, we also do not think that domestic economic conditions warrant a downgrade at this point in time. In December 2016, following the tabling and approval of the mid-year budget review with its accompanying fiscal consolidation programme, Moody’s reaffirmed Namibia’s credit rating at the investment grade notch of Baa3- and revised the ratings outlook from “stable” to “negative”, reflecting a number of risk factors which need to be ad-dressed. The Namibian government has taken steps to address these risk factors pointed out by Moody’s in December 2016. Although we understand that countries credit ratings change with the changing conditions in the country, it is the considered opinion of the Namibian government. This recent rating action by Moody’s relied merely on an exchange of emails on a single item, that of outstanding invoices and how Government is planning to settle them. This is highly regrettable. A thorough assessment taking all factors into consideration would have been the proper way in dealing with reviewing Namibia’s sovereign credit rating. Firstly, with regard to the assertion that Namibia’s fiscal strength has eroded due to sizeable fiscal imbalances and an increasing debt, the view of the government is as follows. A review of Namibia’s rating only 4 months into the budget implementation for the 2017/18 financial year is made too early and, therefore, on a very narrow base and may contain speculative conclusions on the performance of the budget for the whole financial year. The process followed by Moody’s is, therefore, not systematic as we are busy developing the mid-year budget review and better informed ratings action and effective country assessment could have benefited from the mid-year budget review planned for October 2017. No additional borrowing has been incurred to pay for the outstanding invoices (to date N.7 billion worth of outstanding invoices have been paid) and funds paid are from own cash reserves and budgeted funds. Our records show a current debt level of 41.9 %, which is within the threshold of 42 % for middle-income countries the size of Namibia to be considered sustain-able. The debt level of 43% is, therefore, overstated by Moody’s. Moreover, Namibia’s overall voluntary debt ceiling of 35% of GDP has been conservative and is well within the SADC convergence threshold of 60% of GDP. The debt ceiling was intentionally conservative to demonstrate the government’s commitment to prudent fiscal policy and to build up buffers for times of economic hardships. The statement in the release that “other sources of potential deterioration are shortfalls in Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenues relative to forecasts, as well as expenditure over-runs in the context of upcoming SWAPO leadership elections (end-2017) and presidential elections (2019)” is purely speculative and not evidenced at all. The SWAPO congress is an inner party process and the insinuation of budget over-runs being caused by the leadership and presidential elections are irresponsible. SACU revenues are locked into a formula driven process and are therefore de facto guaranteed for the current financial year under review. Further, expected SACU revenue for FY2018/19 – 2019/20 was reduced deliberately by 10% to be conservative in our approach and compensate for possible volatility in that revenue stream. Secondly, regarding the view of limited institutional capacity to manage shocks and address longterm structural fiscal rigidities the situation is as follows: The budget execution ranged between 95% – 100% for the preceding 10 years and therefore a statement that projections always differ from actual out-turns cannot be factually supported. It is recognised that Namibia’s small and open economy remains vulnerable to externally induced shocks. The most prominent risks are currency volatility, commodity prices, climatic conditions and regional and global economic developments. One of the positive developments for Namibia which was ignored by Moody’s in this assessment is the level of foreign exchange reserves that increased to 5.3 months of import cover during the second quarter 2017. This is a crucial variable in credit worthiness that cannot be ignored. It is puzzling that at a time when Namibia’s import coverage has increased, Moody’s decides to downgrade our credit ratings. Domestic revenue has also improved substantially during the first four months of the current financial year. This is mainly because of improving global and regional economic performance, coupled with better collection realized through the tax incentive scheme (about 40% of total revenue collected in the first 4 months). Thirdly, with regard to risk of renewed government liquidity pressures, the Namibian Government would like to make the following pertinent observations. Since the beginning of the current financial year, the demand for government debt securities, to finance the budget deficit, improved substantially. That is mainly on account of policy response-fiscal consolidation which is taking traction and constant open engagement with the market players. The deficit has been reduced from a high of 8.3% FY2015/16 to 6.3% in FY2016/17 and preliminary print affirms that position. The pressure is even relieved further by the improved liquidity in the banking sector, boosted by the payment of the outstanding invoices and expected improvement in domestic revenue collection. The Government’s resorting to local sources for funding the budget deficit is optional, aimed at supporting the development of local capital markets. This downgrade, relative to the December 2016 rating action, reflects Moody’s view of the effect of the 2017 spending arrears standing at 1.3 % of GDP now being implemented on a fast-track basis in excess of the 2017/18 budget, which Moody’s views as a significant deterioration of the government fiscal position, public debt and a further build-up of financial vulnerabilities, thus compromising the effectiveness of the budget policy framework. • Calle Schlettwein is Namibia’s minister of finance. This is an abridged version of his statement issued last weekend. Apologies not enough to combat tribalism Namibia may not yet have retrogressed into a Mickey Mouse or banana republic but may head in that direction soon if some of the current happenings are not swiftly arrested. One pointer to this is the privately held conversations by high-profile public officials that carried heavy tribal undertones. Among these hordes beholding such beliefs, some of which can be described and seen as fascist and tribalist, have been governors – the latest to join the fray of open fascists and tribalists being the governor of Omusati Region. This governor has been lately heard and reported as regurgitating all kinds of tribal verbiage against the Aandonga people. Only once the reality of his regurgitations had dawned on the governor did he realise the seriousness of the tribal venom he spewed. It was upon that point that the governor decided to scurry around in an apparent bid at an apology sommersault. Akin to that of his other fellows who, having indulged their tribal venoms, and realising the societal abomination to their presumably only privately held beliefs, if not the political repercussions thereof, in most cases induced by political principals, who feigned some halfhearted apologies. It is actually the essence and genuineness of the avowed apologies that must be subjected to scrutiny - because besides the outlandishness of the tribal verbiages, the avowed apologies have never been questioned and, at best, have been taken for granted. The bottom line is not whether eventually those beholding the views they have been beholding about a section of the communities they have been assumed to have been governing over, behold such views or not, and/ or whether they are private or not. Holding such fascist and tribalist views in the first place, as private as they may be, is betrayal of the trust the nation has in these leaders. But the fact is such fascist views seem rampant, rife, even among those who are supposed to hold high office, and thus to be equally of higher character, even in their beliefs as has been proven lately by some governors. Thus, the issue must and should not ultimately be whether having slipped one’s tongue, and apologising subsequently, such apology should and must be acceptable as biblical truth of regret. The most revealing and reawakening thing is that among our personas of high office are those who subscribe to such fascism and tribalism. Thus, the pertinent question is whether such fascists and tribalists must be allowed to hold public office and serve without prejudice? Not only this, but one cannot but wonder and doubt what the avowed apologies may have been for? For holding the said views and beliefs? Because it has been apparent that the apologies have not much been for beholding the views and beliefs, but for making such public eventually. This means that as much as those holding such views and beliefs may have apologised, it does not mean such views and beliefs do not remain dear to them. As privately as they may have been to them one cannot doubt that indeed they have been dear to them. And one cannot but wonder for how long these public officials have been housing such views and beliefs about people they are supposed to lead. Our governors and other public officials are not only in a position of influence, but one of trust too. Meaning that being in that position, especially one of trust, they cannot ordinarily be expected to subscribe and uphold certain views and beliefs, like tribalism, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Ordinarily we may not be in a position to know what beliefs those with public trust adhere to, as they may most of the time hold such privately. But when such become public, and that some of them somehow are unapologetic and unrepentant subscribers and adherents to fascist beliefs, then surely there is no way the public ordinarily can be expected to bestow trust in them. Yes, they are entitled to believe in their fascist ideologies but they cannot believe, adhere to and espouse them and at the same time pretend to be the servants of those against whom their fascist ideas are directed. Many governors and/or pubic officials have revealed who they really are, only to apologise. How genuine can these apologies really have been? How can we really know that they no longer believe in such ideologies, and privately they do not espouse and even practise them? There’s really no means of knowing, meaning the avowed apologies in the end are meaningless.