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Call for unity for purpose and action? Absolutely!

By Paul T.Shipale
Pardon my incongruous title serving as a backdrop to this article, but the point I would like to make is on the just ended SWAPO Party Central Committee meeting, in which H.E. President Hifikepunye Pohamba is reported to have 'taken charge' and 'called his comrades to order', according to one daily English newspaper.

'The campaign is said to have reached the highest heights and this is now being blamed for intra- party divisions which are allegedly ripping the party's top leadership apart', said another daily newspaper. For this reason, the President put his foot down on the succession issue and ordered that the terms of reference (ToR) of a special committee be broadened to investigate claims that some leaders in the party have been campaigning covertly and without the party's blessing, reported the media.

It was similarly reported that, 'the President directed that a Special Cabinet meeting be held to discuss the economy of the country in order to find ways to strengthen the country's economic performance, and expressed the belief that with unity of purpose and action, they will reach the goals'. It is expressly on the issue of 'unity of purpose and action' that I would like to focus in this article.

From the onset, I should hasten to applaud the decision taken by President Pohamba to rap on the knuckles and crack the whip on the ongoing public spat, albeit covertly, aimed at securing the coveted spot of the party's vice presidency's at next year's SWAPO Party's congress. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that the President was also supposed to take a swipe at those hogging headlines and going on a rampage with their seeming antics of 'straight-talk' reputation that has the potential to derail us from the more pressing matters to focus on the irrelevant decoys and non-issues. Not that I think that the issues they advance are not important or that they do not have the right to respond to attacks, but just arguing that we should avoid decoys and stumbling blocks meant to slow down our pace and throw spanners in our march.

It is inconceivable, for instance, that experienced politicians would by their puerile and uninspiring antics fire salvos bristled with outright misrepresentation, calling people all sorts of names. Now we hear the 'Ndonga element' rhetoric again, very soon we were going to hear, 'the Omusati clique', ' the Kwankalas', 'the Kwanyamas' and what have you, had the President not put his foot down on the succession issue. True, we must recognize, respect and honour the principle for cultural pluralism, granting to all groups the right to exist and to be respected. We must also be educated beyond our parochial interest in order to understand others. That said; it will be of great importance to find out how some began to refer to themselves as "minorities," "disadvantaged," "nonethis or that" and "at-risk." Were these names derived from themselves and if so, why?

Were the changes the result of the efforts of outsiders to deny and to suppress the unity of the nation? Whatever the answer may be, what is crystal clear is that using such names to refer to a group of people effectively removes them from time and space. It takes them out of the human historical process and makes them outsiders instead of equal partners in a given process.

I recall saying, according to the South African academic Xolela Mangcu, the founding of non-tribal identity through national liberation movements was unique in crafting among the people an anti-ethnic identity that is not centered on electoral competition but based on a common purpose but the opening up of the political space, brought not only the assertion of new identities, but new interests as well. By new identity the author did not merely mean just material interests but psychological and cultural resources that groups of people define as their own. This could range from language and cultural rights to how groups claim ownership of a geographical space. Xolela continued to write, "As people assert these identity interests, a bigger paradox emerges" that of finding out if the nation can develop a shared sense of identity while recognizing the existence of multiple identities and claims.

The question here therefore is; what will constitute the substantive ingredients for a common body polity? How shall our deepest character be announced in ways that produce in citizens a sense of togetherness and shared destiny? Unless we respond to those questions, our efforts in nationbuilding will be hampered.

While some consider the concept of nation-building as the effort to cope with the legacy of the Berlin Conference, and an endeavour in which Africans have been engaged on since the nominal independence whereby they have been trying their best to keep together non-matching bits and pieces of peoples to build republics, on his part, Paul Mercier asserts that the political movements which led to independence in most of the former African colonial territories have generally been characterized as nationalistic. Accordingly, "Nationalism precedes the formation of nations, and this is the sense in which the independence movement was fully national. The colonial regime was absolutely opposed to any process of nation- building because this process can only result from the prior destruction of their regime."

President Pohamba recently stated that "our country emerged from the long history of colonial oppression and exploitation on 21 March 1990 and our independence heralded the dawn of a new era where the emphasis of the Government was and still is the creation of a climate conducive to peace, security and stability", and the President stressed that this is important if we are to continue on the path of socio-economic development. Indeed, after many years of internecine conflict, the need to harness our country's potential around unity of purpose is a necessary and overarching imperative. Thus, the answer to the question how can the Namibian peoples become a singular, one Nation, resides in an ideological structure that must be historically discovered, culturally maintained, and politically buttressed by the masses of the Namibian people.

It is therefore important to construct a narrative of the future for ourselves, engaging in a persistent and consistent propaganda of the value of a One Namibia, One Nation as a viable strategy in defense of the nation-building project. We should return to basics by crafting among the people an antiethnic identity that is based on a common purpose of nationbuilding.

Why should we elect people based on shaky premises of a skin color, ethnic or racial origin including their gender or social status and not based on their transformational leadership abilities and skills? Is that not contrary to our parties' constitutions and that of the country? Moving from the assumption and premises that people will follow a person who inspires them and that a person with vision and passion can achieve great things by injecting enthusiasm and energy, transformational leadership starts with the development of a vision, and a view of the future that will excite and convert potential followers.

The important factor is that the leader buys into this vision hook, line and sinker. The next step is to constantly sell the vision. The transformational leader thus takes every opportunity and will use whatever works to convince others to climb on board the bandwagon in order to create followers. But the transformational leader has to be very careful in creating trust, and their personal integrity is a critical part of the package that they are selling. In effect, they are selling themselves as well as the vision. In parallel with the selling activity, a transformational leader is seeking the way forward.

Some transformational leaders may know the way, and simply want others to follow them. Others do not have a ready strategy, but will happily lead the exploration of possible routes to the Promised Land. In this case, the route forwards may not be obvious and may not be plotted in details, but with a clear vision, the direction will always be known. Thus finding the way forward can be an ongoing process of course correction and the transformational leader will accept that there will be failures and blind canyons along the way but as long as the followers feel progress is being made, they will be happy. The final stage is to remain up-front and central during the action. Transformational leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hide behind their troops. They show by their attitudes and actions how everyone else should behave.

They also make continued efforts to motivate and rally their followers, constantly doing the rounds, listening, soothing and enthusing. It is their unswerving commitment as much as anything else that keeps people going, particularly through the darker times when some may question whether the vision can ever be achieved because if the people do not believe that they can succeed, then their efforts will flag. Perhaps more than other approaches, they are peopleoriented and believe that success comes first and last through deep and sustained commitment.

Our Founding President is one of the transformational and visionary leaders Africa ever produced. Indeed, founding a political party, building a political party, sustaining a political party, mobilizing the nation and the international community, fighting a liberation war, liberating the country and founding a nation, are no mean achievements. After 15 years in power, on the 21 March 2005, Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma, formally handed over the reins of State powers to his successor and eighteen months later, he relinquished the Presidency of the SWAPO party, an organization he founded and led for a good 47 years and just recently he again handed over the chancellorship of the University of Namibia to his successor H.E. the President, Dr. Hifikepunye Pohamba, described as a humble man with determination and an indomitable and enduring spirit, an accomplished administrator and manager who is committed to detail, a principled leader who leads by example, an arch-enemy of corruption, a talented politician and accomplished statesman, among others. These are the kind of transformational leaders this country needs and no amount of derogatory rhetoric with scurrilous and vituperative stories falsely touted as 'critical analyses' will be able to erase the indelible mark of these great men.

Similarly, the empty posturing, shallow, misinformed and intellectually shoddy discourse bent on an image destroying campaign turning and twisting stories around, will not obliterate their enormous contributions in this country.

I hope that now that the President and the central Committee have pronounced themselves on the succession issue, discipline will prevail and that party's structures and the constitution will get the respect they deserve. Side stepping them will be to our own peril. 'The succession issue has brought careers of some politicians to an ignominious end and if we are not careful, we are not going to be spared the ugly consequences which follow when such debate goes off the rail', warned the Namibia Today's editor in his Zoom In column in March this year.

I commend the President for having put a lid on this issue because we cannot allow individual ambitions to play the Russian roulette with our well deserved peace and stability. The rationale behind this action is the imperative need to ensure that potential conflicts and a repeat of the 2004 congress are avoided at all cost. With unity of purpose and action, as well as a transformational leadership, we will reach our goals. Disclaimer: These views do not necessarily represent the views of my employer nor am I paid to write them.


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