Wanted: Namibia’s own Mcebisi Jonases
The scandal befalling neighbours South Africa currently, emanating from the report on alleged ‘State capture’ by the powerful Gupta family, has brought to the fore what seems to be impregnable principles by a few of that country’s political leaders.
Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas is, if the content of the report is anything to go by, by far the shining star in this otherwise dark episode, and perhaps it is time Namibia looked south for some inspiration.
It is alleged that Jonas declined the offer by the Guptas to be promoted from deputy minister to minister, a move which was to be accompanied by a cash injection of as much as N$600 million.
It is difficult to imagine anyone, here at home, who would turn down such overtures in a country possessed by greed for money, power and influence.
Not many a South African would have turned down such offer either – so Namibians are not alone in this vacuum of principles.
Jonas is said to have angrily stormed out of the Guptas’ home and immediately alerted key people to the scam, including President Jacob Zuma. He also issued a public statement to that effect, the report by former Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela states.
State capture has been rearing its ugly head in Namibia, to the extent that President Hage Geingob had to include his concerns about it in his Independence Day speech back in March.
We must, as a matter of principle, create a healthy distance between government institutions (and leaders) and private business individuals. Government must at all times be seen to be neutral and not conspiring with the wealthy against the poor. It’s a simple principle of integrity and fairness.
Who, in our midst, is principled enough to turn down a ministerial position? And, perhaps more seriously, who amongst us would turn down N$600 000 or N$600 million – both amounts allegedly offered to Jonas?
Here at home, we are so obsessed with positions, power and titles. MPs, when not called ‘honourable’, take very serious offence.
The power struggles in the ruling party, and indeed the opposition, have often threatened our peaceful co-existence. People are burning the midnight oil caucusing on how to lay their hands on state contracts or, and, ministerial posts.
That’s why elective congresses of our political parties are often battlefronts because whoever emerges is destined for ministerial and other positions. These fights are never about a burning desire to get into a position where one can effect change for the betterment of society.
Apart from the Jonases, we must cast our net wider so that we also search for our Madonselas – corruption fighters with balls of steel.
We cannot fight corruption while having one eye on political expediency. When tackling corruption but are consumed by obsession for political correctness, such action is as good as nothing.
We must step up our quest for building strong institutions and a leadership that puts principles above narrow individualistic benefits. Leaders who crawl back into their tribal cocoons or circle of friends as soon as they assume powerful positions should be kept away from gatekeeping, lest the rest of the nation gets left out.
Namibia, as President Geingob likes saying, is on the march. This march, however, should not be an endless walk towards infinity. We must craft our own destination and reach it in the shortest possible time.