Namibia has stood by Zimbabwe at many international forums.
The two countries have since their independence from colonial rule enjoyed cordial relations which last week culminated in the signing of several MOUs during the 8th Permanent Joint Commission in Harare.
Our Senior Writer, Lovemore Ranga Mataire (L.R.M) spoke to the Namibian Head of State, President Hage Geingob (H.G) on several regional issues during his three-day state visit to Zimbabwe.
L.R.M: Your country has stood by Zimbabwe at many international forums. The culmination of that friendship is the signing of several cooperation agreements in different fields. What is the motivation behind Namibia’s continued support of Zimbabwe despite possible vilification by Western countries that regard the country as their adversary?
H.G: I don’t know whether Zimbabwe has enemies all over the world. I don’t know about that.
L.R.M: But your Excellency I am sure you are aware that Zimbabwe has been under sanctions for almost two decades and it’s the only country in Africa which has sanctions imposed on it by the US and the European Union. They may not be enemies in the literal sense but they are adversaries.
H.G: As I said, we are Africans; we are African people who live in Africa. Zimbabweans are like us. They have been with us when we didn’t have a state. I was in Zambia, they housed us. Wherever we went in Africa we were welcomed. So why should we today turn against those comrades who were with us, supporting us? I said when I was coming back, I had to come here, we had two weeks of training in the election and I am telling you it was so helpful when we were confronted with those situations, we learnt from what we were told, go and do this and that and we overcame them.
And when the negotiations started on April first, you know Prime Minister Thatcher went to Namibia. They claimed having forces invading forces and innocent comrades were butchered under the trees unarmed. We were here, Cde Nujoma and I were here and we just heard the news that people were butchered. And then after that we did complain and President Mugabe wrote a letter to the Secretary General to say what we are seeing is not good. In the letter the President said he hoped to have an African assigned from Botswana….that process helped otherwise maybe our independence could not have been possible without that action and commitment. We keep on saying thank you, thank you to those countries which stood by us like Angola, Cuba, to former socialist countries. Why should I today turn my back against those who stood by me?
L.R.M: I am aware your Excellency that Namibia has in the past condemned the economic sanctions imposed by the West and the United States on Zimbabwe. But what do you think Africa should do to ensure that the illegal sanctions are lifted?
H.G: When were those sanctions imposed? Is Zimbabwe dead? Zimbabwe is making progress. Yes, there is a blockade but the country has persevered. So it’s uncalled for sanctions and should be removed but it does not mean that because there are sanctions Zimbabweans do not exist. Zimbabweans are here, live and are proud and principled. Being principled is important even if you are suffering. We thought after the last elections which were described as democratic, free and fair, we thought those sanctions should have been removed. Zanu-PF won those elections and it’s unfair to continue having those sanctions.
L.R.M: What is your comment on the assertion that those who once colonised us are keen on installing their own pliable regimes in southern Africa and this explains why we have similar challenges in former liberation movements like Zanu-PF, Swapo, ANC, Frelimo, MPLA and Chama Cha Mapinduzi?
H.G: As former liberation movements, we regularly meet to discuss these issues. Last time we met in Mozambique. We are talking about it. We cannot be dictated by anybody from outside who should govern us when we subject ourselves to the democratic processes. We in Africa don’t accept people who come through coups, it’s Africans who decide, AU or SADC. So as long as people of that country are supporting the leadership, they are the only ones who can change the leadership. Nobody else from outside. It doesn’t work that way. And we draw lessons from the Libyan situation. Gaddafi was seen as a bad leader but are the Libyans better off now or worse off? They are worse off. The situation has worsened. Wherever you have a leader forcibly removed, the situation in that country has deteriorated. We brought democracy, we enjoy 80 percent of the people’s support. The opposition is weak, and then the Press becomes the opposition. And now we have this freedom and you try to corner liberation movements into a corner and do whatever the opposition is failing to do, we fight. Are we gonna sit and watch because you want to please some other people when the Press turns into an opposition? If the people of Zimbabwe said they want President Mugabe, who am I to say no?
L.R.M: Still on the issue of former liberation movements, there are some within SADC who are saying President Mugabe and South Africa President Zuma must go and some have even gone to the courts. As one of the leaders in the region, how do you respond to such calls? How do you question the will of the people?
H.G: President Thabo Mbeki had six months to go and Zuma I believe we must allow him to finish. Once we start to interrupt things, I believe strongly in term limits especially for a President who is directly elected and I am third President because of that. But in South Africa President Zuma is elected by parliament. I don’t understand that because in our case we have hybrid, we have a Presidential system and a parliamentary system combined, so a president is elected direct and has a term limit of two-five years. But for people elected by Parliament then they must be held accountable by parliament with no term limit like the British system.
But if I am there and people are electing me over and over and elections are free, does anyone have a right to tell people not to elect me? Are you going to America and also question them that as a political scientist I would say the system is archaic. Hillary (Clinton) got about 2-3 million more votes, she own elections but they have what they call electoral college, about 500 people decided to choose a President. Do I interfere there? It’s their system, it’s their culture, it’s how they do things. We don’t interfere. If it was in Africa where a small group of people elect the President, it would have been world news.
So we Africans have to learn to be proud of who we are and not just always to listen to outsiders. I am a democrat, through and through, we fought for that and this is how we govern in Namibia. You cannot keep on changing goalposts. I don’t believe in elections being observed by foreigners, they come for two weeks and they are gone and they write something.
Let’s talk about Zimbabwean elections. The last were declared free and fair, not by me but those who were here. President Zuma was elected and if it’s their system to remove a President, system differ but I don’t see that happening in Namibia.
L.R.M: What does the Trump administration mean to Africa?
H.G: But what did President Obama do for Africa? What do Americans presidents do?
They are superpowers, which are their interest, not my interest. I had a serious fight with my daughters the other day; I said President Obama is black but not African. There is a system in every country, the system must have approved him to be a President and he will be first and foremost American President and surely he was an American President. And he did something good towards the end of his term about Cuba and Iran.
So Americans elect their presidents not because we are weak to interfere but because we respect their system. There is a person who gets 3 million votes but is out. It’s not the first time it has happened, Al Gore had a similar situation. Namibians, Zimbabweans are also doing things their own way.
L.R.M: What are your sentiments towards the readmission of Morocco into the AU? Do you feel betrayed or let down by your colleagues over the issue of Saharawi?
H.G: I am not thinking, we were so disappointed; you should have been there at the AU last time. I was so disappointed. We were talking about the rights of the people. Morocco left OAU on their own because Saharawi were admitted. Our issue was if Morocco is coming back, are they coming back to be together with Saharawi or they are coming to demand that it should be removed? That was the key and to me it was an issue of Morocco declaring that they are coming to co-exist, they didn’t do it and they were admitted. They had the majority votes but each country had its own national interest that dictated their vote, so I cannot sit here and condemn them. Our position was based on principle of national solidarity, principle based on the fact that the whole world was supporting us, except Israel.
L.R.M: Your Excellency you are famed for saying that “no Namibian should be left out,” meaning that you advocated for inclusivity in terms of uplifting the living standards of people. How far have you fared in your fight against poverty and unemployment?
H.G: Well, poverty went down from 70 to 18 percent after independence. We worked on it and abject poverty is about 8 percent. What’s good about us is that we are open, we talk, and anybody can talk anything about us because the statistics are there. But definitely we have achieved a lot. We are saying even if one Namibian, one percent is poor we must still fight the war. We are saying that in the Haraambe Prosperity Plan, we are not gonna make everyone a millionaire, that’s not the issue, each according to his needs and ability and we are creating a conducive environment those with the ability must be on their own. Those who are in needy are the ones that government must pay attention to. We are saying by 2025 we must have eradicated abject poverty in Namibia.