Lessons from Nujoma's leadership

12 May 2020 | Columns

Sam Nujoma is 91 today. He led Namibians through a bitter revolution for 33 years - 23 years of which were characterised by a bloody war for independence.

Nujoma is no angel. Mistakes occurred during his leadership of both the liberation struggle and the country post-independence. The controversial manner in which he secured his third term in office will remain one of the contentious episodes of his leadership.

But despite his innumerable flaws, Nujoma stood head and shoulders above many leaders of his generation. His tenacity in the fight for independence, his charisma and ability to inspire others in times when inspiration itself was a rare commodity are some of the leadership tenets more Namibians must inherit.

He has a strong, combative character, which is necessary for every war leader to succeed. Perhaps he did not shake off that image quick enough after independence - hence the perception that he was somewhat autocratic.

But many political scholars have also argued that the perceived autocracy was necessary for a new nation that needed to get things done.

To inherit a nation that was divided along racial and political lines (even tribes were divided through Bantustans) and unite it to the extent that Nujoma did, at the time required wise leadership. Nujoma in many respects gave Namibia that.

The challenge for Namibians now is to sift through Nujoma's calabash and retain some of the sentimental virtues with which he led successfully.

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