Respect is a two-way street

18 July 2019 | Columns

The ongoing debate unfolding in the National Assembly, which puts social cohesion in the spotlight, is quite interesting. For far too long we have observed disturbing trends that suggest our collective failure to adopt fundamental principles that all proud citizens of this country should uphold, for the preservation of morals. If one considers the growing number of social ills, including gender-based violence, tribalism, racism, poverty and homelessness, there is no doubt that our nation needs urgent healing, which requires a collective effort from all citizens to tackle this moral paralysis. In her motivation speech last week, Swapo National Assembly chief whip Evelyn !Nawases-Taeyele warned against the dangers of social media, while also pointing out its positive benefits. “A new epidemic has broken out in Namibia where young people use social media to fuel propaganda and insult national leaders. Today people garnering for power have deployed armies of fake accounts to do so (sic). I trust that this bill will make provision to criminalise the distribution of data messages that are harmful to fellow citizens,” she said. !Nawases-Taeyele is not the only one that views social media as the prime culprit. Many politicians, especially from the ruling party, have in the past supported calls to regulate social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It is true that the moral fibre of our society is degrading. It remains a big concern. However, there is a thin line between censorship and robust debate, which is obviously needed for a democratic society to fully embrace its challenges and find solutions. Insults, however, will not help us. Yet respect is a two-way street, and the onus is on leaders to nurture this and lead by example, in order to build the kind of society that all patriotic Namibians want. As much as social media debates have deteriorated over the years, they also represent a microcosm of what ordinary people are going through. Government should take heed and act to build the cohesion it purportedly preaches.

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