Year of accountability – Geingob

The president has declared 2019 the year of accountability but analysts say he has downplayed the government’s lacklustre performance in 2018.

02 January 2019 | Government

JEMIMA BEUKES



President Hage Geingob left the nation baffled when he declared 2019 the year of accountability after what analysts described as an underwhelming 2018, which he had declared to be the year of reckoning.

On New Year’s Eve Geingob called on all Namibians to embrace the new year with optimism and purpose; a sense of vision and a sense of patriotism.

He also encouraged Namibians to embrace principles which transcend differences of ethnicity, tribe and community.

“Now as we ready ourselves for 2019 we do so knowingly that it will be a year in which we as politicians will have to account to the electorate - the ultimate sovereign - who have ceded their right to administer by bestowing that responsibility to us. 2019 will be the year of accountability,” Geingob said.

Social commentator Henning Melber says President Geingob was far too eager to take stock in a way which underlined that 2019 is an election year.

Melber observed that it was a “self-applauding retrospective”, which downplayed to some extent the problems by praising the initiatives taken.

“He twice mentioned that his State of the Nation Address in April will offer more substance. Unless people forget, he will then be measured if he is up to standard.

“Once again, the populist rhetoric through playing with pompous words was obvious: having declared the years in government as those of planning (2015), implementation (2016), rededication (2017) and reckoning (2018) he now announced 2019 as the year of accountability.

“Well, planning, implementation and accountability should be substantial integral parts of any day in government and not a label you attach to one year.

“A government should plan, implement and be accountable from the first until the last day in office, 24/7,” said Melber.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said he was puzzled as to how the president decided to declare 2019 the year of accountability and yet little could be shown during 2018, the so-called year of reckoning.

“To do reckoning is to account for one's actions. So how is this year going to be different than the year of reckoning? What is the difference between the year of reckoning and the year of accountability? And what has been achieved with the year of reckoning?” he asked.

Political commentator Frederico Links shot down Geingob’s speech as pure rhetoric and sloganeering.

Links believes that the president is trying to make Namibians feel better about their situation.

“As we have seen with the year of reckoning, it was an underwhelming reckoning performance. I do not want to sound pessimistic right at the start of this year.

“Look at the targets that he set himself in terms of bucket toilets and things like these, and eradicating the unsanitary conditions. We are far behind [in reaching] these targets,” said Links.

Talk is cheap

Geingob further raised eyebrows when he said the government had taken the bold step of eradicating informal settlements by declaring the situation in these areas a humanitarian crisis.

Melber pointed out that declaring living conditions in informal settlements a humanitarian crisis, which is indeed “an adequate diagnosis”, does not solve the problem and does not spell out any treatment plan.

Responding to the president’s comment that the second land conference was a major step in solving the land issue, Melber reminded Geingob that a land conference does not offer solutions to the land issue.

“Never mind the controversies around the land deal with the Russian oligarch and the situation of the landless dumped in the Dordabis corridor.

“With reference to investigations into accusations of corruption by high-ranking political office holders he suggested that justice take its course under the rule of law.

“This creates expectations as to what will happen. But seeing is believing: Geingob did not offer any indications how the challenges should be solved.

“As regards the economic crisis of epic proportions, he once again used the mantra blaming mainly the external factors of a world economy. But other resource-dependent economies of a similar nature have not ended up in depression.

“A self-critical dimension would have added a lot of legitimacy to his speech and admitting mistakes or not-so-good performances does not undermine the credibility of a government and its head but enhances it,” he said.

Links commended the government for taking this step but added that action speaks louder than words.

“Declaring something a crisis and doing something about it are two different things,” he said.

Inconsistencies

Commentators reached behind Geingob and questioned the ability of his advisers and speechwriters.

Although Kamwanya commended Geingob for taking his time to address the nation, he emphasised that the speech was riddled with inconsistencies which diverted the attention from what could have been a good message

“It was a mistake for him or his advisers or speechwriters to blend in with the achievements. Like the thing of declaring that they are eradicating informal settlements. It is just unfortunate,” he said.

Melber argues that the president should have read his speech before he went on national television.

“If there was a speechwriter, he/she needs some professional advice and training to improve skills. And the president would have benefitted from a few more trial runs of reading the speech before recording it for broadcasting.”

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