Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Born Free & in Search of Political Answers

by Ndapwa Alweendo, The Namibian, 24 November 2009

THE hype leading up to this year’s presidential and National Assembly elections has been particularly fascinating to me. As a first-generation ‘born-free’, I am one of many young Namibians voting for the very first time. And I think it’s this fact that makes our approach to the polling stations so unique.

From what I can tell, many older Namibians vote out of loyalty, and not because they think their party will do the best at running the country. Their approach to the elections seems completely backwards. We should vote looking forward, instead of remembering past glories.

It’s easy to see why so many Namibians vote looking backwards; the apartheid regime was a time of indescribable horror, and the people who liberated the nation will always have our gratitude. And they deserve our respect, no question. But we have to start asking the hard question, what have you done for me lately?


Not only am I a first generation born-free, I am also part of a brand new generation, full of brand new ideals. Music, television and the Internet have exposed us to so much more than our parents and grandparents. And with that exposure comes a whole new outlook on the world.

Old ideas seem completely outdated and inconceivable.

As a young person, I am constantly reminded of how important it is for us to accept responsibility for this country, for us to take an interest in politics and have opinions of our own.

Sadly, a lot of our ideas and opinions are written off as the ramblings of the inexperienced.

The words “idealistic” and “naïve” are thrown around. I don’t think we’re so idealistic as to think that one election will bring about all the changes we want to see.

But I also think that we aren’t given as much credit as we deserve. We know what we want. And what we want is not all that unrealistic.

What we want is a government that follows up on its promises.

We want a government that sets a good example to every single Namibian.

We want a government that uses its resources – taxpayer dollars – to assist those who need it most.

We want bursaries awarded to those who deserve and need them. We want a government that accepts every Namibian citizen as equal; whether gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, religious or atheist … we are all Namibians. And we all deserve the same treatment.

We don’t want manifestos filled with vague and sometimes unrealistic promises.
We don’t need an election atmosphere filled with suspicion and paranoia. We don’t want to have to censor ourselves when discussing politics with strangers because we fear their response to our political affiliations.

I want a Namibia that my generation will be proud to inherit. And if that’s asking for too much? I don’t think that idealism is our problem.

I mentioned before that many belonging to the older generations vote looking backwards.
I think Swapo should remember that they don’t have that advantage when it comes to us first-generation born-frees. We have a significantly shorter memory span.

When I look back I see corruption that wasn’t really dealt with. I see a State hospital falling into a state of disrepair. I see the rich-poor divide widening into a terrifying ravine.

I see children going to bed hungry, I see HIV-AIDS claiming more lives than ever, I see taxpayer dollars used in dubious ways. I find it ludicrous that taxpayer dollars are used to buy pre-celebration bakkies.

What are we celebrating? Swapo’s as yet non-existent victory? Celebration is all good and well, but taxes paid to the Government shouldn’t be used by one party, and benefit a few people. N$15 million is a lot of money.

I am not condemning our present government, not at all. Progress has been made, if slowly. But elections aren’t a time to praise a party’s successes. This is the time for all parties to convince the public of why they are the best candidates to run this country. Namibia is full of potential that will amount to nothing if put in the wrong hands. We have problems, sure, but problems can be overcome if the approach to these problems changes.

I hope that many young people share that opinion with me, even if we disagree on other points. So get up off your parents’ couches and vote! If we don’t exercise our right to vote, we lose our right to complain.

If you think we have problems now, five years without change won’t do anybody any good.


It seems to me that an air of desperation is hanging over these elections. Countless newsreels boasting of the continuation of “the good work done by the current government”, droves of joyful Swapo supporters, a coincidental absence of pieces about opposing parties… It just doesn’t feel right. I thought free and fair elections would mean that every party would have an equal opportunity to state their case to the nation.
And a reminder: State owned is not synonymous with Swapo owned. NBC, I’m talking to you. Denial is all good and well, but the numbers don’t lie: Swapo has benefited more than any other party.

Of course, there is a positive side to this. Obviously, opposing parties present a real threat this year.

Let’s face it, if there was no chance for the opposition, the existing government wouldn’t feel the need to remind us of their superb achievements at every turn.

Fear means there is competition, and competition leads to action. It only makes sense – a real contender lights a fire behind those in charge. It means that at least some Namibians are starting to say, show us what you’ve got, or we’ll replace you.

And whether you support the opposition or not, you have to agree that competition produces more results than an empty political arena.