President, Hage Geingob has said Zimbabweans who are unhappy with their leader
Robert Mugabe should fight for themselves, and not expect Namibia to interfere
in their national affairs.
He made the remarks on Monday when he delivered a speech at Columbia University in the United States of America.
A student at the university asked Geingob why Namibia has not spoken out against 92-year-old Mugabe, who leads a country in which political violence and human rights abuses are rife. Furthermore, that country has failed to hold free and fair elections since 2000.
The student asked Namibia's stance on Mugabe's 35-year rule, after Botswana president Ian Khama said last week that Mugabe should step aside without delay, and allow new leadership to take over the reins.
Geingob questioned why the student believes that Namibia has not spoken out. “Because we don't go out in public and shout, so that you can be happy and dance in the streets of New York?” the President asked.
Geingob furthermore wanted to know from the student whether Mugabe was elected for his current term of office. “So, it's for Zimbabweans to decide, not us. The rest is yours, you must go back and fight. We can't fight for you,” Geingob responded to the student, who claimed to come from Zimbabwe.
The President pointed out that Mugabe was elected by the people of that country in a free election, and that these results were not challenged in court, unlike those of previous elections.
“Therefore, we regard it as a Zimbabwean problem,” he stated.
Geingob admitted that he is concerned about what will happen to Zimbabwe when Mugabe leaves office, but added that he had similar concerns when former President Sam Nujoma and President Hifikepunye Pohamba retired in Namibia.
He, however, wanted to make it clear that being concerned does not equate to getting involved in Zimbabwean affairs.
“I cannot go and fight there (in Zimbabwe). We have an African way of doing things. I cannot say things to please somebody else, and say I condemn Mugabe. No, I will have a way to talk. We are sovereign countries,” he added.
Reuters reported last week that Botswana's Khama breached an African diplomatic taboo – banning criticism of fellow leaders – when he said Mugabe should step down. “It is obvious that at his age and the state Zimbabwe is in, he's not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament,” Khama said.
Geingob said what Khama did was his own business.
“What I am saying is that we differ in how we do things. We are not puppets of anybody. We had ideas to see how we go ahead to talk as Africans, our own way,” he added.
Geingob's remarks about Mugabe are contrary to his comments at the same event when he said organisations such as the Southern African Development Community must intervene when there are human rights abuses, or when leaders force themselves into power unlawfully.
“We must know that killing our people is not the way to go. If you do that, you can't expect the world to respect you. They will interfere and tell you that you are doing a wrong thing,” he said.
According to the President, there is also a need to stop treating African presidents like demigods.
“We must get rid of the days where we believed in strong presidents, personality cults, and that some are (demi)gods,” he said.
Mugabe, cult hero to some in Zimbabwe, was a close ally of former President Nujoma, with both men having led their countries after independence.
Like Nujoma, Pohamba has been Mugabe's ally in SADC, especially when the Zimbabwean leader appeared to be losing his grip on power.
Geingob is in America to sell the country to potential investors, and to explain his vision for Namibia and Africa. One thing he has constantly spoke about while abroad is the fact that he declared his assets to the public in order to promote transparency.
He said his ministers also declared their assets, and he has seen their declarations.
Based on what he saw of them, he said Namibian ministers are poor.
“I have seen their assets. It's top secret, but I can say that they are very poor,” he added.
Geingob's comments about the declarations by members of parliament come at a time when the information is not yet released to the public, although they have been in office for close to 18 months. Namibian