Sam Nujoma

I was asked to name a hero the other day while in the midst of a team building exercise at work. I chose HE Sam Nujoma. I explained to my colleagues that the reasons why I chose him was the fact that during the past 30+ years I have studied, researched and written about Namibia, he has been the constant and dominating personality. But, he is my hero because of the way he has dominated. When SWAPO was a liberation organisaton, he made sure that educational opportunities were available to many young Namibians. He said Namibia would be free, and it is. He promised peace, stability and economic growth, and we have it. More importantly he has set a tone for the way this country operates. That tone was evident back in the 1990s, when colleagues and I were doing a lot of field research on development problems. On long dusty drives from one small place to another equally small community, we noticed the simple fact that the government delivered on its promises. When a school was supposed to be built, it appeared. The same with clinics, roads, agricultural centres, water systems, and phone services. It was clear back then that the people running the government were serious about keeping the promises made to every day Namibians. Looking around in Africa, there are plenty of other countries where the people who lead the process of Independence decided to not keep their promises. Even now, after decades, the average person in those places still waits for a school, health care or basic services.
Sam Nujoma, the Founding Father, made sure that Namibia would take a different path. The wisdom of his decision became clear after HIV and AIDS became a major threat to society. The country was able to respond -- often very successfully -- to the challenge of HIV and AIDS, because the basic infrastructure needed to roll out services and medications was already in place. Currently, the nation faces problems of unemployment and unequal income distribution. The attitude HE Sam Nujoma instilled in this generation of leaders, that we take care of our people, means that major efforts to bring jobs and income to those in need will occur. So when I think of Sam Nujoma as one of my hero’s, the words I will always associate with him are “When it came to the promises he made to Namibia, he delivered.”