TRANSPARENCY can be the most powerful weapon in the government’s arsenal. So powerful, in fact, that immediate answers to burning questions are often the difference between unrest and calm.
This week, more questions were raised regarding the recently exposed controversial deal where Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma, acting on behalf of government, supposedly acted as conduit to facilitate a 99-year land lease agreement for a Russian multi-billionaire.
This deal was not only concluded in secrecy in the days leading up to the country’s second land conference, but happened under the watchful eye of the Head of State, Hage Geingob, who started his presidency preaching non-compromising transparency, good governance and absolute accountability on the part of his team.
At every corner, Nujoma, whom it now seems has been left to face the music alone despite his insistence that the deal went through Cabinet and the Office of the Attorney-General, has not provided satisfactory answers.
In fact, by initially holding an NBC-invited only press conference, a national broadcaster known to be pro-government, Nujoma demonstrated that transparency and accountability were the furthest thing from his mind as he attempted to use State cameras to defend himself and his position while evading the real questions.
That void of information causes unease, and people are left to wonder why those with the answers do not simply come forward and quell the situation.
The questions popping up seem to be fairly simple and logical to ask considering the seriousness of this deal, but the answers have not been forthcoming and when they did come, they were evasive.
It is time that Nujoma explains why he used his executive power to give the Russian a lease that exceeds the prescribed period of 10 years for foreigners and if laws were not circumvented when government agreed to take a cash donation to purchase the farms in exchange for a near century lease agreement.
People want and expect satisfactory answers to simple questions so that they can relate to the benefits that may accrue from this deal.
A lack of transparency is the major stumbling block and only serves to erode trust as speculations become rife.
Human rights lawyer, Norman Tjombe put it perfectly when he said had government been open about the matter, then it would have taken the public in its confidence. With deals done in the dark, the end result is always suspicion.
Transparency matters now more than ever.
When it comes to national issues as serious as land distribution in this country, government should not be willing to leave any stone unturned.