15 May 2019
In 1948, Costa Rica disbanded their army because their Defense Minister at the time proposed the idea to spend more on education and health. They have never looked back. Ranked the happiest country in the world by the Happy Planet Index, this "developing" country has a much better economic system than the majority of the G7 countries. The country has one the best health care systems in the world (universal health care), and the country is among the most peaceful in the world.
And here we are, ranked among the highest in the world - 13th - in terms of military spending as a proportion to GDP. Higher than the USA...a country we should DEFINITELY not be looking up to as a role model. Why is it, that during a time of social crisis, we turn to giving more power to the military? More money to the military? I realise that we live in a country where the lines are blurred between party and state, and that inherently we are run by leadership that is in itself military in its organisation. It had to be, from its formation, as it was needed for the struggle for independence. But it is needed no more. We should be much more bold, trusting and progressive. Mistrust leads mistrust. Yes, there is spending on social safety nets (which in my opinion are not helpful in the way they are constructed - too much administrative spending when we could just have a Basic Income Grant). The prioritisation of our budget does not reflect our President's statements about addressing the humanitarian crisis in Namibia. Why not take at the very least half of the 6 billion budget allocated to the Defense Ministry and pump it into social Ministries instead and at least 1 billion into conserving the natural heritage base, which is the foundation of our economy.
I remember driving on the B1 once from Katutura back past Prosperita when a NDF car passed me recklessly on the left emergency lane (that was closing a few metres in front of me), almost grinding the side of my car and forcing me to the right. I hooted at the driver and he aggressively hung out of the car to threaten me as he drove past. I have had terrible treatment by NDF soldiers years ago when I accidentally went down the wrong street (that was not even blocked off) in town near the old President's house. I cannot even imagine what my fellow (innocent!) Namibians, who were recently brutalised by soldiers, must feel. Crime is a result of poverty and social desperation. Dealing with it in a military way will only cause more social fear and anxiety. And one definitely should not be using the military and the police force interchangeably. We are supposed to be a democratic state where observing the rule of law should rest with the police and our judiciary. The police are mandated with civilian issues. The two are capacitated and trained in completely different ways. The Editor of the Namibian suggested that instead of letting the military act as police enforcers, why not decrease the military and retrain some soldiers to instead serve as police officers. This would at least be a small step forward in the interim.
If we really wanted to make a solid change, we would be doing bold things, like transforming the economy to serve the people, introducing the Basic Income Grant as promised, as a foundational start. The country is more than capacitated to finance this if it really took seriously the social changes needed for a prosperous future. If we carry on with the direction we are going, we will risk the rise of authoritarianism in this country; this will only get more and more pronounced until civil unrest will boil us over.
Image Source: https://thepatriot.com.na/index.php/2019/05/03/should-military-take-part-in-law-enforcement/