Public Leadership in Namibia

The Quality of Public Leadership in Namibia:

An Evidence-Based Analysis and Suggested Way Forward.



Jens Schneider

2015 RDP Regional Government Candidate Windhoek East






ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS …………………………………………………………………………………….

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ………………………………………………………………………………….

TABLE OF FIGURES………………………………………………………………………………………….


  1. INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………………………………………………………..










REFERENCES ………………………………………………………………………………………………….







MDG Millennium Development Goals


Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management

Namibia Open Learning Network Trust

PPP Public Private Partnerships
SMDP Senior Management Development Programme



  1. Introduction and Background


The 21st Century comes with a complex set of new challenges for Public Leadership. Leaders in Namibia and elsewhere find themselves confronted with a relatively computer literate, self-informed public prepared to question the quality of the decisions made by their public leaders.

Leadership pre-supposes followers. Therefore, if there is bad following and one consequently encounters bad leadership, the question that needs to be asked seems to be a classical one: are leaders born or are they made? Thus, if we accept the notion that leaders are made: where and how are leaders of quality made?

The discourse in the paper centres on leadership quality in Namibia. The framing model for the discussion is presented below in Figure 1: The base of the model is supported by a solid innovation policy linked to a national leadership strategy. This in turn is guided by Namibia’s Vision 2030, the National Development Plan Documents, the latest being published August 2012, all in the pursuit of attaining the status of a Knowledge Based Economy by 2030. To further segment the Namibian model, the theme is presented in the form of 8 major public executive leadership challenges identified by Robert D. Behn (2003).

This paper attempts to addresses the issue of quality of public leadership in Namibia by means of an evidence-based analysis and in conclusion, suggests a possible way forward.


Figure1 KNowledge managment



  1. Quality in Leadership: The Namibia Landscape

In the first week of August Namibia’s Newspapers blazoned the headlines confirming a sex for marks scam at the Polytechnic of Namibia. On August the 2nd 2012 the Confidante Newspaper leads with the article: Probe confirms Poly’s sex for marks scam ( Online)

Any analysis and evaluation of the quality public leadership in Namibia, needs to avoid the pitfall of engaging in the wrong conversation, if one prescribes to the notion that leadership per se is not the key matter.

Conversely, if the notion of constructing leadership policies for the 21st Century without underpinning the constructs of the individual, institutional, effectiveness and efficiency aspects of high quality leadership applied with courage, capacity, commitment and conscience, clearly the scope of the challenges Namibian leadership faces has not been fully understood.


  1. Quality Namibian Public Leadership: The great challenges

In a presentation in Copenhagen, Robert Behn, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School addresses the 8 top cchallenges for top public executives as: Leadership, Strategy, Performance, Motivation, Collaboration, Accountability, Learning and External Communication (2003). The Namibian perspective is illustrated by means of these eight segments.

  • 1. Leadership

According to Behn (2003) leadership can be defined as the active recruiting of people’s intellects and energies to accomplish important purposes. Leadership assumes the function of articulating an inspiring mission through personal persistence as well as a commitment to generating enthusiasm.

However, the leadership challenge of dissipating the entrenched hierarchical thinking and devotion of powerful position over functional capability leads to bad public leadership. Bad Public Leadership has immediate negative consequences on the economic and intellectual development of Namibia, as is demonstrated in the case of the Namibia Open Learning Network Trust which was

“formed on request of the Government in order to share scarce expertise and resources in ODL…The e-Learning Committee of NOLNet is now recognised as being the leader trainers in e-Learning throughout West, east and Southern Africa. However, within Namibia itself, we are still grappling with implementation of eLearning within our institutions” Bennet.N (2011)

The NOLNet Board of Trustees are not eLearning experts and hold their position for status and not for function. Over the years this led to decay in performance, motivation, accountability which cascaded down through the management committee, their working groups and the individual champions. The vision of strategy seem to have been lost in favour of position of grandeur.

  • 2. Strategy

Strategy follows Policy which leads to fair and efficient performance agreements which in turn a clear recognition of the true purposes to be achieved. The fundamental challenge here seems to be in gaining an understanding of how people and organizations behave since the ability to match behavior to purposes by crafting concrete yet subtle organizational endeavors that will, directly or indirectly, influence people to help achieve those purposes.

With the development and implementation of the NDP4 document, which focuses on the manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and job creation sectors, as well as introducing performance agreement in the public sector, Namibia attempts to meet this challenge in a planned manner

  • 3. Performance

Behn argues that performance is the production of results that citizens value. The challenge in this segment is how specific output targets people are charged with producing can effectively be measured.


In assessing the performance of Namibian State Owned Enterprises, the Hon. C. Schlettwein (2012), Deputy Minister of Finance found that the combined revenue performance of SOE’s in Namibia amounted to N$ 173 Million in dividend 2009 -2010, whereas the Government spent N$ 1.5 Billion on sustaining, which reflects a total of 10% of Government Budget. Of that amount 30% of the money was swallowed by our tertiary institutions. This clearly indicates a significant capacity deficiency in SOE and line ministries which urgently needs to be need to be improved if SOE performance is to become a success.

  • 4. Motivation

Namibia needs innovative approaches to managerial skills, as well as with the implementation of policies. Behn (2003) points out that motivation is the mobilization of individual and collective efforts to produce results.

He continues by explaining that motivation requires a framework that provides everyone with three important pieces of information:

    1. Every individual knows how well he, she, or the team is doing;
    2. Every individual knows how well every other individual or team is doing; and
    3. Every individual knows that everyone else knows how well he, she, or the team is doing.

Leadership motivation, Behn concludes, is a conscious effort to reward success (not merely to punish failure) by creating “esteem opportunities.” In Namibia, the education, nursing and police force sectors need to be re-incentivized in order to optimize the current lack of motivation within these critical sectors.

  • 5. Collaboration

Behn further explains that collaboration is the cooperative work with other (public, nonprofit, and private) organizations that have similar, yet not identical, missions to achieve broader, overlapping purposes. This leads to:

  • An understanding of the common purposes to which collaborators wish to contribute.
  • An appreciation of the legitimacy of the needs and missions of other organizations.
  • The ability to convince people and organizations with diverse objectives to focus on the commonalities (rather than the differences) in their underlying missions.

In view of this the Namibian National Development Plan 4 has four objectives, being tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture and job creation.

For Namibia to reach its targeted goals in the NDP4, the country will require billions of investment. Although the Namibian Government- led investment strategy has to date seen the country praised for sound policies overall, these policies have not yet necessarily solved the challenges facing its institutional environment. Namibia is regarded as being one of the few African with good investment credit ratings and its international debt issue in Eurobond last year was well received. Conversely, an over-reliance on collaboration partners in the form of SACU led to a shallow Government revenue base and weaknesses in the collection process.

This is indicated by SACU receipts projected to diminish in the near future due to on-going trade liberalization initiatives that has hampered State revenue for some time. However, the Government wage bill has ballooned over the past few years, adding to a currently deteriorating fiscal environment that brings substantial downside risk.

This lack of proper collaboration impacts on the country’s competitiveness on micro level, with this area consistently performing much worse internationally compared to relatively high scores on international and micro issues.

In the light of the above, for Namibia to reach its targeted goals in the NDP4 of tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and job creation, the country requires about N$100 billion for attaining its NDP4 objectives. Public leaders therefore need to improve their collaborative efforts make NDP4 reality.

  • 6. Accountability

As one of the prerequisite of democratic or good governance, accountability is held high by the Namibian public leadership. There are, therefore, laws, policies, rules and regulations to protect the nation’s resources from being abused or squandered through corrupt practices by public servants through holding these officials liable and answerable.

Mechanisms are in place to report on the usage of public resources and the consequences for failing to meet stated performance objectives in a transparent manner. The existence of both transparency and accountability which are the prerequisite to effective, efficient and equitable management of public institutions makes the Namibian public leadership to be of good quality.

However in recent times, cases of public corruption have become numerous as reported in the media; for example, the disappearance of the N$660,000,000 from GIPF; the N$3,000,000 from the Ministry of Defense; and N$ 300,000,000 from SSC, to mention but a few. Even some external and internal auditors were engaged to investigate and produce reports, present them to the highest authority, nobody is prosecuted and by implication, no one has been held accountable of these heinous crimes. This demonstrates the fact that although good laws and policies are in place, the public leadership is unable to enforce them, despite the proclamation of the policy of “zero tolerance of corruption”.

Thus, it is recommended that the Namibian Public leadership needs to take a firm and resolute action to enforce the laws and policies, particularly, the one on zero tolerance of corruption. The morality of honesty and fair and just service for the public should be emphasized in all policy implementation.

  • 7. Learning

Learning is the uncovering of basic principles of action, management, and leadership from a plethora of details in new and very specific circumstances followed by the application of these general principles in new situations. The leadership challenges here include:

  • A large professional repertoire from which to observe events.
  • An analytical appreciation of how the various items in a professional repertoire work.
  • The capacity to recognize in complicated situations the underlying patterns.
  • The ability to create cause-and-effect theories.
  • A willingness to experiment based on such theories, with new tactics and strategies.


Therefore one of the most prominent strategic leadership thrusts in the area of learning and development should include Public Service capacity building. Here the role of stakeholders like NIPAM function to facilitate rapid professional capacity development both in the public but also the private sector. Here particular attention should be awarded to the removal of unnecessary bottlenecks to Public Private Partnerships (PPP).

In addition, development of governance and morality programmes at schools, youth empowerment programmes, capacity building of the legislative and the co-ordination of donor and development projects would fast-track the successful attainment of the Vision 2030 goals.

  • 8. External Communication

External Communication is the enlisting of support for the organization’s mission, strategies, targets, and activities from a diversity of stakeholders.

  • An appreciation the values and purposes of different stakeholders.
  • The ability to maintain civil relations with stakeholders with dissimilar objectives and styles.
  • The capacity to explain the organization’s purposes and programs in terms that elected officials, journalists, and citizens understand and appreciate.


The brief conclusion here is that Namibian leadership needs to well versed in foreign investment solicitation

Recommending a way forward:

In recommending a roadmap for quality Namibian Public leadership in line with Behn’s eight challenges good public leadership, it can be deducted that good leaders are shaped, and they in turn shape Namibia. Good leaders are made: in the various departments of Central, Local or Regional Governments.

Donald Kaberuka, in his position as President of the African Development Bank Group elaborates that “today the linkages between good governance and growth are better understood; as the GAP makes clear, ‘good governance is crucial for inclusive and sustained economic growth.’ Research findings indicate that countries that improve their governance receive a 300 per cent dividend – three times more income per capita in the long term.” (GAP 2008-2012 p.9)

According to Davies (NIPAM-SMDP, 2012) current literature provides several options for institutions to transform evidence and knowledge based leadership into action, such as integrating research into professional competence, ownership of evidence (p.55), getting appropriate buy-in, shared notions of evidence (p.56), incentives to use evidence (p.57), as well as the availability of sound evidence (p. 58). Taking these factors into consideration when proposing a solution for optimising public leadership performance in Namibia the following recommendations should also be considered :

  • Namibia would benefit from an improved focus on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) critical areas such as Malaria, poverty reduction, and maternal health.
  • Steering towards a knowledge based society as formulated in Namibia’s Vision 2030, policies need to address and integrate the needs of the youth in the decision making process. Never before in the history of mankind has the youth had so much access to information as they have since the advent of the internet. Namibia’s youth need to be guided as to how to deal with this fast flow of information, as well as being acknowledged in the strategic choices being made on their behalf by older policy makers.
  • Namibia has an excellent resource pool within its borders. However, this pool of experts is limited in numbers and in order to meet the demand of scale and efficient implementation, it is recommended that the entering into transformative partnerships in Africa would address this issue, as this would consequentially lead to accelerated capacity building within the public sector.
  • Accelerated good governance discourse within the public sector as well as the private sector will most likely result in a changed mindset of the leadership in adopting evidence based governance, especially when all Vision 2030 stakeholders are engaged in this discourse.
  • Involving an institute like NIPAM to function as a think tank for innovation, research and systemic thinking as well as service process re-engineering would provide the Namibia public service with a valuable resource to feed evidence based leadership principle.
  • TIPEEG ( Targeted Intervention for Employment and Economic Growth) should be reconceptualised: looking at skills development, competences, business enterprise development of ICT skills , human resources public institutions: Police, nurses and teachers should be awarded a new status in Namibian leadership and society.

Good Public Leadership shapes a great Namibian future defined by its Vision 2013 and sanctioned by Namibia’s constitution. However, the analysis presented in this paper is by no means exhaustive considering the complexity of unravelling antiquated mechanistic paradigms compared to the rapid speed of change and the systemic thinking, structures, processes needed to optimise and sustain evidence based leadership in a 21st Century Namibia. Further research in this regard is highly recommended.




African Development Bank Group (2008) GAP 2008-2012: Governance Strategic Directions and Action Plan. (Accessed: April 19, 2012) [Online]


Association Resources, Inc (2004). Volume 11, No.2: Knowledge-based Governance, a Good Decision. Vol.11No2.pdf (Accessed: September 01, 2012) [Online]


Behn. R:D. (2003). The Forum for Executive Public Management, PPT Presentation.

(Accessed: September 01, 2012) [Online]


Bennet.N (2008). Country Presentation: Namibia. (Accessed: September 01, 2012) [Online]


NIPAM-SMDP Training Module 2. (2012). Understanding Good Governance: The Evolution and Impact of Concepts, Ideas, Philosophies


Personal Notes: taken during the lectures, discussions and group work during the SMDP Module 4 for Group 1 session in August 2012.


Schlettwein,C.(2010). “Assessing the Performance of State Owned Enterprises in Namibia – Financial Regulation Point of View”. Speech.

(Accessed: September 02, 2012) [Online]

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