AFTER years of serving the ruling Swapo Party in different portfolios, Lucia Basson (LB) has arguably reached the pinnacle of her political career after she was appointed Governor of the //Karas region by President Hage Geingob in 2015.
//Karas is the southernmost and least populated of the country’s 14 regions, its capital being Keetmanshoop. The region is predominantly a small stock-farming area, consisting mostly of animals such as sheep or goats. Notable characteristics of the region include the harbour town of Luderitz and its fishing and boat building industry and mining enterprises.
Basson, who described herself as a grassroots politician to Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN) in a recent interview, said that she’s determined to develop the region that is affected by drugs and alcohol abuse. She also spoke passionately about assisting locals start projects.
MN: Tell us about yourself.
LB: I am an orderly, humble grassroots politician born on 3 March 1953 in a small village called Wortel, situated 15 kilometres west of Karasburg. I’m also a teacher by profession.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing.
LB: I was raised by my parents, who are now late. My father worked for the then South African railway. I grew up in Keetmanshoop after he was transferred to that town. He was very strict. I remember he did not allow me to get out of the house often except for when I went to school and church. My mom, a church woman was equally strict. If I was wrong, they disciplined me but equally applauded me when I did well. But I should say that that upbringing contributed greatly to the person I am today.
MN: What triggered your interest in politics?
LB: After I finished primary school in 1972, I proceeded with my secondary education in Tses. I come from a poor background and at the time my father was the breadwinner. So because of financial problems, after completing grade 10, it was decided I drop out of school.
In 1974, I was employed as a relief teacher in Valgraas teaching Grade 1. We were lucky at the time because we received training from various organisations. In 1974, Swapo activities came to the south. I was easily connected because as a teacher, alongside my colleagues, was against the apartheid Bantu education system. We had a strike headed by the late Hendrik Witbooi, and the message was clear, we were against the apartheid system. That was the end of my educational career and the beginning of my political career.
I became heavily involved in mobilising for the swapo party in the region. I remember in 1979 we started the AME Private School in Gibeon which was supported by the party. We were constantly harassed at the school by South African soldiers but we did not bow to the pressure. After independence, we handed the school over to government.
MN: What key moments in your political career do you believe prepared you for this role?
LB: Before I became governor, I worked for the Swapo party way before independence. In 1991 though, I was elected to the Swapo Women Council in Hardap region, based in Mariental. I worked my way up until I was elected acting regional coordinator after the death of Cleophas Uiseb in 2001.
At the 2002 regional conference, I was elected regional coordinator. The region was heavily dominated by the opposition, so we worked hard until we had the majority. I was amongst the first 10 people to parliament appointed by Founding President Sam Nujoma. I have been a member of parliament for a long time and at some point I also served as a back-bencher. I also served on the standing committee of Defence and Security as vice chairperson under the leadership of Ben Amathila and after he left, I took up the chairmanship.
During the general 2010 elections, I was out of parliament and decided to go back home. The party trusted me to an extent that I was elected acting regional coordinator until I rose to the post of regional coordinator. I also served as special advisor to former // Karas governor Bernadus Swartbooi in 2011. In 2015 my term as advisor came to end and then President Hage Geingob appointed me as governor. I am thrilled that the party and President believe in my capabilities. I enjoy the fact that I represent the President in the region, to be his eyes and ears and I work hard every day to achieve that.
MN: What key projects did you embark on since you took up office?
LB: As governors, it is difficult because we don’t have a budget. The budget is with the regional council. So I monitor and ensure that government projects are implemented. We received funds from various entities which we pumped into local projects such as entrepreneurship. I can proudly say that one such project is that of a state of the art bakery in Bethanie. We are also farmers in this region so we got donations of goats which we gave to farmers. We are working on a poultry farm which is not far from Rosh Pinah. We also helped a local herbalist acquire necessary qualifications, who in turn, now works closely with the University of Namibia. I am proud to say that with limited resources we got from companies, we assisted our people empower themselves in the region.
MN: How can ordinary citizens help you realize your dream of a region where everyone enjoys decent quality life?
LB: My office door is open and people should feel free to approach me. I will help where I can. But let me also remind them that they should be there to create employment and not look for it from government. Let us acquire skills because not everyone is gifted academically. We should all strive to develop the region and use whatever resources we have available to do that.
MN: What are challenges facing the region?
LB: It’s mostly the excessive abuse of drugs and alcohol especially by the youth. Wherever you go, you are sure to find alcohol outlets, even on farms. As a government, I believe we should bring in measures to reduce the number of shebeens and restrict new ones. I also call upon parents to discipline their children and keep them off the streets. We are the region bordering South Africa where a lot of these things come from, so people should be the eyes and ears of government to report such matters.
MN: What personal advice do you have for fellow women, youth?
LB: As a mother of three, I am also a mother to many. So I urge mothers to continuously raise their children. Education is important as it brings us out of poverty and opportunities are endless with it. Let’s be a part of those that do goodwill, let us make differences in our families, let us be hardworking and let us do things for ourselves. Let us live in peace and harmony and let us do what we can to build our country.
MN: Just what do you do for a little fun?
LB: I am a soccer fanatic. When I am at home, I enjoy watching the sport with my children and randchildren. It brings us even closer
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015