• September 20th, 2018
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The Politics of Queuing in the New Namibia

Catherine Sasman MY fair-skinned mother and dark-skinned father would always tell us tit-bits about their colour-coded experiences during the heydays of apartheid rule in the then South West Africa. One of the stories I remember was when my father took my brother - who happened to resemble my mother more in terms of hue - to a 'whites only' public toilet in South Africa. A white patron who spotted him, a black man, in a white facility, angrily walked up to him and demanded to know what he was doing there. Working the situation, my father replied: "No baas, can't you see I'm taking the madam's child to the toilet?" Another story was when my mother - extremely impatient by nature - decided to break rank, so to speak, when she decided to skip a long bank queue intended for blacks and fell in line behind the much shorter 'white' queue. Identified by some of her black compatriots as in fact 'not white', she was lifted out of the 'white queue' and sent back to 'where she belonged'. The point that I'm driving at is that life without a colour or ethnic directive attached to just about everything back then, was entirely and wholly inconceivable. It formed the essence of our social fabric. But have things changed much after the "boers" with their apartheid were chased out after independence? From the look of things and from where I stand, apparently not. What does seem to have changed - to some extent - is who now dishes out the colour-coded directives; who now stands on the biggest mole heap with the moral high ground to shout down racist invective to all and sundry. This sordid behaviour - because racism is racism irrespective of the colour of the one executing it - is lamentable. This sort of behaviour among ordinary Namibians is easily observed when one takes the time to see how people behave when standing in - yes - queues. The first time I noticed this was in late 1999, while waiting in line at some police station to have my car re-registered. A friend and I waited in a long line - just one this time - when a young black man, clearly from the upper echelons of society, whizzed passed everyone and jostled for a place right in front. When people protested, he turned around and arrogantly informed the rest of us that "I have suffered". Presumably, his questionable struggle credentials afforded him the right to skip the line. I again noticed this in December while waiting in line at Home Affairs, when people just pushed aside particularly white people to get in front. Confused over the course of action to take - for fear of being branded a racist should they protest - these white people would gingerly step aside and let the blacks take a position in front of them. Again, the point I am trying to make is that Namibians seem to be increasingly intolerant of differences, where the more obvious differences, the way we look, is being exploited for purely selfish purposes. This, by all counts is a very dangerous mentality that can take us right back to the morally depraved apartheid days. Well, I suppose ordinary Namibians figure that if the politicians can do it, so can they. Eewa!
2008-01-11 00:00:00 10 years ago
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