RUNDU – The Nyemba-speaking committee in Rundu on Friday held a peaceful demonstration to protest the blocking of a Nyemba language programme on NBC radio Wato.
The protest came after traditional leaders opposed the broadcasting of the Nyemba language programme on NBC radio.
Under the theme: ‘Nyemba Language Matters in Namibia’, they called for an investigation into alleged tribal discrimination against their community.
The petition was received by the outgoing chief regional officer Ludwig Thikusho on Friday, to be handed to the regional council chairperson Damian Maghambayi who will forward it to President Hage Geingob.
Protestors said their reason for wanting their language aired on local radio is because they don’t want to lose their identity as a tribe and through the radio, they want to educate their children to know their roots.
The group gave President Geingob a month to react to their request before they take the legal route.
“We expect to hear from you regarding your action in this matter within 30 days from today, (28 October 2022). Failure to meet our demands will result in legal action being taken against any office we deem appropriate, and we will ensure that every Nyemba-speaking person is protected,” they said.
The committee further requested that a distinction be made between the 2014 issues raised by the then Nyemba Association group seeking recognition for a traditional jurisdiction and the current Nyemba committee seeking language recognition.
The group of concerned Nyembas also demanded the formation of a task force to investigate the matter and provide a forum for both parties’ concerns in order to find an amicable solution to the issue.
“Nyemba language on radio shall provide freedom to the VaNyemba people to enjoy, practice, profess, maintain and promote our culture, language, tradition or religion subject to the terms of our Namibian constitution,’’ said Elia Tapalo who read the petition on behalf of the group.
Tapalo said the Nyemba-speaking community seek to make it categorically clear that the issue of the traditional jurisdiction and chieftainship must be differentiated from the issue of the language.
“These are two different issues, raised by different people and must be regarded as such. We would like to inform the public at large that we are distancing ourselves from such untruthfulness and rumours being created to hide the main agenda and we say that it has never been the intention of the VaNyemba people to demand our own traditional authority,’’ he stated.
The VaNyemba committee brushed off the notion that the recognition of the language will disturb peace and stability of the country which according to them is unfounded.
“We are aware that the people disturbing the peace and stability in our regions are the two governors of Kavango East and Kavango West, its traditional authorities and political leaderships. We would like to make it categorically clear that airing our language on NBC Wato does not disturb peace nor will it disturb or interfere with other Namibian spoken languages at all,’’ he said.
On 16 September 2022, a meeting was held at Kavango East Regional Council to discuss the possibility of a one-hour broadcasting slot on NBC Radio Wato. In attendance was the minister of ICT, the governor of Kavango East Bonifatius Wakudumo, the five traditional authorities from both Kavango regions with the NBC board and staff members.
The meeting, however, took place in the absence of the concerned group where the regional leadership and traditional authorities rejected the radio slot.
“This means that they were giving incorrect information to the minister and the entire NBC staff members, thus the information collected was from one side and the reason our language leaders were not called to the meeting remain unknown to us,” he said.
“This was done deliberately to block VaNyemba from exercising their freedom of speech as stated in Article 21 of the Namibian constitution,’’ Tapalo said.
Tapalo indicated, while reading the petition, that as Nyembas, they are entitled to that freedom because they are part of a democratic Namibia and they should not be made to feel left out.
“Why other languages like German, Setswana and Afrikaans, to mention a few, being aired on NBC? Thimbukushu language has been aired on Zambezi radio, without a problem. The Nyemba language is recognised and spoken in many churches in Namibia without any interferences. Why is airing on a radio station a problem?” he asked.