• September 21st, 2018
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Bismarck's fall and Shixungileni's rise: A vital decolonial victory

Opinions, Columns, Comment
Opinions, Columns, Comment

Job Shipululo Amupanda On March 19, 2014, I wrote a letter to the City of Windhoek’s CEO Niilo Taapopi, on the existence of Bismarck Street – named after one of the authors of African colonialism. I was then a spokesperson of the Swapo Party Youth League, when it existed. That Bismarck had, and continues to have, a street named after him 24 years after independence demonstrated clearly that the former liberation movement remained unconscious of decolonial discourses. Those who disagree must quickly produce any document of the ruling party, over the past 10 years, articulating or even mentioning in passing, any decolonial principles, values and strategies. Sam Nujoma had somewhat a grasp of the impacts of coloniality of being. On day one of Namibia’s independence he boldly declared: “Our nation blazed the trail to freedom. It has risen to its feet. As from today, we are the masters of this vast land of our ancestors. The destiny of this country is now fully in our hands. We should, therefore, look forward to the future with confidence and hope. Taking the destiny of this country in our hands means, among other things, making a great effort to forge national identity”. Otto von Bismarck remained powerful, even in his death, such that Nujoma’s words remained at Independence Stadium.  His ghost and spirit ensured that no one in Namibia disturbed his street until March 19, 2014 - 24 years after independence. Given that many Namibians’ understanding is shaped by viva viva politics, it wouldn’t be surprising that decoloniality, and even Bismarck, is unknown by many. Even a greater number of those occupying highest chairs in society - Cabinet ministers and members of parliament – are not familiar with decolonial principles, values and strategies. A simple request for evidence and a challenge to debate is sufficient to those who argue otherwise. It is, therefore, important for posterity, to recount the motivation, orientation and submission made to Taapopi on why Bismarck deserved no street in our country. Bismarck was a German thief who dominated German and European affairs from years. He was German Chancellor between 1871 and 1890 and organised the Berlin Conference of 1884/85 – the conference that divided and distributed parts of Africa amongst European states. To this meeting of sharing and diving Africa, he invited Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, France, Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Norway and the United States. They contained their outcome into what is known as the General Act of the Berlin Conference. Historians regard this as a formalization of the Scramble for Africa. At this meeting, the then South West Africa, presently Namibia, was given to Germany. The results of the Berlin Conference devastated Africans in general and Namibians in particular. It meant more than 100 years of brutality, oppression, subjugation, and loss of life, limb, culture, dignity and, primarily and fundamentally, land. It is, therefore, scandalous to see this man honoured with a street in an independent Namibia wherein we were instructed, on day one, to take ‘the destiny of our country in our own hands’ and make a ‘great effort in forging a national identity’. I then argued for the renaming of this street from Bismarck to Simeon Kambo Shixungileni, a freedom fighter who was abandoned by the ruling party and lived in abject poverty. Shixungileni was amongst the fearless upright sons of the land who travelled by foot from places as far as Tanzania to come intensify the struggle against colonialism. They launched the armed liberation struggle when they engaged the enemy at the Battle of Omugulugombashe on August 26, 1966. This day is celebrated today as Heroes Day. He was the second-in-command during that battle; second to the late Commander John ya Otto Nankudhu. Before the March 19 letter, I sent Martha Kauna Hailwa, a then youth leader in Oshikoto, to go deliver a letter to commander Shixungileni in which I requested his permission to make a submission to the City of Windhoek. The report was saddening, not only because of the abject poverty he was living in, but also the question he asked them; “do you think they will listen to you”? Kauna told him we will try our best. While we were hopeful, Shixungileni surely understood the mondus operandi of his comrades. Several months after this submission, a Swapo councillor at the City of Windhoek informed me that instruction has come from then Swapo secretary-general and current Vice-President of Namibia Nangolo Mbumba, that the City must not implement such a decision despite there being no opposition on their part. It is for this reason that Shixungileni died in October 2014, without receiving his well-deserved recognition. Similarly in the same year, Mbumba blocked the renaming of Ondangwa airport after struggle icon Andimba Toivo ya Toivo,  by instructing the then Minister of Works and Transport Erkki Nghimtina to block the request I made to the company. The company had supported the proposal then. It is for this reason, again, that ya Toivo died without witnessing the Ondangwa airport renamed after him. The abject poverty under which Shixungileni lived under was a public secret. Former President Hifikepunye pohamba was scandalously forced to send an official from State House to look at his condition. Commander Shixungileni had surrendered to his poverty such that at one point he refused to attend Heroes Day where, to him, he was displayed and later forgotten after the cameras are gone. Although it is four years later, it is wonderful to see the City of Windhoek taking practical steps to implement the submission. To decolonial thinkers and forces, the fall of Otto von Bismarck and the rise of Commander Shixungileni is an important decolonial victory. The colonial project, as Ngugi wa Thiong’o finds, did not only dismember the Africans from the continent through slavery and from the human family; it dismembered Africans from their confidence and knowledge of self. Job Shipululo Amupanda is a decolonial scholar and activist from Omaalala village in northern Namibia.
2018-06-27 09:40:26 2 months ago
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