• September 21st, 2020

DIESCHO’S DICTUM - The Seven Cardinal Virtues of the Namibian Nation


By Joseph Diescho   ‘As from today, we are the masters of this vast land of our ancestors. The destiny of this country is now in fully in our hands. We should, therefore, look forward to the future with confidence and hope.’ These words were spoken by the first President of a free and independent Namibia, Samuel Shafiishuna Nujoma, shortly after midnight on 21 March 1990. This was the day when history honoured its appointment with Namibia as a new nation ready to enter the family of nations as an equal participant - with rights and obligations not only to her people, but to the rest of the international community which played its part in making it possible for this country to be free at last. This week twenty four years ago, Namibia was a baby whose mother’s water was due to break in a matter of weeks according to the physician who was monitoring the condition of the expectant mother. There was anxiety on the part of the appointed midwives and the physicians who foretold that the birth was imminent. The siblings were equally anxious to see how this new unborn baby would look like once it came. It was a moment in time similar to the ordeal of the Roman colonial consul Plinius Secundum, or Pliny the Elder, who was stationed in Libya and who one day witnessed an usual scene of nature by the well during which two unrelated animals mated and produced an offspring upon which he remarked: Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi (Out of Africa comes always something new)! Indeed, something new happened in 1990. A healthy baby was born - a baby whose birth, to all intent and purposes, restored confidence in the international law system. Namibia’s emergence as a new member of the international community was the first success story in the history of the United Nations, and as such, became a tale that pretty much became an international manifesto that anointed Martti Ahtisaari as the next President of Finland. The arrival of this baby also gave unprecedented assurance to the fear-filled white South Africa that a black government was not the worst that could happen and would not necessarily end the hitherto known and cherished white privileges. Namibia’s peaceful transition to democracy signalled to white South Africa that in the new world, a black government could, in fact, be the best guarantor of white privilege without the ugly face of unfettered white political power. This time twenty fours ago, those able men and women who, through great argumentation and political rancour found one another as Namibians and managed for the first time in Afrika’s political history, to agree on, write, craft and adopt a National Constitution, second to none in the modern world, bequeathed unto us and the future generations a Testament of Hope, a lexicon of political life that is to guide us for generations and generations to come. These esteemed members of the Namibian Constituent Assembly, representing 7 political parties with disparate backgrounds and divergent political ideological orientations produced the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. When they appended their valuable signatures to that piece of paper, the document became the Vox Populi, Vox Dei—the voice of the people which represented God’s will, in human terms the Supreme Law of the land - for as long as the nation lives. We thus owe it to the founding fathers and mothers who wove the quilt for peace, security, stability, unity, justice, liberty and the harmony that we enjoy today. Our gratitude extends to the forerunners to this momentous decree - men like Tatekulu Herman Andimba Toivo yaToivo, the founder of Swapo and Namibia’s Nelson Mandela, Professor Mburumba Kerina who coined the name Namibia, founders of Swanu, church leaders and the upright men of the Turnhalle conferences who in their own way prepared the stage for meaningful negotiations with the liberation movement. These virtues as pillars are the non-negotiable, self-evident truths that are the ingredients of the foundation of our democratic Republic and to which we must always return after and whenever we have our often warranted disagreements and squabbles, and whenever we as a nation experience growing pains. Whatever we do, however legitimate our divergent perspectives and emphases are, the core values of peace, security, stability, unity, justice, liberty and harmony of the Namibian nation remain beyond reproach. These pillars whereupon our nation stands are fundamental and from them proceed our rights and obligations, including the right of care that we all have toward one another, friends and perceived foes alike. No nation can sustain itself and its civilization without a National Philosophy to guide us to manage its vicissitudes and paradoxes of life. In order for us to move forward as a nation which is not so young any more, we need to be clear about our national philosophy and its precepts - its Dos and Don’ts.  In organic terms, Namibia is a young person of marriageable age, therefore possesses no excuse any longer to make mistakes without consequences. The country must now be held accountable for its actions, good as well as bad. I hereby wish to take the first hazards to distil our efforts over the last twenty four years and suggest the Seven Cardinal Virtues as lights on our road ahead: Peace: Not the absence of war, but the presence of and access to justice and fairness by all. Security: The assurance that everyone has a place to be and to become without fear from the neighbour or the political system. Stability: The knowledge and collective internalization that all are safe from strife, the assurance that tomorrow can only be better for all and the demand from all to bring our fair share. Unity: The acceptance and the acknowledgement that the parts of the country, essential though they might be, are not as strong and steady  as the whole from which the parts, be they linguistic, racial, religious, ethnic or other, derive their individual strengths. Justice: The knowledge and certainty that all are equal before the law and as such are entitled to the same opportunity and protection under the rule of law, the context in which no one, including elected officials and the so-called traditional leaders, is above the law and that differences that exist do not lead to conflict, but merely signify the other- worthiness, “die anderswaardigheid”, ‘Anders-Wertigkeit’ of each unit in relation to the other in a climate of peaceful coexistence. Liberty: The mature consciousness that each individual is free to choose and conduct his/her actions without unfettered control of political power, while at the same time accepting that one’s freedom stops where the other’s freedom starts in the interlocking networks of mutual human relationships under a fair and transparent governance system, which derives its authority and power from the people. Harmony:  The existence of equilibrium, the power of interdependencies of the various parts, roles and contributions towards a better future for all.  This desired state of affairs  is expressed by a Otjiherero adage: Omunue umue kau toora ona, (one finger cannot pick up a lowse)  or Rukwangali saying: Ni toone eho, ezuru talilili, ni toone ezuru, eho talilili (if I hurt the eye, the nose cries, if I hurt the nose, the eye cries). Against this background, it is incumbent upon us all to pause and consider some fundamental questions about the values that are very dear to us and upon which we can build what can become our way of life as a nation.   We need to learn to truly appreciate the gains we have made in the last 24 years, discern the threats to our national well-being and tackle the challenges that we identify along the road that we have still to traverse. We have made great progress towards building the nation that so many women and men fought for. I refer here to those who really dedicated their lives to the high dream of liberation and self-rule for this country. I refer here not to the Johnnies come lately, the mafikizolos who join(ed) Swapo at quarter to twelve, not because they believe in the high values that Swapo espoused for years, but jumped on the band wagon to get jobs and positions and are now acting as high priests of the liberation struggle while at the same time exhibit low tolerance for fellow Namibians who have different opinions. I am referring not to those who claim to have died for this country while they are still alive and well. I am speaking here of the many sons and daughters of the soil, who are no more and who cannot and will not enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice. Namibia’s leaders have laid a strong foundation for one Namibia, One Nation in accord with the theory of aerodynamics which instructs that an aircraft uses most of its fuel during take-off. The nation’s beginning years were characterised by great work of the first National Assembly and the first Executive Cabinet. That was the take-off period the record of which demonstrates that these two organs of our government made giant strides towards solidifying the values I am lifting up here. Consider the quality of the men and women who constituted the team of these two organs of state. We can look back with pride that these were the best men and women in the nation at the time. The Cabinet was small and comprised capable men and women committed to the high ideals of national independence and sustainable development. These pioneers heeded the Founding President’s clarion call enunciated on Independence Day. The earlier years of national independence and self-rule saw hardly any signs of tribalism, ethnic prejudice and fear. The nation was on a roll to become ONE NAMIBIA, ONE NATION. President Nujoma was at his best exuding statesmanship and nonpartisan leadership. Institutions (State Owned Enterprises) were created, such as Nampower, Telecom, Unam, Polytech, Namwater, Air Namibia, Namcol, NIED, Namcor, Transnamib, Namport, GIPF, the Development Bank of Namibia, Agribank, and the like, all intended to catalyse and to drive national development in the combating of poverty and underdevelopment and generally towards the creation of a better life for all.  The nation had confidence in its leaders. Citizens had faith in the evolving systems. The centre was holding. The bus was lurching forward, huffing and puffing through the rough roads of the Namibian landscape towards the future. Neighbours were looking to us for a different situational leadership style in Afrika. The youth looked forward to encountering the leadership anywhere, everywhere. I remember I was in New York and later in Pretoria and recall how proud the youth was when the President or Prime Minister was in town. They wanted to be there. And truly wallow in the greatness and elegance of their leaders. Then the bus hit its first wobble when the ruling party Swapo became entangled in the political debate around who was to succeed the Founding President. This was the time when the political space lost its new-found freedom and became filled with the self-serving fear of Nujoma, with many people talking behind the backs of their hands about who was to be the next casualty. This is when most aspiring politicians in the party took their eyes off the ball, namely, the project of nation building, and sacrificed the values that fueled the liberation struggle on the altar of personal political and economic survival. Good leaders in the party and beyond computed that blind and opportunistic party loyalty was the appropriate response and license for political safety. The vision of One Namibia, One Nation became elusive and progressively secondary to the politics of the belly. It is therefore important for us all to return to the ideals and dreams our leaders once had. The biggest challenge now is leadership, all across the board. This year specifically calls for clear direction and to move beyond mediocrity and drop the culture of jobs for comrades and pals. In all fairness, the country needs and deserves more than what it has right now. The game is no longer about liberation, but the future. This year the voters have the right to challenge the leaders of all political parties to address issues in relation to the values of the nation, not who did what in the past. We know the past. We know how far we have come, now we want to know where we are going and who can take us there better than others. The stone-age did not end because there were no more stones. It ended because better implements were found and developed for human survival. The politics of anger give way to politics of compassion and caring. The politics of cynicism must give way to the politics of courage and commitment to serve. The elections this year should be about the gains we had made and how to manage the knowledge and information about the past 24 years to build upon what we have. What is at stake now is about the leadership and party that best represent our core values and way of life. The narrative ought to be about the future we craft for our children and theirs based upon the values that shall live in perpetuity. Political leaders ought to resist the language of false triumphalism.  For instance, it is not true that Swapo defeated apartheid. What is true is that Swapo waged a formidable armed struggle against apartheid forces, but Swapo did not march triumphantly into Windhoek in victory tanks with the masses celebrating while SADF and SWATF forces were lying vanquished on the road sides. The fact of the matter is that Namibia’s transition under United Nations resolution 435 was a negotiated settlement with no winner, no loser! Swapo accepted the inevitable, namely to work with historical enemies for the sake of a better future. The moment of independence was not a zero-sum game as it was in other situations in the world with the winner taking all and the loser losing everything. In fact, we must be grateful that UN Resolution 345 happened at the time and in the manner that it did. Had the war continued after the collapse of the Soviet system, the liberation movement would have been weakened through outside interference, Swapo as the main liberation force would have imploded as a result of the unfortunate goings on in the refugee camps, enemy forces, Koevoet and Rooioogbende would have wreaked more havoc and we would have ended up like another Angola. Accepting this truth will enable us all to demonstrate the proper gratefulness to our founding fathers and mothers, and allow us to move forward in one spirit. No one should harbour guilt, and no one should wallow in self-righteousness. With this right attitude we can determine our own altitude and turn to the enterprise of education and training as the most direct instruments to continue to construct the durable castle we all wish to have. It is a long road, a road less travelled so that we can reach our destination as a family glued together by our cardinal virtues. When we get there, we shall shout in unison: We are not yet what we shall be; we are not yet what we still wish to be, but thank God we are not what we once were!
New Era Reporter
2014-03-04 09:13:30 | 6 years ago

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