Works and Transport Minister John Mutorwa said historians must not and must never be complacent and satisfied with the answers that are or were provided already.
He reminded historians that history is a continuous unending dialogue with the past – and as historians, they must seek answers to inform or educate Namibians on their history.
“Hence, history is essentially about the totality of the real human past activities, investigated, recorded and debated in the present with its lessons mainly for the future!” he said. Mutorwa made the remarks when he launched the ‘Voices from the Kavango: A study of the contract labour system in Namibia (1925-1972)’ by Dr Kletus Likuwa last week.
The book explores the voices and experiences as well as contributions of people from Kavango who were part of the contract labour system.
The study highlighted contract labourers engaging in a defeating activity and their disappointment with the little rewards, which were non-lasting solutions to their problems.
The realisation of their entrapment under the contract system and the eventual frustrations led to the political mobilisation for independence by Swapo.
During the launch, Mutorwa stated that historic material on other parts of the country, for example, Kavango or the Zambezi regions are not readily available, despite the majority of contract labourers coming from this area. “In this regard, I sincerely congratulate Dr Likuwa for having succeeded in concretely, scholarly and positively contributing by availing credible information with regard to the labour contract system in Kavango, information that is based on scholarly history research,” he noted. A history graduate from the University of Namibia, Mutorwa has published a booklet, entitled: ‘The establishment of the Nyangana Roman Catholic Mission Station, during the reign of Hompa Nyangana: A Historical Enquiry’
“I am thus speaking in my personal capacity as a historian, a history teacher and researcher. As historians and students of history, let us be continuously reminded about the following – oral evidence is ever-present in both preliterate, transitional and in literate societies. Oral evidence should not be collected at random and neither should they be recorded carelessly,” the minister said.
Mutorwa also noted that the Namibian history must be organised around and constructed upon different multilingual, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communities of Namibia’s fourteen regions, constituencies, countless villages and almost three million citizens.
“My ideal Namibian history book must provide space for the history of all the people of Namibia, who must, thus, not feel left out,” he said.
Dr Likuwa said his book was derived from observation and understanding there has been silence about the experiences of Kavango contract labourers.
“It remained necessary to speak with former contract labourers to explore the way in which their life histories and voices contribute to our understanding of the contract labour system in Namibia,” Likuwa said.
The author is the deputy director for the Multidisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Namibia (Unam) in Windhoek but wrote the book in his capacity.