• June 2nd, 2020

Let’s not stoke the fires we cannot extinguish

Frans Kapofi

Permit me to contribute to the shaping of this discussion on social cohesion in Namibia, a motion tabled by the Chief Whip of Swapo Party, Hon. Cde Taeyele. The motion asks if we are still united under the slogan, One Namibia, One Nation. I want to start my contribution with an affirmation of the unity that has made Namibia the nation that she is today.
I do so, not only from the perspective of where we stand today, but also from the perspective of my days of a young person, growing up in the social context that we did. Back in the day, the objective was very clear. We grew up in an era, when everyone was tuned into one political frequency: Namibia must be free! 
As a young man, I, along with other young men and women of my time, left our homes, our loved ones, and joined the liberation struggle under the banner of Swapo of Namibia. Today we call it Swapo Party. 
We signed up to the inevitability that we would be facing an enemy much more powerful than us, much more funded and supported than us, and one which had the advantage of being in power. Nonetheless, we had one important ingredient in our arsenal which our opponents did not have. That is, the sheer conviction and desire that our motherland be emancipated from the yokes of colonial rule. We were not conscripts. We were not mercenaries. We were freedom fighters who believed that between death and life, we could choose death if it meant that our blood would ensure freedom for our people.
Indeed, their blood waters our freedom as we recall the glorious names and their glorious deeds, those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. That some of us made it into the promised land is an Act of God. We have left many more better deserving comrades in the plains and in the marked and unmarked graves of our operational areas of Angola, Zambia and of course in Namibia. 
It is with the above background that I make my contribution in the knowledge that as an organization, Swapo of Namibia and the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan) had command structures. Once a command was issued, we used to say, “Period, March!”, and you marched without asking. You executed your function out of a sense of duty. This duty was consolidated in the conviction that what we were doing would lead to the total liberation and the Independence of the land of our mothers, Namibia.
Perhaps because we were in such a situation, it was easy to instill discipline. You knew that you had to behave comradely and orderly. By and large, we had no problem in instilling discipline in our men and women cadres of the liberation struggle. It was the same here in the country, our comrades who equally paid dearly for the freedom of our country, had no other options than to rally behind our clarion call of One Namibia, One Nation. Before 1990, many of our people rallied behind their vanguard, Swapo of Namibia with one solid aim; to free Namibia. 
And then came Independence. I was one of the people tasked with the amalgamation of Swatf soldiers and Plan fighters for a new nation. Nothing could have prepared us for the challenges ahead. 
Once the enemy in the casspirs had disappeared, we faced a newer sinister enemy, and that is the fear of the unknown, mistrust, greed and other vices. Yet we have overcome all of those vices. We were able to proudly march a battalion on March 21, 1990 in the Namibian Defence Force uniform to salute the flag of the new nation and their Commander in Chief, the President of the Republic of Namibia. 
After Independence, our mission changed completely. Swapo Party had to govern whilst at the same time building and reconciling a nation that had just come out of the shackles of the apartheid colonization. The liberties granted by Independence also had to be experienced and understood. That is why in the NBC radio talk-shows, people would voice their views. Sometimes the radio programs were suspended, and later they were returned. We were and we are still appreciating the fullness of the rights and privileges of what Independence means.
What is certain is that future generations will look unto our discussions and debates to determine the full content of what it is we intended to convey to one another, about the content of these rights and privileges. 
We need to learn from the lessons of others. I fully agree with this sentiment. I too visited the genocide memorials in Rwanda years ago. What they caution is that tribalism can be a dangerous weapon, one which if unleashed, can have unintended consequences. This is the reason you find us always speaking against tribalism.
It is a very sad thing to observe that lately in our society, we are experiencing tribal remarks and in such an open manner over social media networks. People are threatening other Namibians not to travel and reside in parts other than from where they are traditionally known to hail. People are calling other Namibians foreigners in their regions. An undertone has been brewing for some-time now that only people from the northern regions are beneficiaries of Government programs. That only Oshiwambo speaking persons are being appointed into positions in the public sector.
Before I became a Member of Parliament, I worked as a civil servant. In fact, I worked at the apex structure of the civil service. I cannot recall at any given time, under the leadership of the Founding President or his successors or the four Prime Ministers under whom I have served, that there were any programs conceived with the purpose of benefitting any given tribe or group of people. Now that I am a Minister in this Government, I cannot recall that there is any program to unduly benefit the residents of some regions or ethnic background. 
Yet I can assure you, that during the armed liberation struggle, there are some areas I know where the casspirs and Koevoet operated with impunity that caused the loss of lives of people and the destruction of properties. 
It is therefore hurtful, very painful indeed, to have these people, proper victims of the war of yesterday, being made victims of ignorance through tribal tirades.
I need not recite the census figures for the population densities of some of these regions. They are available for all to see. Khomas Region has the most residents. Omusati and Ohangwena regions are regions with large populations, followed by the two Kavango regions, East and West. Of course, proportionally, if you had to distribute Panado tablets to these regions in more quantities than to low population density regions, it does not mean that the quality of the Panado sent to those regions is better than the Panado sent to other regions.
We know it is an election year. We know that we are experiencing a severe drought. We know that we are in an economic recession. Perhaps this is the lowest point for morale since Independence. Yet Namibia is still the best place to live in if I can say so myself, having traveled Africa and the world.
I want to call upon us as politicians and our young people out there, to tread very carefully not to start wild fires which we cannot extinguish. Once that blaze is set, we may not be able to put it out. And we know what a fire can do. It leaves destruction in its path. It will not discriminate whose property to burn and which not to burn. In the end, all that remains is charcoal. Once alive, no longer alive.
This morning I watched a video clip titled; “Weaver Gentlemen” that talks about Africa’s mineral wealth. It said and I quote: “We get in there, create chaos and we capitalize on that chaos.” So, not everything being said or done is genuine or innocent.  
Let us therefore take our leadership responsibilities with the seriousness they deserve and condemn all utterances of tribalism wherever they are made. Social media is just a medium of communication. What is more important is the origination of these utterances. We must guard against this destructive vice and continue to build and unite Namibia. Despite hate speech, insults hurled at our leaders from the younger generation, through different mediums, the Unity of our nation remains strong. All is not lost as some would want us to believe.  We have set Namibia on a course into the future. This is a sacred objective for which many have died and cannot be changed. We will not allow Namibia to be dismembered by tribalism. It is a Unitary State forever. 
Sometimes, what we perceive of other people, is a mirror reflection of ourselves. If we think that other people, other tribes are bad: How good are we ourselves, how good are our tribes themselves?
As I conclude, I would like to quote our President, Dr Hage Geingob when he said: “Peace is boring”. Trust me compatriots, as someone who has actually lived and fought in the war, I prefer peace. Yes as a vibrant society, we should have differences of opinions but we should guard against our differences to become antagonistic.  

* Frans Kapofi is Namibia’s Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration.

Staff Reporter
2019-07-19 09:54:34 | 10 months ago

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