The 16 April article by Philips Ndunda by any moral and ethical standards and the subsequent comments it has generated from the anti-Diescho forces were intended to defame the good name of Professor Joseph Diescho, and can therefore not be left unchallenged, hence this article. Diescho has influenced many young people like me, others in Kavango, and beyond, to pursue their education, and has at all times promoted the common good of society. Against this background, the purpose of this article is not to defend him or attack his critics, but rather to correct misleading and malicious information that is being spread by forces of the likes of Ndunda who do not know Diescho, and what he means for people of goodwill from the banks of the Kavango River, Namibia, and the global community. Professor is a renowned global scholar and a teacher unto the world.
Born in Kavango East region, Diescho, like many young people of his generation who looked after family cattle, started from humble beginnings. His parents were peasant farmers who toiled the soil for a living. It was at Andara Roman Catholic Mission School where his talents were identified and natured in the African values of humanism (Ubuntu), solidarity, cooperation and the Christian ethos as per the commandment “thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.” At a younger age, Diescho would display exceptional leadership skills that were recognised by the Roman Catholic priests and his teachers throughout his education, and this has resulted in his involvement with the work of the missionaries and deepening his faith and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Curiosity for education landed him in Rundu for his secondary education at Rundu Secondary School where he rose to be the Head Boy of the school in 1976. Rundu was a central melting pot of cultures and people, a situation that formed and shaped his political outlook. At Rundu Secondary with other learners: Those who were with him, and others who have followed them, the likes of Maurus Nekaro, John Mutorwa, Raymond Kangura, and many others, began to question oppressive policies, including the Bantu education policies. I accept that it is difficult in a country like Namibia that generally does not value knowledge and public discourses to understand and appreciate the work of Diescho and other scholars who by their training, have the duty to interpret the world and simplify complex issues to the public.
He is not just a critique of the powers that be, but rather an interpreter of political systems, processes, institutions, and policies. He is a guide, an advisor, and an educator at the same time for those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see. Scholars interrogate existing knowledge and create new knowledge. They are not there to worship the powers that be when it is not deserved. His work does not only point out challenges, but in many instances, also suggests possible solutions to rectify the situations. This, the likes of Ndunda and others naively view as anti-Swapo Party or anti-government. A government is helped by those who point out mistakes and shortcomings in good faith, and not those who appease.
It is evident that the article of Ndunda was motivated by ulterior motives, and was intended to appease the powers that be, to mislead the public, to defame, and to distort history with this half-baked attack on Diescho’s character. What Ndunda forgot is that there are plenty of written materials and audiovisuals such as radio presentations and video clips demonstrating Diescho support for the national liberation struggle, Swapo as a liberation movement, and the current President, Hage Geingob before and after independence. This includes during the 2012 Swapo congress when President Geingob was elected as vice president of Swapo. The President is aware that he was in close contact with Diescho during that period. I vividly recall Prof Diescho authoring an article where he praised President Geingob when former President Hifikepunye Pohamba has appointed him as the prime minister. He wrote as follows: “Finally the lights in the office of the prime.” The time has come for us Namibians to be conscious that the welfare of the country and its citizens supersedes our individual or political ambitions and opportunism. Individual ambitions and opportunism are costs to the common good. Diescho’s contributions to this country can be attested to by many of us if we are honest with ourselves. It is not appropriate to list individual contributions to national liberation as we run the risk of leaving out others who have made sacrifices. But for the purpose of responding to the claims of Ndunda, Prof
Diescho’s contribution dates back
as far as the late 70s when he was a high school student in the Kavango as well as during his studies in South Africa, Germany, and the USA. Among the many contributions include:
· Detention in the being King Williams Town and East London apartheid prisoners in South Africa for being a member of Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement and a student activist.
· While being an intern in the Magistrate’s Office in Rundu in 1978, he was arrested and tortured for being a potential Swapo terrorist.
· In 1981 while he was at CDM Mine in Oranjemund, he was one of the chief campaigners for Swapo and workers’ rights. Comrades such as Frans Ndoroma, Kumuneni Enkara, John Shaetonhodi, Israel Dax Kalenga, Sylvanus Nekundi, Vilbard Usiku and Tom Alweendo, to mention but a few, can testify to this.
· He was one of those who spearheaded the campaign to organise Namibian students in South Africa to start what is now known as NANSO.
· In 1987, Diescho went to address students at Rundu Senior Secondary School in the presence of white-dominated staff members, and firmly told the teachers and learners at the assembly that Swapo will govern this country under the leadership of President Sam Nujoma. Some of the white teachers started to protest that Diescho be stopped. The late Maurus Nekaro (the principal then) refused and asked Diescho to continue with his address. Elijah Ngurare, Nairenge, Kudumo, Tjekero Tweya, Mathias Ngwangwama, Christophurus Kudumo and Ndumba Kamwanyah were some of the learners in the audience and can attest to this day.
· In 1989 during registration of voters for the first democratic elections under the UN supervision, Diescho was a student in New York, USA, and he wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar on 1 August 1989 pleading with the world body to consider allowing Namibian students overseas to vote outside Namibia. Diescho was working closely with the Swapo office at the United Nations, and personalities such as the late Theo Ben Gurirab, Helmut Angula and Hinyangerwa Asheeke whom Diescho reported to at the Swapo office would attest to this.
· As a national television announcer in New York, Diescho was the voice of the Namibian story on American television. The recordings are there for all to see.
· Shortly after our independence in 1990, the founding vice chancellor of Unam, Prof Peter Katjavivi requested Diescho to establish an office in New York to mobilise financial resources to assist the development of our new university. Prof Katjavivi, the current Speaker of the National Assembly can attest to this.
· Diyogha, Diescho’s village, named a school, after him, and the school was inaugurated by the current Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, who was minister of education in 2007. Diescho raised funds to build a school hall, donated school materials from his own pocket, and also offer financial assistance to some students who pass with high marks at Rundu Secondary School. I could go on and on but let me conclude by stating that Diescho is neither against the President nor the government as perceived by the likes of Ndunda, but is against the abuse of power, corruption, looting of state resources, nepotism, personality politics, and mismanagement.