Shortly after Independence, the Mozambican radical political leader, Samora Machel in trying to make education and literacy available to all, hatched the approach of, “We are Building a School.”
This entailed creating classrooms in which people from all walks of life would be grouped for the purposes of learning together. For example, professors, lawyers, medical doctors, teachers, villagers, school-age going children and other vulnerable groups would be put in one classroom and taught together. In a way, it meant that everybody was to be part and parcel of the learning procedure and in the process cementing the newly formed Mozambican nation.
This sounds like the election time of a particular political party where members are put in the now known term of “the pot”. At the end of the process, others will come out of the exercise having learnt some skills and became helpful and responsible members of the nation. Similarly, Namibia at independence casually hatched the concept of nation building and the citizens were always reminded to be cautious of what to say which was likely to threaten the unity of the nation. For 33 years now, Namibians have been trying to build a nation amid insurmountable challenges.
As the former Senegalese president, Leopold Sedar Senghor (1960) once put it,” To build a nation, to create a new civilisation which can lay claim to existence because it is humane, we shall try to employ not only enlightened reasoning but also dynamic imagination.”
In the Namibian case, the national hurdles were created even before the dawn of nationhood and nationalism in 1990. To shed light on the meaning of the concept, let us take on Spielvogel (1990) who defines nationalism as a state of mind rising out of awareness of being part of a community that has common institutions, traditions, language and customs. The community should be referred to as a nation and the primary political loyalty of individuals should be to the nation rather than to a dynasty or cultural region. As nationalism did not become a popular force for change until the French Revolution, the concept is new in Africa whose territories started getting independence in the late fifties and early sixties.
Namibia which came late on the independence kaleidoscope has to work hard to overcome some nationalistic hurdles. The country was divided along ethnic lines, that the eleven different regional groups that time hardly knew one another in terms of culture, language and other values and norms, which happens to be some ingredients of nationalism.
It was not easy to accommodate all cultures, languages and customs of the Namibian people in a short span of time of 33 years after attaining nationhood. Despite efforts made to contain these ingredients in the constitution, it seems the constitutional centre is failing to hold them emanating from both internal and external forces. Accepting the concept of ‘One Namibia One Nation’ is still a long way and perhaps illusive as some people still do not ascribe to that dictum. This is evidenced by the longest secessionist trial in the SADC region, where some people dispute the inclusion of the Caprivi (now Zambezi region) to be part of the country. The power that be, has failed to curb the issue of ethnic misbalancing as can be witnessed in many operational entities. In many sectors, the key positions are controlled by some groups even if the heads are not capable of delivering the required services. This leads to the layering of the Namibian nation during all these years, which has been deliberately unfolding and happening before our own eyes. The socialist philosophy spirit which was the trademark of the liberation struggle has given way to capitalist monopoly, which in turn has produced the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ and indeed the well-positioned ones are benefitting.
As a result, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened to unacceptable levels of having 1.6 million Namibians living below the poverty line. This has led to the wealth of this country being in the hands of the few ruling elite members of the cabal. According to Mazrui, after independence the resources in many African states, are always controlled by a group of tribal elites while Ngugi wa Thiongo argues otherwise that one ruling ethnic group normally forms a cabal and runs the economy of the country. The Namibian situation embraced both forms of resource control in which within the major and dominant group, there are layers running the economic and political fiber of the country.
The moment the country flirts with this stance, then the whole nationalistic triangle collapses and come tumbling down and in the process the spirit of nationalism simply evaporates and the nation falls apart. As of now the large chunk of the country’s resources are operational in the northern part of the country for some clear and obvious reasons, of course when the population is taken into account. But even then, the rule of nationalism is inclusiveness and crucial in the case of Namibia where there are many cultures and languages. In some regions the allocation of educational resources has not been even and therefore defeats the essence of nationalism. In some cases, areas which greatly contributed to the building of the nation have been ignored and forgotten forever. The number of political parties equally raises eyebrows whether Namibia can really boast about its nationalistic gains, if they follow different ideologies.
Professor Makala Lilemba