New Era Newspaper

New Era Epaper
Icon Collap
Home / Opinion - Hitting back at Katjiua not a panacea for burying discontent

Opinion - Hitting back at Katjiua not a panacea for burying discontent

2022-11-28  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Hitting back at Katjiua not a panacea for burying discontent

Seth !Nowaseb

Many of you will have read the government’s response to Professor Mutjinde Katjiua’s comments on the social media clip seen by some. In rebukes carried on the front page of last Thursday’s New Era newspaper, Professor Katjiua’s remarks are variously labelled as misleading, non-factual, divisive and irresponsible. In another statement, these comments are labelled as empty, toxic tribalist rhetoric.

The professor is being accused of being irresponsible, and his comment “apparently” has no place in the Namibian House.

The tone of these attacks on the good professor makes one wonder if freedom of speech and having a differing opinion is still part of the Namibian House.  Many may argue that what Professor Katjiua said may be detestable, unacceptable or unbecoming.  But when we show irritation at individuals who hold unacceptable views, what are we saying about discourse regarding deeply-held beliefs, experiences or opinions of others that we do not agree with?  Is it our wish to bury anything offensive from a discussion?  Is Namibian society not matured enough to handle sensitive issues?  Are some issues not acceptable to discuss in Namibia, because they may offend others?  Where does freedom of speech, opinion or belief sit in the midst of this intolerance?

As much as the professor is castigated for what he said, are those who attack him also not guilty of intolerance towards his right to air his opinion, however unpalatable it may be?  Let us quickly recap what the offensive statements were for those who did not see the clip, and then try to understand why it hit a raw nerve.  Professor Katjiua: “As we are speaking, the Namibian government is working hard to impose some other person that they can control and manipulate – a stooge, a puppet leader – that will operate in the interest of the Germans and the Namibian government.  I am saying the Namibian government because that government is a government dominated by the Ovambo people – who have not felt colonialism.

They don’t know what it is.  They have not lost land.  They have not lost lives. So, that is why, Germany knew, come independence, the Aawambo are 55% of the population. Therefore, they will support Swapo. They will make sure that Swapo wins the election.  They will side with the Swapo government because together, they can marginalise the Ovaherero.”  These are the comments that I could decipher from the comments on the clip.

We read that two government officials made their distaste clear from what was written in the newspaper.  What we should decide is:  Which bit of what was said is misleading, non-factual, divisive, irresponsible, empty or a tribal rhetoric?  Is any of the information in the remarks true?  If so, which bits? Which of those comments should not have been made?  Is it ok for the good professor or anyone else to have had those thoughts in private? Was it the naming of the Aawambo or what he accused the two governments of that is offensive?  We know that these remarks offended people.  It will be nice to be told which bits those remarks are that cause offence, and how we wish to deal with them to find common ground and have healthy discussions about the issues underlying those comments.

This is not the first time that someone makes tribally-, racially- or otherwise-charged remarks. Every time these things happen, a couple of people use the media (print or social) platforms to reprimand the perpetrators.  Soon afterwards, we all forget about the comments, and continue our business as usual until the next comment comes to light.  I believe the time is ripe for us as a nation to systemically address issues – some elephants in the room – that often cause these outbursts.  Most of us know that the Namibian House - like any nation and country – is full of contradictions and challenges.  It will be naïve to pretend that we do not have issues.  We do, and it is normal.  Where we have failed for the last 30-odd years is that we brush over many of our problems, and pretend that all is well.  We do not really discuss the real problem.  We do not discuss tribalism.  We do not discuss race issues.  We do not discuss land issues or genocide.  We do not discuss the constitution.  We do not discuss corruption, nepotism, “partyism” and many other

We do not even ask people when they make tribally-, racially-, sexually-charged, and/or offensive remarks.  From time to time, we ask them to apologise, but never ask them why? this or that? We sweep the issue under the carpet.  To bring us into the society we should be, I suggest that we constitute a forum, maybe one similar to those used when we were fighting Covid-19, to regularly meet and discuss topical issues, problems and frustrations.

We wish to discuss difficult issues on land, tribalism, corruption, partyism and other issues in a townhall-type of setting to address the many “elephants in the room” that is the Namibian House.  We could start such programme with the current protagonists in the most recent issue: Professor Katjiua, Dr Peya Mushelenga, Dr Alfredo Hengari, and anyone else who wishes to sit in the good professor’s corner.  Each two-member team of participants will be asked to prepare a short presentation on the issue at hand, stating their case with solid evidence.

Thereafter, all the participants can ask questions, and discussions can follow until consensus is reached.  These fora can make concrete suggestions to the government, city and/or town councils and regional governments about topical issues, problems and frustrations to get the pulse of communities.  This could be a Question Time type of forum on topical issues.  Hopefully, these types of discussions could help a healthy discourse, and bring the many strands of Namibians into one Namibian House.


*Seth !Nowaseb is a teacher.  He can be contacted at

2022-11-28  Staff Reporter

Share on social media