Salomo Ndeyamunye Ndeshimona
Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning humanity to others. It is described as reminding us that I am what I am because of who we all are. Ubuntu is derived from the Nguni and Bantu languages. In isiZulu, the word symbolises being human.
This meaning is also expressed in other languages, including all Bantu languages in Namibia. The narrative of this writing is consciously crafted alongside the ubuntu theories, as the scriber feels we have lost touch with it as Namibians, distinct by the way we treat our fellow, be it Namibia, or African at large. Last week while taking a ride in public transport, I came across one of the worst, barbaric human behaviours I have ever seen since the xenophobic-inspired attack on fellow Africans in South Africa. I witnessed the worst scene of my life, which got me thinking whether we have lost touch with ubuntu and our history as Namibians.
Most of our northern regions of Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati and Oshikoto’s streets are bursting with both young and old siblings from Angola, Zimbabwe and Zambia, who are selling in the streets to make ends meet. Some are merchants of recharge vouchers, shoes, crafts, clothes and many other ornamental as well as kitchen utensils.
They have resorted to this due to the economic and development state of their countries. I witnessed a commotion, as one Namibian who helps getting taxis filled with passengers, attacked these merchants over a minor occurrence of a lost item which he left with one of the sellers.
He went to an extent where he burned and destroyed the goods which the merchants were selling, irrespective of who erred him. Recharge vouchers were burned, fruits were crushed, and goods were looted by passersby as I watched in awe, helplessly, and the least I could do was call the police.
The incident reminded me of the xenophobic attack on foreigners in South Africa, but mostly how we as Namibian are slowly degenerating into an odious nation that has forgotten history. During the height of our struggle for independence, around 1975 when Angola negotiated her independence from the Portuguese, Swapo and PLAN as well as all refugees were offered asylum and safety in Angola. It is where most of our freedom fighters found solace and hiding during the war. We were offered safety, education, accommodation, and fed and clothed by our Angolan siblings at no cost. Yet, 33 years after our liberation, and them having waged a civil war, we have forgotten, and are treating them like strangers? We are deporting them at every point we find them wandering in our country, yet we have forgotten they too helped us. We are denying them schooling in our schools, whilst they offered us schools in Cassinga, a technical college at Nyango; they had sheltered us from our enemies, risked their lives for us to find this freedom we enjoy today. We have forgotten that had it not been for the Berlin conference of 1884, we would be nowhere today. Thus, we have families which are divided by the alien borders, whom we want to cherish and honour today. What happened to ubuntu, what happened to Africanism? Why Angolans of all people? We have opened our border with Botswana so that we can cross at will using IDs, yet we cannot do it for our northern siblings in Angola? Angola has economic, social and political interests in Namibia. Just as we have the Tswana and Herero in Botswana, we too have Ovakwanyama, Ovabandja and others in Angola.
What is so hard for our two governments to come to the table and agree on things that matter? We have oil in Angola, yet our siblings are condemned to run with risky fuel containers to make ends meet, just because we refuse to invest in Angola and build a refinery to refine Angolan oil so that Namibians and Africans can freely use them. Only plastic politicians will forget the history they have fed generations about the important role Angola has played to help us attain our independence. Had it not been for Angola, the Cubans would not have helped us launch an attack on Cuito Cuanavale, which we praise much as the penultimate battle of all time. Are we cursed as a nation to hate this much a hand that has helped us a lot?
I thus wish to submit that our Namibian and Angolan governments shall come to the table and discuss the issues that matter, such as cross-border sales, oil, education and labour issues. Southern Angola is poor in school facilities, and many Angolans have since lost faith in their education system. But if they can access schooling in Namibian schools, at least we will be helping our siblings.
This is not to pay back, but to do what Africans are supposed to do, being human. Angola is blessed in the production of many commodities that are of importance to locals in Namibia along the northern borders. But it is being made harder, and our brothers are condemned to the worst economic onslaught, punctuated by hunger and poverty. We should harness the potential in the interest of the masses, because that’s what democracy is all about. Let our government engage and ensure that Namibians and Angolans can cross freely with proper security measures between the two countries with IDs, just as we are doing with the Batswana. Putting measures in place will help us curb crimes and the cross-border violence that we observe today. We even have Namibians who are farming in Angola, including prominent members of the government, yet they do not see the need to work in unison. It time that we as Africans unite to work together, and do away with the hate that we have been brainwashed with by the West.
* Salomo Ndeyamunye Ndeshimona is an activist from the Oshikoto region.