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Opinion - Positioning one another

2023-01-27  Prof Makala Lilemba

Opinion - Positioning one another

Namibia is entering its 33rd year of nationhood, yet the process of the fair positioning of all Namibians in terms of jobs remains an illusion. The process has become so solidarised that it becomes almost impossible to penetrate it. It is “wako ndiwako” as Zambians would say, literally meaning ‘your is yours; “or “your own is your own”, as Nigerians would use a similar expression.  This scenario is quite different from what the newly-elected Kenyan president told his people late last year by castigating his predecessors for having positioned their family members and friends through political machinery and influence while leaving some out. 

Further on, he asked fellow Kenyans to allow him to position those who had no one to do so for them. 

Unfortunately, many of our leaders cannot see beyond their ethnicity in job provision. 

The slogan, “One Namibia, One Nation," is just rhetoric and only on paper. A Silozi idiomatic expression, “kwatoho yatapi, hakubolile, nitapi kaufela ibolile”, means if the head of the fish is rotten, the whole fish goes bad.  

In Namibia, the positioning process starts at the political top, where most office-bearers’ advisors, personal assistants, secretaries, security guards and other personnel doing miscellaneous jobs are from their ethnic groups.

 It is the same scenario at the civil service level, where in some cases more than three-quarters of officials holding key positions are from the same area, if not from the same ethnic background. 

No wonder when one goes for interviews, which are in fact a formality, the applicants find themselves being interviewed by the same people, and during intervals, the interviewers converse in their vernacular language. In this process, there is usually no doubt about who ultimately clinches the position. 

It is this mentality and practice which spurs the Chinese and white South African investors to employ their own people at the expense of Namibians. 

It is the same thing with non-Namibians operating private schools and other institutions of higher learning in this country. 

Whereas individual persons have the right to open and run private schools as per Article 20 of the Namibian Constitution, it is incumbent upon them to do so without any discrimination based on colour, creed, gender orientation or any form of segregation.  But this constitutional provision has been violated many times, and ironically in front of the eyes of the line ministries. Some of these institutions run by non-Namibians offer low-level courses, as they are staffed by non-qualified and under-qualified staff members.  Unfortunately, the impression given by their owners is that their performance is better than the ones run by locals. This is just a myth, which can be proved contrary to the usually perceived belief. If Namibians managed to wage the war of the liberation struggle, how can they be denied access to some schools in the name of private property? 

The positioning process partly contributes to the high failure rate, as school boards pick applicants who come from their areas. 

In this process, good teachers are usually left out, despite passing the interview and having a record of experienced teaching in the subjects of their specialisation. 

Although the regional office and NANTU members, who are always on the interview panel, have a final say as to who should be appointed, the school board members usually make a lot of noise if their choice is not picked. In a similar vein, many office-bearers in schools and institutions of higher learning are also positioned as per ethnic grouping, and to some extent friendship. 

It is not only in schools, but it is almost everywhere in different sectors of this country where one finds his or her former students becoming his or her senior after having graduated the junior officer.  In some cases, qualifications and experience are never taken into consideration, but what propels the person, in this case, is ethnic background.  What is ironic is that we fought the South African racist and oppressive regime on the basis and platform of equality and justice. 

All of a sudden, Namibians have forgotten the struggle for equality, and now endorse what the colonial masters have been using in oppressing the people. Some of those who were at the forefront of the liberation struggle lacked some form of positioning because there is no one to stand in for them. 

Most of these forgotten comrades feel betrayed, as the lucky ones who landed in the gravy trains and the corridors of power are turning a blind eye to their plight.  It is time for the Namibian Government to revisit the positioning process and remap the whole route, and accommodate the ones who have been left out all along. Yes, jobs are scarce, but not so to some well-positioned Namibians who keep on changing positions from one institution to the other.  Even in cases where the ones who are not well-positioned succeed in passing the interview, the onus of the panel remains intact and stands, despite the interviewee having done extremely well. 

That is why vacancies are being re-advertised because the candidate happens not to be well-positioned. Namibians should be equal before the law, and therefore should be accorded this constitutional provision.  

The supervisors should enforce and implement this code as per the oath taken to protect the constitution. 

This year should be a year in which every Namibian is well-positioned, irrespective of ethnic grouping, political affiliation, creed or any other form of discrimination.

2023-01-27  Prof Makala Lilemba

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