In his powerful quote, Martin Niemöller (1892 – 1984), a Lutheran minister and early Nazi supporter, who was later imprisoned for opposing Hitler›s regime, expressed his sentiments in the following words: “First, they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me”.
Unfortunately, this has become the Namibian way of doing things after Independence, yet during the liberation struggle, many people stood together to fight the racist system.
Individualism, based on strong political connections, is what matters in today’s Namibia.
It is survival of the fittest – and “you need to know the people”, as Nigerians put it.
The dilemma is for the poor and the least popularly-known Namibians who end up having no one speaking for them.
The connected ones simply circumvent the ladders and prolonged route of promotions. In some changed scenarios, your trainee becomes your superior or supervisor within the wink of an eye. That is the Namibia we fought for and whose blood waters our freedom.
As president, Kenyatta, the proponent of Harambee philosophy worked to establish harmonious race relations and appealing to both whites and the African majority to forget the past and forge ahead in developing Kenya. The process is characteristic of traditional Africans, who believe in communalism by sharing almost everything they have. Harambee as a slogan was given to Kenyan workers for national development after Kenya gained independence in 1963. Kenyatta likened the task ahead of building the new nation to that of workers with a burden that would only be overcome by working together to successfully heave up or put together their heavy load. The slogan deliberately asked whites and Africans to work together for the development of Kenya. Although we have the undocumented national reconciliation policy, Namibians still have a long way of tolerating one another, as racial tempers still flare-up. We cannot afford to harbour perpetual hatred for centuries when we are supposed to be building ourselves into One Namibia One Nation. Although our struggle for nationhood is always cited as bitter and protracted, in Kenya with Mau Mau fighting against the British, similar atrocities were committed in which many Kenyans lost their lives. Despite the undocumented policy of national reconciliation, some Namibians refuse to pull together in developing the new nation as the following may demonstrate:
Politics of character assassinations
This has been the order of Namibian politics, be it in the August House or during campaigns and rallies. What many politicians tend to forget is that at the end of the political exercise, the Namibian nation should be served.
This means the Namibian interest should come first before anything. It is acceptable in every democracy for political parties to pursue divergent philosophical orientations, but this does not mean that there should be irreconcilable animosity among parties and their members. In true democracies, political parties are there for one another and assist should the ruling party seek such assistance. This aspect of political fraternity is rarely manifested in our August House. Members of Parliament who are supposed to embrace the national reconciliation policy are the vanguards in tearing it apart. Sure, after 30 years of independence should Namibians still be pointing fingers at others as the ones sabotaging the economy when the fish scandal and other massive misappropriation of national resources are there for everybody to see? It seems our national leaders have lost the sense of feeling; the gist of feeling they purported to have liberated the masses from the claws and brutal snares of apartheid.
Trade unions affiliated to political parties
This has been the trend even before Independence and has continued deep into the throes of nationhood. Instead of addressing
pertinent national issues, members of opposite trade unions, tend to employ and implement petty party political matters at the expense of the wishes and interests of the country.
Student unions without a national agenda
Like the teachers’ unions and other groups, there seems to be discord among these bodies. Of course, their affiliations to mother political parties speak volumes. It is true we cannot expect them to think alike, but for the sake of national unity, once in a while, these bodies should be seen to workshop and conference around issues of national interest, not on party or ethnic ideology. Divided house of traditional leaders
Worse still is the politicisation of traditional leaders. Some traditional leaders are being deliberately favoured because they play the tunes of particular political parties, while others are treated with disdain. We have kings in some communities promoted by the power that be, while in others, there are chiefs or indunas. Even after thirty years of Independence, some traditional leaders are still regarded as collaborators with the South African racist regime. These traditional leaders are viewed with suspicion and in some cases, Government moved with the sole intention of dividing their subjects. Government thought to achieve its objective of punishing these traditional leaders, but the worst tension emerged from such communities betraying the notion of nationalism and One Namibia One Nation. The Namibian nations have never been divided than before. During traditional ceremonies, heads of state and ministers bless some communities and ignore others, simply because they are not their favourites – contrast that with the Zambian head of state who graces every cultural festival. At one stage he even reasoned with the organisers of these events to make their schedules flexible to enable him to attend these ceremonies. We are talking about 76 ethnic groups in that country. How can heads of state and all political bearers unite all nationals
if they openly discriminate the people they are supposed to rule?
The role of women
It is with due respect to mention that our mothers and sisters indeed played a key role in liberating Namibia. It is still women who make up the majority of voters, yet all along have been marginalized. They can play a significant role in uniting Namibians. It is their time now, and Namibians should be embracing the spirit of electing a woman president, hopefully after the incumbent one.
We have a cumbersome task ahead of us, which needs to harness all resources of national unity before us. Nevertheless, with leaders having the political will and interest of all Namibians at heart that could be achieved. This is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but with the assistance of churches and mere goodwill, Namibia can reach the winning national goal. There have been some signs of national cooperation in some quarters like when Omusati residents donated some foodstuffs to the flood-prone eastern Zambezi region. Lately, the goodwill showed by some Namibians to the couple who could not afford the wedding dress and all logistics needed for the wedding. However, the youth should be seen to tango in all corners of Namibia because the country and future are theirs. United we stand, divided we fall, hence let us Harambee!