The contents of this brief article reflect my heartfelt feelings and may be a belated reaction to the racism and tribalism in our free and independent country. The constitution of Namibia protects the rights and dignity of all persons. Article 8 (1) of the constitution clearly states that “the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable”. Article 10 provides for equality and freedom from discrimination, while Article 23 prohibits the practice of racial discrimination.
Our country went through audacious and impudent colonial oppression which was based on racism. There might be some of our people who might say that everyone knows that there was a liberation struggle in Namibia which brought about independence and democracy, so why are we wasting time talking about things which have been resolved. But surely there are things which still haunt us today which need to be fought against.
Some of these are racism, tribalism and discrimination based on colour and tribe. Not everyone is guilty of these practices. But there are still some living in the past and who still practise racism and tribalism. One thing that should be made clear is that there is nothing wrong with the existence of races or tribes but it is totally unacceptable to practise racism and tribalism.
The liberation struggle has freed us from racism and oppression. For now, with the achievement of our independence and the restoration of our peoples’ dignity we would have expected that racism and tribalism which existed in the colonised country would have totally ended by now. Unfortunately there are those who are referring to other tribes and races in an abusive and degrading manner. Racism and tribalism can at times turn into a serious and revolting crime. Those who practise racism and tribalism are degrading, humiliating and traumatising their victims. The victims become emotional and suffer reputational injury and their dignity is compromised.
The danger of racism and tribalism is also that racists and tribalists believe, and wrongfully so, that other races and tribes are inferior to their own, therefore they can dominate and exclude them from important political issues and economic benefits. In that sense, racism and tribalism influence and provoke discontent among different groups and has the potential to lead to inter-racial and inter-tribal conflict. Even worse, extreme racism and tribalism at times also go to the extent of racists and tribalists thinking that they have the right to annihilate those they perceive as inferior to themselves.
For example, when the Germans came to our country, they had the racist belief that the country they targeted to take over was inhabited by sub-human species who had no right to prevent them from turning the country into a new Germany. If they resisted, they had to be eliminated since according to them there was no law which prevented them from doing so. This is why Lothar von Trotha boasted saying that “I finish off the rebellious tribes with rivers of blood and rivers of money. Only from these seeds will something new and permanent be able to grow.” This was followed by the impudent and highly racist colonial regime of South Africa which referred to the black people of Namibia as kaffirs. And these racists even said that “baie sleg is kaffir sleg” which roughly translates that terribly bad as a kaffir. Therefore, as per the belief of South African white colonialists – a black person was an imperfect creature, harmful and unpleasant and a severe evil.
These were only a few of the consequences and results of racism. Both the Germans and the South African colonial whites were racists who were most exclusive, rapacious and had terribly exaggerated the belief that their own races were impeccable and this made them blindly arrogant.
One thing which ought to be known is that our struggle was not against whites or any other race for that matter. Our struggle was and will continue to be against unacceptable oppression and unjust systems and behaviour. Racism and tribalism is unacceptable behaviour because it is based on the belief of human inequality and should never be tolerated in our society.
Now, the second phase of the struggle in which we as patriots are seriously interested in is to unite our people so that all of us can agree to a common fight to eradicate the remaining evil legacy of the notorious apartheid rule. Therefore those few who are still desirous of practising racism and tribalism must come to their senses and refrain from this unpatriotic and evil behaviour. Whatever we do should build a historical bridge between various racial and tribal groups which were deeply divided by colonial policies. Racial and tribal unity is the perfect antidote for racially and tribally divided societies.
Namibia belongs to all who historically live in it therefore the unity of all people will bring about reconciliation and respect between every race and tribe of this nation. Now, having gained our political independence and are ruling our country ourselves we are seriously interested in making sure that we successfully transform our beloved country into a non-racist and non-tribalistic society. Gone are the days when the black and white people who were against colonial rule and racism became victims of the apartheid policy which imposed racial rule in the court.
Finally there is one critical issue which I want the Municipality of Windhoek to explain. During colonial rule in our country the areas where black people were forced to live were divided into tribal sections, i.e. Damara location, Herero location, Ovambo location, etc. In accordance with apartheid laws no tribe was allocated to live in any part of a location which was occupied by a tribe to which they did not belong. This was racial and tribal division which was non-negotiable. However, after independence, we abolished this unacceptable racial division and afford everyone the right to legally live in any part of any town across the country.
The question the municipality should answer is whether what is known as Chinatown is open for other races to settle there. Can the Chinese allow other races or tribes to occupy space in the so-called Chinatown? If not, is it not in violation of our laws? Particularly Article 20 (g) and (h) of the Namibian constitution? Where are the loopholes in the law which allow the Chinese to occupy areas in the town which belong to all races for that so-called town to be exclusively for them alone? Can other races or tribes also be allowed to have areas in our town which are for them exclusively? Surely the municipality cannot then prevent others from creating Damara town, Herero town, Ovambo town, etc. which is then exclusively for them and allow the Chinese to have Chinatown which appears to be only for them in a town in which all races are entitled to live.
Finally, do Namibians have ‘Namibian town’ in any city or town in China? Did we liberate our country to come and just sell it to other races and become foreigners in our own country?