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Opinion - Recolonisation through discrimination and freedom

2022-05-20  Prof Makala Lilemba

Opinion - Recolonisation through discrimination and freedom
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The Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885, commonly known in some quarters as the Scramble for Africa, demarcated Africa into many partitions. According to the renowned Kenyan academician, Ali Mazrui, in his series, ‘The Africans: A Triple Heritage’, the colonisers brought together and separated ethnic groups against their will. 

He maintains that because of this deliberate making by the colonisers, Africa has been at war with herself. This divisive strategy was further worsened by the discovery of strategic minerals on the continent. Even after many years of nationhood former colonial powers continue to poke their imperialist noses into African economic and political affairs, creating further rifts, which are currently dividing Africa. 

In Namibia, before independence, the population was divided along ethnic lines in locations and in the Bantustans that the citizens should be weakened and prevent them from fighting colonialism. This divisive system was reinforced by many repressive laws like banning all political activities and restricted workers from forming trade unions in which they could air their grievances at their places of work. 

Namibians from different regions could travel only under strict regulations from one area to other. But all restrictions were supposed to come to an end at the dawn of Independence, but recolonisation of some sort is lurking at the corner. It is true that laws to ban all forms of discrimination were promulgated under the constitution, but some of these conditions are just on paper. 

Of late, professor Lumumba, a legal academician from Kenya, has been on the warpath, decrying and prophesying that Africa is likely to be recolonised in the next 25 years. According to him, Africa has lost direction and independence of its people, which was the main struggle for nationhood. 

He cites the lack of hygiene in the African political system, which is riddled by corruption and carelessness in terms of delivering the much-needed services. The Namibian political system has been contaminated with unhygienic conditions, as it has failed to deliver on promises of equality and promoted ethnicity in many sectors. The current state of affairs of deliberately barring some Namibians from holding the so-called strategic positions is discrimination in itself, which is contrary to the Constitution that declares per Article 10 (2) that “No persons may be discriminated against on the backgrounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, creed or social economic status”. 

It has become a norm in some quarters in Namibia to deliberately withhold or nullify the results of successful applicants because the person in question happens to belong to an undesirable ethnic group. The employing agent in this case claims to have the freedom to employ or hire any person of his or her choice, despite the constitutional provision. 

Newspapers are full of such cases in which successful applicants are always sidelined for ethnic reasons. One would have thought that the war for independence was to liberate Namibians from the yoke of colonialism and indeed usher in a period in which everyone is equal and has the right to be employed if he or she qualifies for the position. 

How can the colonialists be blamed for establishing the racial and indeed an unequal system when the current authority is doing the same thing? This scenario epitomises the ending in Animal Farm when the animals, who drove Mr Jones, the owner of Manor Farm, finally acted the same way human beings did.

When one looked, from pig to man and from man to pig, there was no difference. This is the state Namibia has reached in some quarters in terms of discriminating “its own” in the name of freedom. It is a “gentleman’s agreement” as Nigerians would say, and many people fail to notice that shady scheme unless it is the few who are affected. 

This follows the system of school boards that were formed immediately after Independence in an effort to democratise the education system. The idea was noble and without any intended and hidden agenda – but of late, the system has been abused, where only teachers hailing from that community are likely to be employed despite their failure to deliver. In a way, this might have contributed to the high failure rate at secondary school level. 

The whole process of recruiting and employing teachers is done democratically, but the real system is discriminatory in many ways if all qualified Namibians are denied equal access to all advertised positions.  

Another issue in which Namibians are failing on their promises is holding the country together and heal the divisive ethnic wounds that were created by the racists. Although strides have been made by the polity to encourage Namibians to join political parties to forge ahead with unity, much success has not been made to bridge the ethnic divide. 

Yes, Namibians obtained independence and freedom, but the spirit of seeing one another as nationals belonging to this country remains illusive. One may disagree with this point, but the writings on the wall are there for everyone to see and read.  If indeed all Namibians are equal, why should others be discriminated against positions despite having passed the interviews in all aspects? The aim of the liberation struggle was independence, supposedly for all Namibians without any form of discrimination. Through these actions, Namibians are busy recolonising themselves and will be worse when Africa reverts to colonial domination.

2022-05-20  Prof Makala Lilemba

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