Kennedy K. Mabuku
Since time immemorial, Namibia and Botswana have been intimately and harmoniously linked by their history and geography that has shaped their past, engaged the present and had a hopeful and promising future.
While the preceding is true, it is also necessary to insist on the fact that these countries share a rich cultural heritage in language and family settings. Recently, this connection and bond has seemed to be threatened and decaying away after the killing of three Namibians and a Zambian national by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) along the Chobe river at Sedudu/Kasikili Island on the 5th of November 2020.
The action was not only condemned as a violation of human rights by many Namibians but also served as a unifying event for people of the Zambezi region in particular and the entire Namibian nation in general.
To put it on record, more than 37 Namibians were killed at the hands of the BDF since Namibia’s independence in 1990 to date. In this respect, we have seen ordinary people who have become very strong agencies and have succeeded in broadcasting their convictions and opinions regarding human rights issues and speaking out against human rights violations by the BDF.
Like any other ideology, ‘Namibian Lives Matter’ grew out of frustration from the injustice of the Botswana ‘shoot to kill policy’ that keeps claiming the lives of Namibians. To guard themselves against such external forces, and stand in solidarity when it mattered most, Namibians merged under the umbrella of the right to life as espoused by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the Namibian Constitution. The collaboration has generated so much ripples of positive change. The country staged massive demonstrations in the capital city and the Zambezi region, and equally we have seen other regions such as Kavango East, Oshikoto and Oshana rising to the occasion.
I will not dwell much on the demonstrations, but the interest of the writer is on the unison that prevailed during this time. In the aftermath of the killing, social media was able to unite Namibian people – the rate at which the information was shared on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter was alarming. For instance, about 87% of my Facebook friends condemned the killings, 92% of my WhatsApp contacts registered their dismay and 19% on Twitter condemned the shooting. For the first time in so many decades Namibians have showed such strong solidarity.
Together, they spoke, nodded, ran in unison, they sang and danced together and clapped hands in complete concord. This meant the consonance with the modern democratic views on human rights practices were in the making. All these were made possible by the advancement in social media that played an undebatable role in helping the community share information thereby promoting the dignity of people in Namibia and Zambezi residents precisely. As a scholar, this reminds me of how pertinent information sharing is in compelling the leadership of two countries to harken to the plight of ordinary Namibians.
In addition, social media as an information hub reminded us it is the dissemination of information that matters in resilient projects to navigate the turbulent global wave of insecurities.
This is because when people are informed timeously, and understand the purposes of such messages, they develop an interest consequently and contribute to the realisation of any independent project.1
It was with great interest to see how electronic media enabled Namibian citizens to directly and instantaneously convey their dissatisfaction over the shooting of three Namibian nationals and a Zambian national. It really didn’t matter whether one of the victims was Zambian, but the essence was that the Ubuntu spirit that filled the hearts and minds of the people in that very moment that mattered.
These platforms gave a voice to the masses within a limited time. Assisting in promoting democratic change, raising awareness on human rights issues and enabling citizens to access and exercise their basic fundamental rights and freedoms through peaceful demonstration. Social networks have marked a new phase in communication and recent Namibian events in general cement this view. It will be remiss of a writer not to state that, due to social media, the opportunity costs of physical participation are reduced and electronic access has potentially erased disparities brought by distance and geography, thereby maximising the rural-urban timeous message sharing. When this new dawn in social media is utilised effectively, its importance encourages ‘Namibian Lives Matter’ as an ideology.
To include the promotion of Namibia’s economic advancement, tourism attraction information hubs and benchmarking of best practices in terms of developmental projects and the preservation of global and African peace are a must.
With this accelerating change, the 21st century has brought an array of opportunities. Among these opportunities is the improved information sharing brought by the use of social media.
Finally, as we mourn our dearest sons of the soil, we find solace in the fact that their death served as a unifying event for the Namibian populace and Zambezi region residents in particular. May their souls rest in peace.