The idea of a global village was recently manifested in the practical sense in the spirit of ‘injury to one is injury to all’ after an African-American man, George Floyd, died in police custody, becoming yet another victim of police brutality in the United States. This incident sparked nationwide demonstrations and riots against police brutality, targeted at black people in the United States of America (USA), under the slogan ‘Black Lives Matters’.
Much to the amusement of the world, the movement has sent off waves of compassionate support across the world, ushering a harmonised global movement against systematic racism and discrimination in many countries of the world, thus unleashing a ‘domino effect’ of underlying historical social constructs of racism and discrimination globally, as well as complementary issues thereof that affect global communities today.
Racism, by its very nature, is a construct of a power struggle between racial groupings within a national, regional or international society. What is rather appalling is the fact that the institutionalisation of racism is not limited to national boundaries but it has become systematised in the new international political and economic order.
The only effective solution to the ill of racism and discrimination is to tackle the element of power that keeps it alive. In the formulation of the nation state, all the strings of power within national societies are housed by national constitutions. Hence, the constitution becomes the best mechanism necessary to establish a levelled playground for the ever-evolving social struggle.
Many a time, our Constitution faces criticism for failing to address post-colonial inequalities that are directly linked to colonialism and apartheid, particularly the land question. While colonialism and apartheid were characterised by the dispossession of land and the confiscation of cattle. based on race, the becoming of the Namibian nation seem to have subjected the negotiators of our independence and drafters of our Constitution to overwhelming compromise on the ownership of the means of production through the property clause. This has made it difficult for government to address inequitable land ownership through effective redistribution. The latest statistics show that over 70% of land in Namibia is still in the hands of the white minority population. This leaves one to justify the critic that questions the racist in the constitution, as the struggle for independence was never based on the mere inclusion into already established systems, taking cognisance of the fact that ‘the system will never fail those it was meant to protect’.
The skewed economic trajectory found between blacks and whites in Namibia, like many countries all over the world, was midwifed by the deliberate architecture of ownership inequalities of colonial administrations. These ownership inequalities, due to their institutionalised and systemic nature, breed racism and discrimination of all sorts. If we all look at the greater good, we will understand that this is a question of power; that where we find ourselves with power, we should relinquish it a little by giving up some resources to the extent that we are equal to the fellow human being. That, in my understanding, is the spirit of nation-building. A vague reconciliation may spell a shallow unity and peace but risks a deep-rooted resentment and hate that would live to haunt our celebrated constitutional democracy in the long run. While the challenge of solving the divides of racial inequality is upon us as a nation, we are faced with yet other social ills: nepotism and tribalism. Even though we try to address socio-economic inequalities as a nation, we will not succeed with the attainment of social equity by 2030 when the land redistribution process is hacked by nepotism, favouritism and tribalism. This rot is a despicable public enemy and it hinders all necessary progress towards effective and equitable land reform – and ultimately – the needed response to the call for social justice.
Furthermore, land restitution and redistribution must be applied simultaneously to address the land needs of those who lost land. Namibia continues to experience its share of incidences related to police brutality, which cannot be overlooked. Many of which never resulted in any justice for the families of the victims. A recent Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) publication has confirmed that Namibia does have a police brutality problem, with some names of victims cited. Therefore, we cannot be mere spectators or sympathisers of the ongoing international campaign against police brutality but we need to use this moment to reflect on ourselves as a nation and start putting our home in order. Furthermore, the quest for the removal of symbols and names linked to our colonial past should not be a debate but a common desire, to root out the underlying influences of racial supremacy and discrimination that divides us. The resistance to these fundamental changes in most segments of our society and livelihood indicates that racial and tribal privilege remains an undying evil amongst us and must be dealt with.
In conclusion, one would say that the inability to secure maximum social justice for all makes us outright constitutional delinquents hence the dire need to address issues that matter while we still can. Somewhere, I read: ‘We do not exist for the constitution but it exists for us’. The time is now for government to respond to the quest for accountability to Namibians by not shying away from the very controversial socio-economic issues that divide us as a multi-racial and multi-tribal society – and for us as citizens to test our integrity and welcome a coexistence of oneness. It is upon us, as a nation, to summon a new spirit of patriotism, of love and responsibility where we resolve to pitch in and take care of – not only ourselves – but each other.