• June 3rd, 2020

Upholding and reorienting Oompale in Ondonga 

Bananas are known as monkeys’ favourite. Is there anyone who can convince a monkey to give up a banana today by promising thousands of bananas in a monkey heaven? These are questions historian Yuval Harari discusses in his book ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’. 

Harari argues that unlike chimpanzees, human beings’ decisions are not only based on biological and environmental conditions. Fiction, myths and gossip play a key role in the lives of human beings. While no monkey will give up a banana because of heavenly banana promises, it is common for human beings to accept earthly suffering for imaginary rewards in heaven. 

The power of mythology in human beings cannot be underestimated. Think of the Catholic Pope who is said to abstain completely from sexual intercourse and completely absent himself from procreation and the responsibility of raising children. Apart from cognitive abilities, Harari argues that it is mythology and fiction that enables human beings to cooperate better and rule over even dangerous animals. 

Indeed, 100 lions and 100 elephants can remain locked in a park managed by a 24-year-old dwarf. He submits that although many animals cooperate, they cannot match the cooperation of human beings. “That is why,” he concludes, “Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.” 

Since myths and fiction are social constructs by human beings, a study of any human society cannot ignore power dynamics. 

It is a small number of persons, less than 20, that signed the African colonialism architecture at the 1884 Berlin conference and enabled the colonisation of Africa. To effectively colonise Africa, the colonial masters had to ensure that the sources of power of the African people were undermined – from land, culture and subjectivity. It is doubtful if Africans would have been successfully colonised without dismembering them from their land, culture and subjectivity. 

Their food and language were ‘inferiorised’ and replaced with the food and language of the other. In short, Africa and Africans lost an authentic knowledge and confidence of self. 

The independence project failed to assist our people in regaining their culture, subjectivity, knowledge and confidence of self. As a select Aandonga youth, we have been having a series of discussions on how we can take it upon ourselves to repair our societies. We are pondered on an alternative model upholding the socioeconomic organizing principles and surviving in modernity.  One of the socioeconomic organizing principles in Ondonga is “omuntu keshi omuntu ngele kapuna aantu” (one’s humanity cannot be fulfilled without others). 

Members of our native communities cared for one another. Joy and sorrow are shared by all. To get married, one only needed to reach maturity and a partner, the rest is taken care of by the community. One didn’t need ‘funeral insurance’ for death is a responsibility of all members of the community. When a thief stole in one household, it concerned all community members. We grew up accustomed to an entire neighborhood voluntarily assisting in pursuing the footprints of a thief that stole. It was acceptable for any elder in Ondonga to discipline any child going astray.  

Any hungry man in any Ondonga village would freely go to any Omwandi, Omulunga or Okaye fruit trees without asking permission. These trees are seen as feeders of men for which uncouth restrictions hardly exist. Ondonga was always organized on the basis of collectivism and not individualism. Indeed, everyone mattered in our anti-capitalist native communities. 

The capitalist power dynamics have since repudiated all these socioeconomic organizing principles. Individuals are told that they don’t need other human beings. Marriage, love and family, by implication, is for the rich. Insurance companies with ‘funeral covers’ have replaced the community – death is individualised. Thieves are now the task of individuals with private security. Children are only disciplined by their biological parents. 

The community fruit trees are now private properties. This surrenderance of our socioeconomic organizing principles has led to the degeneration of our communities. In considering how we can reverse these, we ended up discussing the concept of Oompale, a taxation system that existed in Ondonga for centuries. 
After every harvest in Ondonga, all households are expected to give a portion of their produce to the King through their villages and districts. Some give baskets of mahangu while others give sorghum. Although it is debatable, it is assumed that the mahangu aid those in need and is also used during public events. It is this concept we seek to uphold and adapt to the modern context.  

In a modern context, our production and source of economic livelihoods are no longer limited to mahangu and sorghum. We seek to create an order in Ondonga that partly repudiates the adverse impacts of capitalism and indeed affirm that ‘omuntu keshi omuntu ngele kapuna aantu’. To those of us employed, Oompale would mean making our contribution, periodically and as frequently as we wish, to the socioeconomic development of Ondonga in an organised manner. 

Unlike our ancestors, our contribution will not be with our hearts but with our minds. Our collective contribution will be towards economic development in Ondonga – to help the weak and vulnerable. It is to invest in all economic activities as we see fit and to ensure maximized returns for the entire Ondonga. 
It is to renovate dilapidated schools, bring water and electricity to remote areas and to provide scholarships to our children. Indeed, it is to ensure that the institution of traditional leadership is adequately resourced and capacitated to meet the needs of the masses of our people at the point of need. 

We have established a bank account for Oompale Fund with Bank Windhoek for our individual contributions for the seed capital. We are organising an initial 100 Aandonga youth to raise N$100 000 by the end of August. This amount will be handed over to the King of Ondonga, Tate Omukwaniilwa Fillemon Shuumbwa Nangolo, on 31st August 2019 at Onambango palace. We are also preparing all legal documents, particularly the trust deed creating the Oompale Trust Fund, to be handed over to the King together with the seed capital. 

The trust deed will outline the purpose, governance, strategies and tactics of Oompale in the modern context. Once the fund is fully established, we will continue to make monthly contributions to the fund in the form of bank stop orders. We will also mobilize thousands of Aandonga youth to join the Oompale initiative so that Ondonga become self-reliant and ensure that the institution of traditional leadership is able to meet the need of the masses of our people at the point of need. If we pay all manner of tax to a corrupt regime, pay membership to corrupt political parties and give money to Nigerian pastors each Sunday, we can surely make a contribution to the socioeconomic sustenance of our community.  Let’s get to work. 

*Job Shipululo Amupanda is a decolonial scholar and activist from Omaalala village in northern Namibia. To get involved email shipululo@gmail.com 

Staff Reporter
2019-07-31 07:04:54 | 10 months ago

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