By Paul T. Shipale
This piece is written in defence of the decision to honour our Founding President, H.E. Dr Sam Nujoma. Indeed, H.E. Dr Nujoma provided decisive and ultimately victorious leadership at the most difficult and crucial time in our struggle. For this reason, we
honour him because he is the rock on which this country is built upon and serves as a beacon for future generations of Namibia.
Other nations also honour their heroes to ensure historical continuity. For instance, George Washington, the Founding President of the United States of America has universities, states, towns and streets named in his honour and has even his portrait featuring on some American dollar notes which has ensured that over 200 hundred years later, his leadership of the American revolution that led to their independence is known by young Americans. Thus, our future generations deserve no less than that.
The Namibian newspaper has never been fair and objective to our Founding President who has always been at the receiving end of the Euro-centric media, yet these media houses are the first to scream at the top of their voices that hackneyed phrase “press freedom” whenever what they consider their rights are threatened.
It hurts me to see the likes of Afredo Tjiurimo Hengari mock and demonize the man who selflessly sacrificed his entire life for them to have the freedom they enjoy today. Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari wrote: “The Nujoma Notes: Dancing on the grave of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi,”
For Hengari, the decision to put Cde Nujoma’s portrait on the N$10 and N$20 banknotes is a “tasteless and short-sighted exercise”. He claims there was no “debate and public consultations on the sanity” of the decision. Prime Minister Angula was spot-on when he called Hengari “someone else’s running dog”.
To say there should have been “debate and public consultations on the Nujoma portrait” when there were “no debate and public consultations” on Kaptein Witbooi’s portrait is an exercise in selective morality.
We value the contributions that Kaptein Witbooi made to our anti-colonial resistance, just as we value those contributions made by other icons such as Chief Samuel Maharero, Hosea Kutako, Iipumbu ya Tshilongo, Nehale lya Mpingana, Mandume Ya Ndemufayo, Chief Tjamuaha and many others. They remain our heroes.
In this regard, SPYL Secretary Dr Ngurare was on point when he said there is “an invincible hand, which draws agenda for public discourse through the construction of images, meant either to draw sympathy or evoke anger of the public”. Similarly, the editor of Namibia Today wrote against the negative reports and despicable portrayal of Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, over the past few months. Such negative bleating is not new, said the editor, but it was recently fuelled by the new N$10 and N$20 banknotes which now bear the portrait of Dr Nujoma.
Leading the pack in this anti-Nujoma crusade are the usual culprits who have never been short of broadside assaults against Dr Nujoma, casting aspersions on his person with irritating regurgitation, said the editor who also aptly described what transpired when he wrote that a few weeks before Namibians celebrated the country’s 22nd Independence Anniversary, some pulled out a shoddy letter, claiming that there were concerns about the new notes and the “negative effects” they would have on the Nama community in the south, who allegedly would not be happy to see their revered Kaptein Hendrick Witbooi being replaced by Dr Nujoma.
There were also deliberate distortions to mean all the banknotes would have Dr Nujoma’s portrait, while we all know that the N$50, N$100 and N$200 notes will continue to bear Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi’s portrait.
This was a deliberate ploy to influence the thinking of the people on the ground and make them boycott the independence celebrations.
To make their story look credible, they claimed that Dr Nujoma had “enough honours” and Namibia did not need to have banknotes depicting his portrait and went on to claim that people did not understand the reasons why Witbooi had to share “his only symbol of recognition and of honour” with Dr Nujoma.
Of course, it is very clear that the anti-Nujoma concoctions were designed to whip up emotions in the run-up to the independence celebrations in Mariental, in order to see people boycotting the celebrations.
Needless to say there were no boycotts planned, except in the figment of the imagination of the Anti-Nujoma. Namibians turned out in their thousands to celebrate their country’s independence because they were more clever than this cheap anti-Nujoma tantrums, which are churned out every time.
For this reason, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Honourable Joel Kaapanda, also rejected and condemned with the contempt they deserve some opinion pieces, which appeared in “The Namibian” newspaper, at pages 10 - 11 of the opinion pieces which were deliberately concocted and orchestrated in the board room in order to viciously attack the Namibian government, its president and the founding president.
The Minister underlined that the featuring of the Founding President’s portrait on the N$10 and N$20 banknotes is to honour him for his contribution towards our national liberation of our country and for being the Founding President of the Republic of Namibia
The featuring of the Founding President on the two banknotes does not diminish in any way the historical role Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi played as a leader of the anti-colonial resistance in our country, explained the Minister. Both men performed heroic deeds in their respective historical eras, hence, the recognition bestowed on them, the Minister remarked. Thus he found the opinion pieces offensive and seditious, aimed at raising emotions among our people.
Minister Kaapanda then appealed to all Namibians of goodwill to denounce and reject these opinion pieces and continue to promote peace, social harmony and reconciliation and set the record straight that the decision to honour Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi came through a Cabinet decision. Similarly, Cabinet took a decision to honour the Founding President in the same way.
On the 24th of May 2012, the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab confirmed the Minister’s statement saying he was there when the decision to honour Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi was taken in Cabinet. On the image issue, which has become topical at the moment, the Speaker said the prevailing tradition in Africa is that the image of the Head of State must be the only one. The Speaker then said most of the Cabinet Ministers were thus being true Pan-Africanists but the Founding President Nujoma stuck to his preference and lionized about Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi and the role he played in the anti-colonial struggle in Namibia and that is why his image appears on the Namibian currency.
Like him or hate him, there will be no other Sam Nujoma. He has defined his place in our country’s history. This is the man Namibians hold in esteem. He provided decisive leadership in the crucible of the armed struggle. Thousands of people paid with their lives for Namibia to be free. When Namibians sing that “Glory to their bravery, whose blood waters our freedom,” they pay tribute to those brave sons and daughters, whom he commanded into combat.
Dr Nujoma transported the first weapons that were to be used at the launching of the armed struggle on 26 August 1966 from Algeria via Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia, from where they were taken inside the country to Omugulugwombashe in Uukwaluudhi District in Omusati Region. This marked the launching of the armed struggle on 26 August 1966. Since Namibia’s independence, this event has been commemorated annually as part of Heroes’ Day on 26 August.
Dr Nujoma represented Namibia at the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement on 1 September 1961 in Belgrade Yugoslavia as well as at the founding of the OAU in Addis Ababa on 25 May 1963.
In 1971, he was the first leader of an African nationalist movement to address the UN Security Council in New York leading to the UN General Assembly passing a Resolution declaring SWAPO as the sole and authentic representative of the Namibian People.
From 1977/78, Dr Nujoma led the SWAPO negotiating team between the Western Five Contact group and South Africa on the one hand, and the Frontline States, Nigeria, and SWAPO on the other, which culminated in the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 435 (1978). Thereafter on 19 March 1989, the signing of the cease-fire agreement with South Africa took place, which resulted in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435.
In Namibia’s first democratic elections for a Constituent Assembly, SWAPO gained a majority and Dr Sam Nujoma was elected to the Constituent Assembly. On 16 February 1990, he was unanimously elected by the National Assembly as the first President of the Republic of Namibia.
President Nujoma was sworn in as the First President of the Republic of Namibia and Commander-in-Chief of the Namibian Defence Force on 21 March 1990. He was popularly re-elected for two more terms of office in 1994 and 1999 respectively, in recognition of his wise and dynamic leadership.
Under the Founding President’s leadership, Namibia entered a period of peace and stability after more than 30 years of war. Such achievements should not be underestimated because development and progress are built on the bedrock of peace.
The Founding President crafted a first cabinet that was inclusive and in so doing set a trend of appointing for the sake of balance (ethnic, gender, internal, exile).
The institutions of the State as envisaged in the Namibian Constitution were established and began to function under his reign.
He is essentially a nationalist and Pan-Africanist, and as a result, he had the determination to create a viable nation state anchored on our rich cultural diversity as he is a staunch believer in preserving our cultural values that encapsulate our accumulated wisdom and time-tested experiences, with a clear purpose of building a strong nation.
After leading and serving as leader of the SWAPO Party for 47 years, Dr Nujoma stepped down as the first President of the Party on 30 November 2007 handing over the reins of power to his successor, His Excellency Comrade Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the SWAPO Party who was elected by the Namibian people as President of the Republic.
Indeed, Prime Minister Angula was right to say, ‘Founding a political party, building a political party, sustaining a political party, mobilizing the nation and the international community, fighting a liberation war, liberating the country and founding a nation, are no mean achievements.’
In recognition of his dedication and selfless sacrifice to the national liberation struggle and nation-building, the Parliament of the Republic of Namibia enacted a piece of legislation in April 2005, declaring him the Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation.
Therefore honouring him today is part of sustaining his legacy for succeeding generations to know and understand him and to ensure our own historical continuity.
• Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.