The Revolution Has Been Hijacked?

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro Should one take off one’s hat for them or should one rather stick one’s head in the sand and be ashamed of oneself? British children all the way from Britain are making us wise that in our own backyards our own children are at the sharp end of the down side of our mixed economy system. Not only that but they spent N$40 000 of their pocket money on this school. It looks like we shall forever be beggars indebted to “do-gooders whether these do-gooders are imperialist Samaritans or specially endowed experts”, to borrow from Professor Issa Shivji from the University of Dar es salaam. Meantime, those we entrusted with nurturing the country’s wealth seem oblivious to the miseries of our not-so-privileged cast. This calls into question the essence of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). If there is any real BEE company out there worth its salt it should have been the first to know and answer to the plight of many. The fact that it took visitors from outside to see what is happening in our society is a telling pointer that somehow, the captains of BEE have as yet to wake up to their social responsibility, or are simply not the right captains to be at the helm of the ventures that should be the core of avenues in uplifting the exploited and neglected out of their doldrums. I am sure that the Otjohorongo Primary School is only one of many. Not long before, Kaepe Primary School principal poured out her pains to bring her school up to some level on air. What level she had in mind is not known because bringing this school on par with other schools in the country in urban areas is a dream. Because even in some urban centres, there are schools for which reaching the level of their supposed next-door equals remain a pipe dream for the foreseeable future. Although by her own admission the situation has improved, thanks to the practical magnanimity of our Deputy Prime Minister, it is still a far cry from the ideal level children passing through this school, and many other schools, need to attain to have a head and equal start in life to avoid being subjects of Affirmative Action, Employment Equity and what-have-you years from now. Unless the conditions in these schools improve, there is no way that these children can be said to have equal access to, and quality education. Yes, it is firstly the responsibility of the Government to ensure equal access to quality education. However, when we talk of future leaders, we do not only mean political or politico-administrative leaders but also the captains of industry. Thus the industry has as much a vested interest in what is happening at schools, even at this lower level. I am sure if all of us take care of our future leaders at this level, we are laying a very strong foundation on which others in the chain can build. However, if we ignore this level of schooling, then we are not only neglecting our part in the chain but also bequeathing the next cogs in the chain a difficult job because of a shaky foundation thanks to our omission. In the same vein, until lately, the Government seems to have been putting more emphasis on adult literacy, shying away from early childhood development. However, it now seems to be gradually coming to its senses if the activities of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Gender Equality with respect to early childhood development are anything to go by. The same logic applies here. Unless children have a good beginning in early childhood development, they might find the goings tough at the next level. Not only that but the next level may be retarded. One thing leads to another and this can unchain an endless negative reaction. Ultimately whole job market suffers. I wish to particularly take issue with those from the previously under-privileged communities steadily joining, or should I rather say co-opted and absorbed in the belly of the corporate world? If they have joined and are joining the corporate world on merit, and not as mere tokens to appease the Equal Employment Commission, then they must heed the cry of the communities from which they have graduated. But if they are mere tokens as most of us increasingly suspect, they are better advised the revolution is unfinished. The same applies to media houses that are supposed to be the voice of the voiceless, a responsibility they as yet have to fulfil with distinction. Those joining the corporate world have proven so far no more than mere “parasites”, to borrow from Alexcatus Kaure. They have a bigger responsibility than merely lining their pockets while serving as conveyer belts of crumbs falling from the tables of their supposed equals, still firmly in control of the corporate world, to their impoverished communities. Beyond their self-centred ambitions and missions, and their wealth and success, the cream of the crop from our impoverished communities have a broader role. This is what Titus Molefe, political adviser to the South African president refers to as the “transformation and deracialisation” of the economy in the South African context. The same applies in the Namibian context. To borrow from Professor Marcus Ramagole from the University of Venda in South Africa recently putting a case for the Native Club, the next task that we all face including those entrusted with the indigenisation of the economy, is to stake a claim in the production of knowledge and dissemination of ideas. The Native Club is a forum for black intellectuals formed recently to mobilise the African intelligentsia to stake a claim in the world of knowledge and ideas: “It makes no sense to seek political and economic liberation and then turn a blind eye to your own domination in the world of knowledge and ideas,” he wrote last Sunday in the City Press. One wonders whether the fact that it took “do-gooders” to make us aware that things are not well in our backyard does not speak volumes of the unholy alliance between our own brothers and sisters and the corporate world. In fact such alliances seem pervasive in most institutions in the society hampering what otherwise appear to be good intentions of the Government with legislative measures such as Affirmative Action and Employment Equity. You do not need to look further than the person next to you or your own workplace to realise that Eurocentric ideas are still dominant, especially among those at the helm of most of our institutions, both private, public, semi-public and even community. Exceptions are few and far between. Let me venture introspection and single out my professional backyard as represented by Misa Namibia. Who and what is Misa Namibia? What media philosophies other than the old archaic Eurocentric perception of the media does it adhere to? The same goes for many media houses in this country. Tell me a single one that does not adhere to a Eurocentric view or the “telling it like it is” or “that’s the way we have been doing it all the years” attitudes. “Does the transformation of the media mean replacing white staff with black staff to make media more representative? Or does transformation mean a mindset change that involves a new approach to journalism, a new approach to covering our very diverse society? And does this mindset change, this new approach depend on whether your newsroom is entirely black or entirely white?” the former editor of Cape Times, Ryland Fisher once asked in an article published in the Rhodes Journalism Review. This question has never been asked in Namibia and I don’t have any illusion that Misa Namibia as currently is, will ever ask the question. In that case I shall take the liberty to ask these questions to Namibia and answer the first one in the negative. No! Transformation does not mean replacing white staff with black staff to make media more representative. On the contrary it is exactly such an illusion that has brought us where we are today with those at the helm of most of our institutions, including the media, not having undergone an iota of a paradigm shift. I would once again turn to Professor Ramagole: “The most important question the Native Club has to answer is how Africans can be enabled to contribute meaningfully to the world’s store of knowledge and ideas. My thinking is that the Afro-centric route is the way to go. Afro-centricity, according to Molefe Kete Assante, is ‘a frame of reference wherein phenomena are viewed from the perspective of the African person’.” Need I say more than end my instalment for this week with a quote from The Second Phase of the African Revolution Has Now Began by Goabamang Kenneth Shololo Koma: “The revolution was betrayed somewhere … The second aspect to look at is the nature of the betrayal and the reasons for the betrayal.”