It’s about Freedom of Choice

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I am referring to a column of the experienced political reporter and opinion writer, Mr Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, in the New Era of 7th July 2006, under the heading, “About Race Relations and Integration”. I must admit that I was disappointed but not discouraged. Disappointed because there is still not a better understanding, but hopeful that we are making progress to follow each other’s way of thinking and to respect it. Therefore, it is very important that we should not keep quiet when something is bothering us, but that we should be prepared to listen to each other. Basically it is about what your columnist called “racism” in the so-called former white schools including W.H.S.. Interesting enough on the same day, 7th 2006, the Republikein inter alia reported the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Honourable John Mutorwa (for many years Minister of Basic Education) as follows: “Dit is betreurenswaardig en onaanvaarbaar dat 16 jaar na onafhanklikwording daar steeds mense in hierdie land is en nie net in die sportksektor nie, wat dink dat stamgebondenheid, etnisiteit, etniese oorheersing, korrupsie, nepotisme, selftoe-eiening, voortrekkery en inhaligheid die redes was waaroor die onafhanklikheidstryd gewentel het. Hulle is verkeerd. Die waarheid is dat hierdie dinge selfs leliker, meer gevaarlik, retrogressief, vernietigend en plofbaar is as wit-swart rassisme.” With the big diversity in the demography of Namibia, this remains one of our biggest hurdles to jump. We have a relationship problem, which is not restricted to race and colour. I have said it more than once that the success or failure of all systems, which have to regulate relations, depends on the spirit in which it is done. Therefore, if forced segregation is wrong, forced integration is even as wrong especially if it is done with selfish purposes. In Namibia, we tried to get a solution for the problem through a prescribed constitution. At the same time, we said we would do it in the spirit of conciliation. But what we forgot about, was that in a process of conciliation the emphasis is on relations while a solution is based on a constitutional and juridical approach in connection with a specific problem. In effect, it is about a freedom of choice without being felt threatened. In this connection the constitution of Namibia provides for the legal approach in specifically Art. 19 and Art. 21, the latter dealing with “free association” in particular. This is also not ruling out the right of dissociation. Furthermore, there are quite a number of international conventions, amongst which the convention on the rights of the child, which express very clearly about the use of different languages. Interesting enough is also the fact that in all the local authorities in Namibia, members are legally allowed to use the language of their choice. As far as the matter of a choice is concerned, Mr Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro was indicating just that when he wrote: “As a parent of a child at this school (W.H.S.) I have started to doubt whether I made the right choice for my child.” The right of a free choice is as old as humanity itself. An excellent example within one tribe or family itself is the story about Abram and Lot in Genesis 13. Verse 7 to 9, which reads as follows: “And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land. So Abram said to Lot, ‘Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen: for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go the right or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” This is a striking example of how an opportunity of free choice eliminated friction between human beings. Important, however, is that such opportunities must be created. I am satisfied that this is possible in Namibia by implementing the stipulations of the Constitution, the Education Act and the Act on Traditional Authorities in the correct spirit. Especially in the last mentioned Act it is spelled out very clearly. The crux of the problem, is however, that the Basters, Brown people and Whites, who mainly speak Afrikaans, are excluded from these privileges of the other traditional groups because no traditional institutions and authorities are allowed to them in the same sense. In juridical terms this is a question of discrimination. I am always very jealous when I read with what passion our friend Kae is reporting about Herero affairs in the New Era. The so-called former white secondary schools, where Afrikaans-speaking learners are still in the majority, I can for all purposes count on the fingers of my one hand. On the other hand, there are more than 1 400 schools in Namibia where black learners are in the majority and where they can freely communicate with each other in their own languages. The majority of these schools are as far as language is concerned homogeneous. Early in 1999, I asked the following question to the Minister of Education in the National Assembly and got the following answer. (Minutes, Vol. 32 1999, page 327) “Mr. Pretorius asked the Minister of Basic Education and Culture: (i) Are all teachers in public schools compelled to talk to each other or during meetings only in the official language, English? (ii) Are the Ohiwambo-speaking teachers in the North, for example, compelled to have their personnel meetings only in English? (iii) If so, is this in agreement with article 3 (2) of the Constitution of Namibia? (iv) If so, according to which notice, instruction or directive was it proclaimed? ANSWER: DEPUTY MINISTER OF BASIC EDUCATION AND CULTURE: On the first question: Are all teachers in public schools compelled to talk to each other during meetings only in the official language? No. However, all official documents and correspondence, including minutes of meetings must be in the official language, which is English. On the second question: Also no. The use of English is advised but not compulsory. Where staff of a school includes members who do not speak in the dominant local language, meetings should be conducted in English to ensure effective communication. The minutes of the meeting must be in the official language. The third question does not apply due to the first answers as well as the fourth question also does not apply. Thank you.” I hope we can continue the debate in future, in a serious attempt to improve relationships and understanding. Sincerely Yours J.W.F. Pretorius Chairman: Monitor Action Group