By Gerson Narib I have always wondered why human beings tend to accentuate their differences while they have so much in common. We tend to identify ourselves by our tribe, race, colour, religion or whatever factor we perceive to make us better, greater, more human, more deserving, or more sophisticated. We discard the fact that as human beings, we all have more or less the same need for shelter, feel the same hunger or pain, and have the same fears. We forget that ultimately, we all would like to live in a peaceful and secure environment, with adequate access to basic services. At independence, the Government of the Republic of Namibia adopted the principle of National Reconciliation, as a cornerstone of our democracy. As such, Namibians who were dehumanised and severely oppressed under what I can only describe as a despicable, but well orchestrated system of apartheid, those who devised and executed this system of institutionalised discrimination and those who were in-between, agreed to accept the basic and self-evident truth, that all human beings are equal, and require equal protection of the law. We were to look forward thenceforth, to a more understanding society that accepts that the dignity of all human beings is inviolable, who understand that apartheid was wrong and who would make it their business to ensure that as a society, we shall obliterate from our midst, the effects of this evil system. The undertaking then and presently, in terms of articles 6, 8, 10 and 23 of our Constitution was/is that we are to create a truly integrated and equal society, a society that accepts and understands that we are all human, a society which actually buys into this idea so that we no longer judge a person by the colour of her/his skin, by the language (s)he speaks, by the name of her/his tribe, but only by where he stands on these issues that we hold sacred. It is therefore an irony that affirmative action, one of the cornerstones of our undertaking to strive for a truly integrated society came be known in some quarters as reversed discrimination. There was and still is no real support from or acceptance by some of those who were entrenched into positions of privilege by the evil system of apartheid, of the need for or necessity of affirmative action. In cahoots with these detractors, the mainstream media could only point to the perceived failures of this noble policy of affirmative action. Some are asking how long the policy is supposed to persist. If they had accepted the truth that all human beings are equal, they ought to know that as long as human beings live in conditions of abject poverty in Ombili, Okahadja Park, Goreangab and many other places in Namibia, as long as many of the Namibian farmers are still crowded on communal land not suitable for agriculture, as long as the effects of apartheid are felt on farms and villages all over Namibia, our undertaking, in terms of our Constitution has not been accomplished. The first step for all is to accept that there are no lesser human beings. Second is to accept that a life of dignity and equal worth cannot exist in the squalid conditions that prevail at any of the places mentioned herein. There is no escaping the fact that a hundred years of institutionalised discrimination took its toll on the Namibian people. To reverse such effects, an equally or more rigorous effort is required. Apartheid machinery included of the best academics and researchers in South Africa and was covertly supported by the western regimes. Equally, our best brains should be brought to bear on our efforts to reverse its effects. The fact that the civil society and the mainstream media have not accepted the equal worth of all mankind is manifested by their unfair criticism of the efforts aimed at reversing the effects of apartheid. Small wonder that we have only received negative reports about black economic empowerment, land reform and other well-intended efforts to empower previously disadvantaged Namibians. Conspicuously absent from the scene are social and other scientists who should assist with research on the effects of apartheid, how some of the other countries who implemented the policy of affirmative action have done it and what the best route is that Namibia should follow. It is becoming a concern that the process of deconstruction of the policy of affirmative action has commenced and that the sleeping intelligentsia are now awakening to help with this process. Their frontal attack was first at the private sector initiative on black economic empowerment. The debate appeared to be aimed at halting the private sector initiative, ostensibly on the basis that there is no comprehensive policy on BEE. However, those who closely followed the debate by the participants in the BEE initiative, without being unduly influenced by the flaws pointed out by the “opposition” know that this is an evolving dynamic. The debate has evolved over a relatively short period of two years to the extent that people are already talking about broad based empowerment. It is hoped that people with the agenda of perpetuating the effects of apartheid, or those who have been hoodwinked by such people will not detract the true believers in equal worth of all mankind. It is further hoped that intellectual resources will be brought to bear on the vexed questions that arise in the effort to achieve true equality of all, and that the necessary research and publications will be forthcoming from those who want to achieve a truly integrated society. The day that it does not matter whether a man or a woman is White, Black, Damara, Herero, Afrikaner or Ovambo, the day all start to truly believe that it is wrong, and feel that it is disheartening for our brothers to be sitting on street corners, waiting for job opportunities, the day that some of our mothers do not have to walk 10km to fetch drinking water, the day that we all have reasonable access to electricity and other services, is the day we have achieved our objectives as enshrined in Articles 6, 8, 10 and 23 of the Namibian Constitution. That day becomes more and more elusive when we form organisations “with the goal of empowering Afrikaner people in small business ownership and other ventures”. (The Namibian 10 Oct. 06). For, if all start forming organisations that are aimed at empowering these or that tribe or group, our differences begin to stand out, and such a situation does not auger well for our society, let alone the minorities. The best protection of the minorities is found in acceptance of equality of all mankind. Whether an organisation can be lawfully established with the specific aim of empowering this or that tribe, or group, particularly the previously advantaged group, if regard is had to the ethos of the Namibian Constitution, is a question we shall leave for our Courts to answer some day.
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