Economics of Traditional Kingdoms Absurd

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By Dr Mupoti Sikabongo As is generally the case in the rest of Africa, Namibia’s domestic investment road to economic development is currently affected by the absurdity of the economics of traditional Kingdoms. The economics of traditional Kingdoms can be defined as that type of economic infrastructure where the subjects of a particular social grouping are culturally bound to invest in their own respective ancestral land, called Kingdom. Generally, the economics of traditional Kingdoms is based on social cohesion of kinship ties which are also based on the common ancestor but calculated to benefit the most close brother or sister in the line of heritage. In fact, most Namibians claim to be sons and daughters of Kings and Queens who used to serve as traditional icons of governance during the pre-European Africa. But when whites came to Africa, they changed the title of our Kings from King to Chief. The purpose for this was mainly to ensure that our Kings do not share the same status with the Queen of England. Another reason was to deliberately make African Kings a little lower than the colonial military generals. This arrangement was intentionally crafted to liberate colonial military generals from the sweeping power of the Kings. So, the change of title from King to Chief meant that colonial military generals were no longer required to pay tribute to the chiefs. The overall objective for this was to create a conducive environment for colonialism to be fertilized and continue to reproduce itself. However, colonialism committed suicide. In fact, expressions through writing and reading English came to Africa by a fatal accident to the colonial process. The strategy of colonialism was based on ensuring that Africans are not taught how to read and write. But then it became very difficult to give instructions to blacks who did not understand the European language. In order to correct this problem, the European man decided to teach his black servants how to speak broken English and also how to read only 200 words that were needed to execute some commands. With this kind of correction, colonialism committed suicide because instead of depending on 200 words, the black man learnt more words for himself and started to read widely beyond the 200 words. It then became too difficult for the white man to control how far and what type of material the black man should read. As a result of reading widely, the black man discovered European errors and corruption in the fields of Law, Accounting, History and Engineering. Consequently, he began to question why the economics of traditional kingdoms was being suppressed by European economics which repatriated profits from African minerals to Europe without paying taxes to the Kingdoms. From this perspective, Africans realised that they were being cheated and demanded their independence without delay. The demand for independence affected the survival of Kingdoms because Europeans opposed this kind of challenge with the aid of guns. In order to resist the barrel of the gun, blacks united across Kingdom lines to constitute what is today known as comradeship. Comradeship refers to absolute friendship in all areas of life across narrow sentimental views that have their roots in the economics of the Kingdoms. Actually, a comrade is a valuable human resource which can not simply be retrieved from the archive of one’s traditional kingdom. By nature, there is nothing wrong with the economics of traditional Kingdoms as such. Unfortunately, the mentality of the people born out of the economics of traditional Kingdoms is dominated by outdated preferential choices to invest only in their traditional homesteads. That means Namibians are still stuck in the Economics of the traditional Kingdoms where tribal attributes are the dominant guiding principles of the economy. Their approach to development is a serious stumbling block to Vision 2030 and is indeed unconstitutional. It is unconstitutional in the sense that the Constitution does not identify local investors on the basis of their traditional Kingdoms. What we have is a Constitution which views Namibians as people who are free to invest in any part of the country without being intimidated by the element of being a non-member of a particular kingdom. It is much clearer now that if you are born out of the ba-Yeyi or ba-Himba Kingdom and you are found to have invested as little as 3 million in the Ohangwena Region, the possibility of being excommunicated by your kingdom is much higher. They will say you are a useless son and are going to argue as follows: “Why do you invest so much in a region which is not yours? It was proper for you to invest that money in Katima Mulilo.” But why should one be forced to invest in his/her region of birth if the mathematics of economics suggests a negative rate of return? For instance, what is happening today is that those from the Kwangali Kingdom prefer to invest in the Kwangali Kingdom or in the Rundu city because Rundu is regarded as their hometown. Kwanyamas and Ndongas prefer to invest in their respective kingdoms or in the circumference of Oshakati because this is the most approximate place to their cattle posts. Hereros are comfortable when they invest their resources in the Herero homesteads or in the Omaheke horizon. Equally true, the ba-Fwe, ba-Subia and the ba-Yeyi of the Zambezi River have their investment minds glued to their traditional Kingdoms in the Caprivi Region. On this point, corrections are necessary: There is a material mistake regarding the identity of Namibians who were born in the Caprivi Region. Mistakenly, all Namibians who were born in the Caprivi Region are generally referred to as Caprivians even when they are based in the Khomas or in the Erongo Region. This is legally out of order because it is against the legal principles of Domicile by Choice. For the purpose of being consistent, why are people who were born in Omaheke not referred to as Omahekeans or those born in the Hardap Region as Hardapians? It would be fair and reasonable to our ancestors and also to the principles of democracy to refer to people who were born in the Caprivi Region by their actual tribes rather than by name of the region. It should therefore be emphasized that all nationals of the ba-Fwe, ba-Subia and ba-Yeyi decent are NOT sons and daughters of the colonial German Officer, Mr Caprivi, and are strictly not required to carry his name wherever they go. In line with the economics of the traditional Kingdoms, it is evident in all cycles of the investment profile that the decision on where to invest is usually driven by traditional homestead alignments or ties rather than by economic potentials. This used to work well during the time of the Kingdoms because the economics of traditional Kingdoms was to a great degree operating as a perfectly closed system. Such a system served the purpose of conserving cultural values, resources and military strategies. However, the flow of goods and services tended to be constrained by a series of transport deficiencies which undermined the relaxation of trade between kingdoms. But with independence, it is important to understand that the economics of traditional kingdoms is no longer the norm for economic progress and the emancipation of the poor. This is precisely because the servitude and also the monetary infrastructure of such an economy is totally against any form of a broad-based diversification approach to any existing macro-economic space within the modernity model of development. All along, I am disturbed by the fact that if the economics of traditional Kingdoms is taken as the general formula or model for investment in Namibia, then we must know that our current attempts to reduce poverty as well as inequality are meaningless. For instance, regions like Kunene and others are likely to be intentionally undermined by the governing principles of traditional Kingdoms and will not capture any direct benefits from the invested resources of any millionaire born out of the Kavango or Oshana Kingdoms. The so-called Kingdom-bound economics has significantly contributed to poverty in Africa. It failed to unlock the rivers of wealth and had continued to counteract the stimulation of the economic multiplier of the proceeds arising from growth and development. The reason being the fact that many sons and daughters of the Kingdoms are forced to hold on their wealth without investing it in other Kingdoms mainly because the allocation of land is determined by Kingdom economics where only the descendents of the kingdom are entitled to own a piece of land within that particular Kingdom. Worse of all, some young businesses which could have done well elsewhere continue to die at an infancy stage just because they are being established only for the sake of being loyal to one’s respective traditional Kingdom. Sound economics tells us that if demand is constant or lagging behind supply then profit will either evaporate or continue to dwindle as more firms that produce the same product enters the market. The policy directive which can be drawn from this first-year university economics is that if all ten hotels in your traditional Kingdom are already operating at a loss, then you need to establish your new hotel in the Kunene Kingdom where there is only one hotel which is always fully booked. But what is common is that too many business enterprises are often concentrated in one Kingdom usually also because the sons and daughters of that particular Kingdom are unable to think business-wise beyond their traditional Kingdom. As a result, many small-scale business ventures end-up trapped in the liquid of poverty, officially known in macro-economics as the “liquidity trap”. There is enough evidence which suggests that developed countries do not operate on the basis of the economics of traditional Kingdoms. Usually, nationals of most developed countries do not invest locally on the basis of tradition homesteads. Their approach to investment is highly mobile and is driven by what actually constitutes economic demand and supply. Unfortunately, my people are not yet free from the ideology of their ancestral Kingdoms. It is also common to note that even our white brothers and sisters have also assumed Windhoek as their traditional Kingdom. As one travels in the northern part of Namibia, it appears as if there are no whites in this country. Worse of all, some of our white brothers and sisters are holding on their wealth and are reluctant to undertake some aggressive investment initiatives outside their traditional Kingdom, Windhoek. Overall, we need to understand and accept the fact that the advent of our independence abolished the economics of traditional kingdoms as well as its egocentric materials. But our Kings, now wrongly referred to as Chiefs, remained intact and will remain in power forever. So, it is only the traditional economy which must be restructured to accommodate the fundamental principles of the aggregate demand model which incorporates the Assets Market as well as the Goods Market in a nutshell to bolster diversity as well as liberalization. Based on aggregate demand modelling, I am confident to argue that all the regions of the Republic of Namibia are Constitutionally mine and I am Constitutionally free to invest wherever I want, and not necessarily in my domicile of origin. Equally, all Namibians are free to cross the borders of their Kingdoms and thus proceed with their investment endeavours outside the Kingdoms of their birth-rite. In summary, this article says that you can invest in your traditional Kingdom if it is economically prudent to do so and that don’t invest in your traditional Kingdom if the prospects to do so are economically absurd. – Dr Mupoti Sikabongo is the head of Impact Assessments and Pollution Control in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

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