Our History Needs Writing

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ONE of the most disturbing things in Namibia today is the lack of resolve and fear by many Namibians to write books about their own history and country. It is mind-boggling that a people who are so proud of their country and its history are so fearful and reluctant to write books to recount events about recent history in which they played a part. This is a sorry state of affairs. Sad as it is, the history of Namibia – particularly its latter part – is being buried and taken to the graves by those who were custodians of the proud resistance of the people. Emil Appolus, a genius and smart journalist of his time, Jariretundu Kozonguizi, a brilliant barrister, Peter Mweshihange, a soft spoken committed revolutionary, Dimo Hamaambo, a tough battle commander, Moses Garoeb, the gifted orator and articulate former Swapo Secretary General, Daniel Tjongarero, a master communicator – they have all passed on. Imagine if these men and others had written personal accounts of the beginning of our struggle for independence or personal stories about their sojourns in foreign lands in search of freedom and knowledge or stories about home in the heat of the moment. They would have bequeathed a wealth of knowledge to would-be historians and students of politics of generations to come about where it all started. It is true that a lot of historical materials about our country have been deposited elsewhere in foreign archives in some of our former colonial cities. This limits access to such materials. While efforts must continue to recover such materials for posterity sake, Namibians must take the lead in seeking to document what they know about the trials and tribulations of this young nation. We are not short of people that know our recent history. This nation has some of the most gifted sons and daughters who were in the thick of things when their contribution was needed the most. Some have laid down their lives. Others have survived to tell the story. The question is when are they going to do it? The onus is also on our intellectuals, especially those at tertiary institutions, to research and write books on Namibia, its history, culture and people. They must invest their knowledge in society. We are a modern nation and cannot rely simply on oral history and story-telling. Books and other literature will go a long way to ensure a reading culture in this country that currently does not exist. Books will enrich the knowledge of young people about past and contemporary history. Indeed, former President Sam Nujoma has written a volume about the Namibian struggle and his own life in his biography – ‘Where Others Wavered’. It is good that he has done that. Helao Shituwete, Professor Peter Katjavivi, Chief Kuaima Riruako, Dr Zedekia Ngavirue, Dr Marcus Shivute, Mathew Gowaseb, Helmut Angula and others have also published books. Others must do the same. Individuals who participated in the struggle in exile have so much to tell, each one in his/her own way and in his/her own words. Those who stayed at home and engaged the oppressors from within have so much to tell about their escapades with those who brutally suppressed the people. One of the reasons why some of those who have knowledge of the goings-on during the struggle do not write books – we gather – is that they do not want to court controversy. It is all about fear. Lack of resources or money and skills to write could be contributing factors but for some, it is simply fear, fear of offending others, fear of not knowing how their writings would be received, fear of being critical and self-critical. In short, we seem to be a nation that is still afraid of itself, its own shadow. Unless, we overcome this fear, there is every possibility that others will write our history for us and how sad that would be.

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