We Need Economic Liberty

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TOMORROW marks the seventeenth independence anniversary of Namibia since the country became free from oppressive colonialism imposed by a minority, racist, South African regime that had for long disenfranchised black Namibians on the basis of skin colour. Apart from being discriminated against and denied basic human rights vis-ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ -vis freedom of expression and the right to political representation, the economic playing field was not level and was tilted in favour of whites who enjoyed the best education, better medical services and had easy access to higher-paying jobs owing to their skin colour. Thousands of blacks were also uprooted from the best agricultural land and ended up being employed in menial positions where they slaved as farm hands. Social interaction across the colour – let alone ethnic – lines was limited by law. The regime used one of its tools – divide-and-rule – to good effect, confining the different tribes to various Bantustans where they had so-called “administrations” looking after their affairs. This unfortunate state of affairs triggered a mass exodus of progressive Namibians whose flight into exile culminated in a protracted struggle for independence that came at a very high price as thousands of SWAPO and other liberators made the ultimate sacrifice. The blood of these gallant fighters who were selfless in their quest to free their motherland from colonial dominion waters the independence that Namibia marks tomorrow and that only came with UN Resolution 435’s implementation. And of course the name Sam Nujoma and those of others would forever be linked to our independence. He is what Nelson Mandela is to South Africa or what Kwame Nkrumah is to Ghana. The UN-supervised hand-over of power to Namibia was a seismic event that reverberated across the world and served as a catalyst to events that led to the freedom of struggle icon Nelson Mandela and eventually ushered in a democratic era in that country. But as we toast our 17th independence anniversary thousands of our people are still without decent shelter while unemployment, poverty and the scourge of HIV/AIDS remains an ominous challenge. Though there have been notable achievements in the health, education, economic and other sectors, we still have to attain economic independence because not all are reaping the fruits of our hard-won liberty. And unless the situation changes for the better, it could undo our noble gains. On job creation, it seems our agricultural potential is yet to be fully realized as vast tracts of fertile virgin land still needs to be farmed on a commercial basis particularly in Caprivi, Kavango and other areas. Establishing several large farms could go a long way to address the issue of unemployment. Once we create jobs in the agronomic sector for such a multitude of people, we could broaden the tax base. State coffers may benefit from such jobs with more revenue collection. There are other spin-offs such as the establishment of a wide range of corresponding industries such as the suppliers of seed, fertilizers, packaging and the various service providers. We should invest more in agriculture so that we in turn eradicate the importation of corn, rice, wheat, tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes, onions, and other green vegetables. We will never be totally free unless we start feeding ourselves. Food security is vital for any self-respecting independent state and when a nation is able to feed its citizens it cannot be pushed around by others. The opposite is also true. Last but not least, as we celebrate seventeen years of independence, we must all work for peace and stability. Let us build bridges of peace and harmony across every community and for every individual. Long Live the People’s Republic of Namibia. Aluta Continua.