Government yesterday said it was dismayed by shocking images of youths in Swakopmund dressed in offensive gear honouring the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) – a white extremist movement that killed black people.
The youths were clad in the racially insensitive KKK gear during the Swakopmund Carnival (Küska-Maskenball), held at the coastal resort town last weekend.
The youths were dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan and others were dressed in labourers’ outfits and painted in blackface. Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used by performers to represent a black person.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, blackface was described as a practice that gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the ‘happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation’. “Their outfits were called ‘imaginative’ in the Allgemeine Zeitung in which it was published,” the statement said.
German daily Allgemeine Zeitung and its parent company Namibia Media Holdings yesterday apologised for the publication of the photos from Swakopmund – calling it an error of judgment and bad journalism.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana said the practice of glorifying the Ku Klux Klan is banned in Western countries and it is incomprehensible that a practice that was banned in Western countries, where it originated, is glorified in Namibia. “These individuals must be reminded that as much as it is enshrined in the Namibian Constitution that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression as well as freedom of thought, conscience and belief, they should be warned in the strongest terms that the Namibian government will not tolerate derogative and demeaning activities in the country,” Ua-Ndjarakana’s statement reads in part.
“This warning should be taken very seriously as these practices would force the government to put an end to gatherings of this nature as they threaten the unity, nation building, peace and stability enjoyed by all people who live in Namibia.” Article 23 (1) of the Namibian Constitution stipulates that the practice of racial discrimination and the practice and ideology of apartheid under which the majority of the people of Namibia suffered for so long is prohibited by the Act of Parliament, and punishable by law. “It should also be noted that the right of freedom of speech and expression must be exercised in consideration of and harmonious with other rights.”
The organisers of the event apologised on Tuesday, conceding there was poor judgement on their part for allowing the controversial costumes at the carnival.
“In hindsight, we acknowledge that certain ways of dressing are not suitable because they are offensive or disrespectful. We made a wrong choice in admitting the groups in question to the event,” they said.