A Namibian home may be better than a Namibian house

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“This is not a one-off achievement and over the course of my presidency I will advocate a Namibian house that is united, a Namibian house where all have a sense of belonging and a Namibian house where no one should feel left out,” said President Geingob at his inauguration as the third President of our Republic. At the time, the president rightly noted that Namibians have moved away from tendencies identifying themselves as close-knit families and have embraced diversity, which has buttressed the foundation of the Namibian house. This policy trajectory towards the mystic Namibian house has become an anthem in government corridors. It is a noble pronouncement and could be a great policy. It has, nonetheless, generated divergent views. Others believe that it is not just an anthem but a government policy statement, manifested in a battle cry towards consolidation of nationhood, and a desire to move towards a Namibian home. On the other hand, others are of the view that this is a smokescreen; empty words intended to hoodwink public opinion in favour of government. What should matter the most, however, are steps to be undertaken by government through national programmes to translate this slogan (a Namibian house) into tangible and identifiable results that benefit the Namibian people at large.

Conversely, policies, slogans, statements or anthems should always be in tandem with their intended messages. In this case, the euphemism “Namibian house” should be unambiguous in word and deed. One can build a mansion for a diverse family, but if the attitude within the family is not right, the mansion will remain a white elephant with a squabbling family. The squabble most certainly may start from how certain members within the family are treated; who does the most chores without being recognized or appreciated; who enjoys the attention of the senior members of the family undeservedly; whose birthday is often forgotten and not celebrated; the list goes on. It is most certainly the duty of those in charge of the house – the parents – to set a good foundation of ensuring that every member of the family feels at home and receives the same treatment. Sounds like fairy tale, but those are the basics of a good family foundation.

The paradox of the Namibian house should go beyond its literal meaning. Literally, a house is a building in which a person or a family lives – in this case Namibia. The main difference between a house and a home is that a house is more concrete. House refers to a building in which someone lives. In contrast, a home can refer either to a building or to any location that a person thinks of as the place where he/she lives and that belongs to him/her. A home can be a house or an apartment, but it could also be a tent, a boat, or an underground cave. A home can even be something abstract, a place in your mind. When you say, “Let’s go home,” you are probably not talking simply about going to the physical structure where you live. You are talking about being in the special place where you feel most comfortable and that belongs to you. A home is a place where you have created a living for yourself, you are attached to it emotionally, it somehow becomes a part of you – it carries the notion of comfort, security, happiness and the like.

One would want to think along these lines in relation to the Namibian house being preached by the President. In a nutshell, it is important that government should lead the way for us to transform the prophetic Namibian house into a Namibian home, where all Namibians should have a sense of belonging.

• Dr Charles Mubita holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California.

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