Kavango: a time bomb

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Addressing the United Nations Security Council last month, President Geingob reminded the world of the need to guarantee equitable distribution not only of wealth, but decision-making to all the sections for purposes of peace and stability. He emphasized: ‘… the experience of the past 70 years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the financial agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises.’

In the context of Namibia the Namibian Head of State told the world: ‘It is Namibia’s strong view that the 2015 development agenda is a historic opportunity to eradicate extreme poverty and lead us to a world of prosperity, sustainability, equity and dignity for all.’
The entity we celebrate as Namibia was not a creation of the inhabitants of this vast territory in Southern Africa, but a direct consequence of European adventurism and subsequent rivalry for spheres of influence on the Afrikan continent. Without the infamous Berlin Conference that took place in the German capital from November 1884 through February 1885, and by which Afrika was redesigned to suit and serve the interests of the European potentates who assembled there with the sole purpose of recreating Afrika in their own image, we would not be one nation as we are today. After the migration at different intervals, people settled in different parts of the country as independence entities with their own socio-political and administrative systems. These communities took residence in different parts of modern day Namibia today after they migrated from northern parts of Afrika in search of better opportunities or in some cases to escape brutal rules of their traditional leaders. This explains in part the mushrooming of traditional authorities and their leaderships in Namibia since independence. These are people trying to assert themselves in manners that they believe ought to have been had they not been colonized and subjected to white minority rule. It is important to appreciate this side of our history alongside the better talked about part of colonialism and white minority rule, and the unfortunate black-white skirmishes that led to untold suffering. History would also show that there were moments of black on black violence and oppression with and without colonial pressures. Certain tribes were taken as slaves by stronger ones in the course of our history in Afrika generally and in Namibia specifically. Nowhere in Afrika did the struggles for liberation undo the age-old differences between tribes and/or ethnic groups in Afrka. It is also not a bad thing to have these enclaves of self-definitions and meanings.
In the 1980s Jackson and Jackson authored a seminal book wherein they argued that part of the difficulty in post-independence Afrika is the reality that the new political leaders in independent countries are those who would not have been leaders had it not been for colonialism.
This means that those who constituted themselves into political organizations that took up the fight against oppression invariably did not come from the rulerships in Afrika, but emerged out of the enterprise of fighting for independence. Therefore when this slot assumes power, their preoccupation is not only to restore dignity upon the previously oppressed masses, but also to frustrate the organic traditional and cultural leaderships of their people. At the same time, these traditional systems agitate to re-emerge and possibly reinvent themselves at the costs of the new state. As a result the usual state-society struggle ensues at the expense of national sustainable economic development.
It would appear that the leadership in post-independence Namibia did not do enough to address and obviate potential reactions from communities who would at some point or other, feel disaffected by government policy and assert themselves in unpleasant ways. The terrible episode that came in the wake of the Caprivi secessionist opportunism in 1998 is a different matter altogether as that was orchestrated by disgruntled political ethnic entrepreneurs who acted in bad faith. There are other and greater challenges that must be faced in the management of diversity, not only along the lines of race and gender, but ethnic and tribal configurations of people.
President Geingob has awakened this self-definitional difficulties with his invocation that in the Namibian House no one should be left out. As a result people have begun to search for themselves in this new house and they do not see themselves anywhere in this house, as all the seats are taken by others. This picture is complicated by three factors, namely (a) the demographic arrangement in this house cannot be left to chance, but must be done manually; (b) the struggle for independence did not cause all to arrive at the entrance of this house at the same time and with the same claims to belong, and therefore the logic of residing in this house must be packaged and communicated differently from a normal human settlement scenario; and (c) it might be very necessary to ask certain residents in this house to vacate their seats in order to make room for those outside through no fault of their own. This is the background that led to the enactment of Affirmative Action policies and later employment equity measures.
Unlike South Africa that went further in its confrontation of the past discriminations with the aim to set the record straight and level the playing field for those who were left behind because of the past practices, Namibia stopped at race and gender. South Africa’s affirmative action and employment equity measures go further to urge all state institutions to create workforces that resemble the demographic realities on the ground of the country. In other words, all sectors must make an effort to have a workforce with a demographic distribution like the country is. That means that an organization cannot have more Zulus in the work environment if the Zulus are a minority on the streets, because that is provocative in the medium and long runs. In our context therefore, the government ought to be more assertive and deliberate in its recruitment and employment measures to make sure, for purposes of peace and stability, that all government service organizations, ministries and agencies, as partners in employment creation and poverty alleviation, enforce measures in their spheres of influence to guarantee that no group or community feels unfairly left out.
This logic shows immediately that the people in Kavango (now East and West) have been left out. Here are the easy facts: Kavango, even before the region was split into two, constituted the second highest ethnic population group in the country, second only to the Aawambo. Any census, old and new, reveals this at a glance. Yet in all government structures, there is no recognition of this reality. The people in the two Kavango regions produce election results. Yet the Kavangos are grossly underrepresented in all national government structures. Other groups who rank very low in the population count are over-represented. Consider the following:
• Of the 28 cabinet positions, there are only two occupied by people from Kavango, and for that matter both are from Kavango East, and both are Roman Catholic whereas the Lutheran Church (the Lutheran Owambo-Kavango Church) played a more assertive role in the liberation struggle. This means that Kavango West is totally absent from the executive;
• Of all the 32 Deputy Ministers, there is NOT ONE from Kavango, either East or West;
• Of all the 35 Permanent Secretaries, there is ONLY ONE from Kavango;
• Of all the ambassadors Namibia has in the world, there is ONLY ONE ambassador from Kavango, and Kavango East;
• Of the eight presidential candidates to the National Assembly after the elections, NOT ONE was from Kavango, East or West;
• Of the CEOs of all the 79 established state owned enterprises, ONLY TWO are from Kavango;
• Of all the current A-Team Presidential Advisors, there is NOT ONE from Kavango, either East or West;
• Of all the 12 UNAM campuses in the country, there is NOT ONE principal from Kavango.
The picture gets more interesting – it cannot be argued that Kavango does not have people to take up these positions, for Kavangos are just as qualified or unqualified as any other group in the land. There is more. It would appear that the majority of security guards in the government system are from Kavango. Politics is about managing resources for, with, and on behalf of the people. The problem that leads to our post-colonial challenges in Afrika is the absence of the WITH. Afrikan leaders forget that the problem that led to the struggles for self-rule was precisely the lack of WITH in the administrations of the colonies. It is the WITH that is the problem here in Afrika. Policies could be good and even in the interests of the people, but as long as they are absent from the tables where decisions are made. They are not included. The story of the South American community that refused to accept a very magnificent facility that pain built for their own good comes to mind. Upon the completion of the constitution of the impressive building, they looked at it and exclaimed: Si, es bueno, pero no es el nuestro (Yes it is beautiful, but it is not ours!)
The late American Senator Tipp O’Neill once warned that all politics is local. We live in a political world wherein people want to be part of what is done in their name, and they want to take ownership of and also account for what happens in their lives. What is good for the goose must be good for the gander. It is logical that when people feel left out, they either accept or rebel.
A hallmark of leadership is not to allow things to go to the extent that good citizens consider doing things that are not good for the welfare of the collective, but a collective is just as good as it delivers to the individuals in it. A stable society is one wherein all the parts feel equally represented or represented to its measure, so that no one has a reason to say: Nothing About Us, Without Us. How would you feel if you mattered in producing election results, but are not missed during the times of decision-making over your life? And for how long? If you do not believe this is important, just ask those who are left out. Better yet. Look at history and see what happened when people realized that they were left out, and decided that they could not take it anymore!

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