One of life’s eternal questions is: What is our life worth if it does not contribute to a better future and the greater good of the people?
If, 50 to 100 years from now, a movie is made about us for the generation that will watch it, what will their take be on the way in which: (a) we related to one another as races, genders, tribes, ethnic groups, religious communities, people of our age groups, members of political parties that existed; (b) today’s political leaders ran our national affairs in the name of the people; and (c) how we as a generation that ought to have known better than the previous ones, exercised greater responsibility to mortgage a better future?
In other words, come 100 years from today, how do we wish to be remembered? Put differently, what would we like to be said in our eulogies? These are questions that most political leaders do not dare to ask themselves, because the answers are very scary and are likely to make any one of us vulnerable.
Great leaders who changed the world, such as Jesus of Nazareth, Father Martinus Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, Fidel Castro Rus, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, took quiet moments to wrestle with this question. It is in trying to answer it that they developed a profoundly humane inclination to treat other human beings as they wish to be treated.
One is almost certain that slave traders and owners who received human cargo from Afrika as possessions and built their wealth on slaves’ backs, the white supremacists who inflicted so much suffering on the indigenous people of Namibia from 1884 through 1990 (especially 1904 through 1908), the apartheid practitioners of South Africa and beyond, or the operators of Koevoet and the likes, never got around to dealing with these questions.
If they did, their conduct would been different altogether. This lot was too preoccupied with their immediate satisfaction, safety and self-aggrandisement. They were so caught up with the immediate glory that they forgot there was a future without them. Hence, they say that history hates those who build castles for themselves.
Leaders who are wrapped up in their own glory at the expense of the people make extremely small parcels such that when they die, even those who held them as friends forget about them and even wish that they were not known at all. This is the memory of most white South Africans, who hate to be reminded how loyal they were to a system that once appeared invincible.
Today there are hardly any people who supported apartheid – to the extent that they lie about where they were and what they did. In our context here in Namibia, there is hardly anybody who once supported the colonial system, such that even people who were high beneficiaries of apartheid turned coats and became war veterans.
The loudest and most intolerant members of the unquestionable liberation struggle that was led by Swapo are members who joined the party at quarter past twelve – that is after independence. They too claim to have brought about the liberation when they were clearly on the opposite side of the struggle.
Then there is the syndicate that has internalised a falsehood and self-righteousness that those who were in exile are more Namibian than others, as they have fought better than those inside. Many of us, in order to sound right and qualify for a government tender here and there, are living a lie.
No wonder we have such nightmares, as we struggle with our own memories, nevermind to answer the question how we wish to be remembered. There is a teaching that says those who do not learn from history are likely to hate their own recollection of what they once lived through.
Let us fast-forward to 2030. People will speak of us in less flattering terms than we speak of those who walked in chains in 1904 and who were willing to die fighting for a future gravely unknown to them; the men at Sam !Khubis on May 8, 1915 who on bended knees looked heavenward and interceded for victory in defense of the victimised women and children, yet unsung in our selfish days; those men who were there in 1959 when SWANU was formed to inspire a spirit of freedom for all Namibians in the future; in 1960, when SWAPO was formed, in 1966, when the gallant fighters sacrificed their best for what we have today, namely freedom; the generation of youth that left their homesteads in the dead of night to cross the border northwards in their prime and lost their youth for our Land of the Brave; the many from all corners of the country who offered their bodies to the Swapo leadership to fight for a future most likely without them in it; the workers of 1971, who braved the bayonets of the white extractive economy and staged gallant resistance; the churchmen who responded to their call and reminded the occupationist regime that Namibia belonged to her people; the youthful students who in their restlessness channeled their energies to care about the future, instead of the past; and those who returned still defiant and joined other Namibians and together bequeathed unto us a Testament of Hope, the Constitution of the Republic.
How shall we be spoken of: that we came, ruled, ate all up, got bloated and died under the heaps of tender documents and business cards? How will our leaders today be remembered: that they ordered their subordinates to hurt and vilify other Namibians, because they dared to spell out freedom? That the leaders’ echo meant silence of all voices?
That the teaching was that there were some Namibians who were more Namibian than others? That history had only one side? The temporary winner’s side? Who will history vindicate?
If we were already 50 years ahead of our time and we were to rewrite our presence and our contributions backwards – will we as a generation that is more informed and enlightened than the previous one not say that we wish we lived out the true meaning of our national motto: unity, liberty and justice?
- That we respected the battle cry that One Namibia One Nation meant that the country belongs to all who live in it, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language and party political affiliation;
- we assisted wherever we were to shape a country that offered everybody an equal opportunity to be and become and participate, according to their talent in the life of their communities;
- we were less self-righteous and more generous to create a stronger foundation for the wellbeing of all of us, and especially those not yet born;
- we thought and talked more about the future of our children and less about our own convenience; we had religious leaders with conviction and courage to speak the truth to power, instead of being the ruling party at prayer;
- we had a civil society that engaged the government in mortgaging a better country, instead of being a community with begging bowls and complaints;
- we were a country with an energetic and disciplined youth to challenge all sectors to care more about the people than themselves;
- we changed the Constitution while we could to make sure the party system that delivers people to the legislature is not false and that we changed it to allow legislators to be elected directly by the people who sent them;
- we desisted the temptation of sending stooges under the pretense that they were governors of the regions when they were actually puppets of the President, at best commissioners of the President;
- we took the bull by the horns and cut the size of the executive branch of government to a size more practical and commensurate with the size of the population;
- we introduced term limits to the executive to allow for change and transformation of thoughts and practices;
- we moved the capital out of Windhoek to Otjiwarongo, while the population was still young so as to have a capital equidistant from North and South and to re-engineer Republican life;
- we had enough courage to regulate property prices so as to make living affordable, not only for the rich and corrupt, but for most;
- we built a fully-fledged National University of Agriculture, based in Katima Mulilo to attract students, teachers and researchers from all of southern Afrika and beyond;
- we built a National Academy for Sports Studies, based in Tsumkwe to attract athletes, trainers and sports medicine researchers from the continent;
- we negotiated and persuaded the People’s Republic of Angola to open up an oil refinery plant in Oshana Region to facilitate the mobility of fuel in the region, instead of relying on far off shores;
- we had the foresight and maturity to channel our energies by re-establishing a special relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany to guarantee a home away from home to Germans who have historical ties with Namibia, such that the Goethe Institute, with all its activities be stationed in Windhoek where any Afrikan student learning German would be exposed to German right here on the continent;
- we were able to recast a Pan-Africanist foreign policy doctrine that would make Namibia an organic home for Afrikans in the Diaspora;
- we were able to revamp our thinking and strategies towards education and training to reduce our dependency on South Africa, yet maintain special arrangements with three neighbouring countries: Angola, Botswana and South Africa;
- we used our moral and international standing to champion education reform in the SADC region towards a regional education system that would allow a child in any of the member countries to enter education facilities anywhere in the region without prejudice;
- we were able to persuade other Afrikan states to establish an Afrikan Institute for Peace Studies, based in Keetmanshoop;
- we leveraged our historical relationship with the Republic of Botswana to co-establish a Regional Academy for Animal Husbandry, based in Epukiro in Omaheke Region;
- we established a National College of Education and English Language based in Rundu;
- we built a National School of Hospitality Studies based in Usakos in Erongo Region;
- we did not valourise and exaggerate bogus, fake and solidarity academic degrees and titles awarded for the wrong reasons;
- we were a nation that did not recycle people in executive positions, who do not add value, and for reasons that have nothing to do with the business at hand;
- we were a nation where fear does not impede our potential to become the model that we could be?
All these activities would have been geared towards rural development and decentralisation of the economy and decision-making grids. With all these efforts, our legacy would be firm in the minds of the coming generations that we went to the people, we lived with them, we loved them, we learned from them, we worked with what they had, and we started from what they knew.
With that the future generations will only say to us: “Thank you, we can now do things for ourselves.” Soli Deo Gloria!