Some unfortunate tribal hate statements made by some relatively prominent Namibian citizens lately have laid bare the extent to which the vices of tribalism, ethnocentrism and racism are deeply entrenched in our society.
But what actually is the problem with racism, ethnocentrism and tribalism? They are premised on prejudice, discrimination and antagonism directed against others that are perceived to be different, in the false belief that one’s race, ethnicity or tribe is superior, whereas the other’s is inferior.
Such beliefs often translate into attitudes and behaviour or actions that favour relatives, leading to nepotism.
It is important to ponder what fuels the vices of ethnicity and tribalism in our country. We are all in unison in blaming it on apartheid colonialism, whose objective was to perpetually rule over us by ensuring we remained weak by dividing us.
However, by uniting and pursuing a common objective of liberating our country, we achieved our independence! We should, therefore, have learned by now that united we stand, but divided we fall!
Apartheid’s contribution to the cracks showing within our society is hundred percent or more. But whilst we blame apartheid, we should also be mindful of the multiplier effect of the vices of tribalism, such as entitlement, collusion and inducement, as these must not become the natural way of doing things.
Tribalists are very determined to establish tribal enterprises that would benefit them.
We have strong and democratic institutions in our republic that must be brought to bear on the problems of racism, ethnicity and tribalism, because these vices retard national development and blunt our efforts to deepen democracy.
It is unacceptable that an individual is given so much time and space to freely and repeatedly insult, provoke and threaten with violence a whole tribe and ethnic group, as the chief executive officer of Bukalo Village Council has repeatedly done.
To expect that the Mafwe tribe, who were grossly insulted must be the ones that must now lay criminal charges, take revenge, or retributive action against the culprit is to be uncaring, unconcerned and an affirmation that we do not share in the value of a united Namibian nation, in which no one feels left behind.
Apathy and inaction is a gift to tribal playmakers and, therefore, not an option. Equally there is no time to massage tribalists and racists – we must deal with them resolutely!
The Racial Discrimination Prohibition Amendment Act 26 of 1991 criminalises hate speech and incitement of racial disharmony, whereas the Riotous Assembly Act 17 of 1957 criminalises acts which constitute an incitement to public violence.
Equally under common law, crimen injuria or defamation of character with the objective of violating the dignity of persons from another ethnic group are punishable offences.
We are a diverse society, which is a given and we have no alternative but to embrace our diversity and manage it. The purpose of nationalism was to defeat racism, ethnocentrism and to weaken tribal loyalty.
Our nation will thrive if we sincerely promote dialogue and conflict resolution. A civic education that changes the mindset and that inculcates our values of solidarity, justice, freedom, love and loyalty to our country and people is imperative in our education system.
I, therefore, condemn in the strongest terms all the hate speeches being made by our citizens. I appeal for urgent and resolute action from the relevant powers.