When Frantz Fanon wrote in 1961 “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it” in his epoch-making book, The Wretched of the Earth, he must have had predicted the logical outcomes of the radical organic native intellectuals that Africa would produce, more so in post-Apartheid Namibia.
Analysed in part with Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony (2001), and “The Fall of the ANC” (2014) by Prince Mashele and Mzukisi Qobo, The Wretched of the Earth is reminiscent of the brain nectar sucking autocrat’s body, stomach like the sated rumen of a cow, lips hanging dry, dragged to the people’s court for having looted the state coffers with recycled elites, literally captured by the parasitic crony capitalism. The depiction is that of complete gluttony in the last of the empire.
This piece would attempt to put into perspective Fanonian theory, as it relates to post-Apartheid cultural expression in Namibia. More specifically, emphasis would be put into problematising the revolutionary thoughts of Fanon, property accumulation, and black economic freedom in its totality, with causal reference to power politics and the battle for ideas.
These problematics are explored through the positionality of Job Amupanda, Elijah Ngurare and Bernadus Swartbooi, by means of a summary of what they stand for and represent in the society. Precisely because Fanon’s work is central in the continuing critique of colonial, liberation and post-liberation political settings, so have been the works of Amupanda, Ngurare and Swartbooi in post-Apartheid Namibia.
It thus becomes critical and relevant to understand the philosophical outlook of these modern public intellectuals in the context of constructing a better Namibia for tomorrow.
Amupanda, Ngurare and Swartbooi all understand the historical context within which modern Namibia emanates. However, their views are not necessarily homogenous on political questions and economic outlook. But the central thrust is that they proceed from the vantage point of black consciousness and pan-Africanism, which posits black first, land first.
Central to Fanon’s thought was the liberation of the African countries and post-independent governance. In that he outlined the national consciousness and national objective conditions wherein which black folks find themselves and which objectives must not be abhorred. He maintained that as oppressed people, unity and consciousness of being a human being is critical.
He warned liberation movements from not deviating from the basic dictums of the liberation struggle which, are invariably liberty and freedom for collective development. Because Fanon understood the importance that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely – he precisely warned us against the culture of amassing wealth for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
Unfortunately, the liberation movement failed to learn. This has put Swapo in collision with the collective ideas and thoughts of Amupanda, Ngurare and Swartbooi. This is not surprising as the clash of ideas is unavoidable in part due to the continued oppressive nature of thought and actions by the liberation movement post-Apartheid. Amupanda, Ngurare and Swartbooi are not racists; they understand that blacks suffered principally for not being white, and that they should principally be put at the front seat of development.
That is precisely why their thoughts and outlook would be misunderstood. The anger and confusion they expressed in public is due in part to their analysis arrived at a logical conclusion that Swapo has assumed the mentality that is designated to confine the native in a confused and subservient position permanently.
All of them assumed critical positions against the black middle class and its nectar sucking habit from the skulls of the poor and the mortgaging of the land to the highest bidders. In this sense, the national bourgeoisie assumes the role of being a manager for the capitalist system. This is a sad reality in our country today.
Same as with Fanon, their contempt for the national bourgeoisie arises from the view that the impatient ruling class black elites insult the intelligence of the black people using collective rhetorical phrases such as ‘our people’ or our ‘Swapo party government’ while serving their own interests at the expense of the excluded black majority.
As Fanon argues, the black elites are merely good in perfecting the art of corruption. They feel that apart from the state capture the black elites are trapped in state political patronage. The black elites are rewarded on the basis of political loyalty and they therefore serve the interests of the state in exchange for a path leading to wealth accumulation through tenders and lucrative contracts.
To counter such tendencies, public intellectuals should provide an innovative set of ideas and ignite mass debates, thus speaking truth to the power. Public intellectuals should be engaged in public opinion, acting as guardians of public good in the face of a powerful state. From this perspective, Amupanda, Ngurare and Swartbooi are native public intellectuals deriving their mandate from the objective reality on the ground.