Former Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) member of parliament Heikko Lucks tells managing editor Toivo Ndjebela about his party’s fall from grace and how whites continue to be the punching bags of the country’s inequality realities.
Toivo Ndjebela (TN): Who, in your own words, is Heikko Lucks?
Heikko Lucks (HL): I was born in Walvis Bay in 1972. My parents moved to Windhoek when I was three years old so I can’t really say I’m a resident of Walvis Bay. I grew up and schooled in Windhoek. I studied engineering at the University of Stellenbosch and I got involved in politics in 2009 about two years after the RDP was established. I have been a member of RDP ever since and I was in parliament for five years on the RDP ticket. Currently I’m a member of the central committee and national executive committee of the party, so I’m still involved in party politics. I’m also a businessman.
TN: Many Namibian politicians abandon smaller parties once they (politicians) have lost their seats in parliament? What’s keeping you around in RDP?
HL: I never joined the RDP for any positions or to go to parliament. I joined the party in order to help effect change in our country.
TN: You had an avalanche of political choices. Why did you choose RDP?
HL: I saw RDP as a party that had representation all over Namibia. It’s not a tribal party. Many other opposition parties have strong representation from particular tribes, but RDP is represented from south to north, east to west. Also, the calibre of leadership within the RDP showed this is the party that I wanted to join. I’ve never been a member of any other party, so RDP is the first and only party I’ve been involved with.
TN: I’m told Michaela Huebschle was key in luring you to RDP. How did it happen?
HL: It happened in 2009 when the party was busy putting its structures in place and they needed a treasurer for Windhoek East Constituency. I was approached with the request whether I wanted to become the treasurer for the area, which I agreed to. Michaela was also the one who introduced me to our founding president, Hidipo Hamutenya and the entire party.
TN: What is your family’s political background?
HL: My family is really apolitical. They never supported a particular party. My parents and my sisters were never members of any party. They voted whoever promised to deliver what my family believed spoke to their aspirations.
TN: What are your observations as to why many white Namibians show little interest in local politics?
HL: It is starting to change now, but it’s true that for too long they were not interested in politics. The feeling with most whites is that they have been sidelined since independence and that there isn’t enough space for them. Many whites feel they are being blamed for apartheid and everything that happened before independence although the vast majority of them were really not involved. They were in a system in which they had no choice. It’s a system that was imposed on them too. Many of them then felt ‘let the black people do the politics and we’ll do the business’. For many years, that was the general sentiment.
TN: But is it far-fetched to say that whites were beneficiaries of apartheid and that something needed to be done to bring blacks closer economically?
HL: Yes, whites were beneficiaries of the system. Apartheid was a system where white people could really flourish. After independence, many whites recognised that it was time for the majority to rule. They felt they should take a back seat as far as political involvement is concerned. Of course some felt they should be involved because white people have a lot to contribute to this country.
TN: What are you views on Namibia’s policy of national reconciliation?
HL: On the one side it worked. We’ve had peace since independence. If I look to our neighbours South Africa, their racial tensions are larger than ours here at home. On the other hand, it didn’t work. Many white people are still being sidelined. Things like NEEEF point to a situation where those who are ruling us don’t see everybody as equal. If NEEEF is implemented it would be a law that sees people on the basis of their skin colour and that to me shows that reconciliation isn’t 100 percent in place. You can’t say all whites had an advantage. We have poor and jobless whites in this country. We can’t make a law that works against them.
TN: If you were in charge of this country today, with all its well documented history of racial segregation, what would be your approach to narrowing the gap between blacks and whites?
HL: Firstly, we need to be more honest. The inequalities that currently exist in this country are not between blacks and whites. They are between the rich and poor. It is a fallacy that white people still control business or national resources. If I were President I would make it a priority to be honest about the situation. The number of working whites in Namibia is about 15 000. So whites are not a threat to jobs. Blacks are dominating the management structures of parastatals too. Whites are not decision-makers in the country. So let’s be honest in addressing this issue.
TN: You lost your seat in parliament due to RDP’s dwindling support. What did the party do wrong to lose so many supporters?
HL: We lost focus. There was a lot of infighting. Hidipo Hamutenya was getting older and there were those who were positioning themselves to replace him, which for a new party was not an ideal situation. It would have been ideal for the founding leaders of the party to remain in their positions for longer. The infighting made us lose focus on the electorate that we promised things because we instead focused on ourselves internally. We were no longer the ideal political alternative that we wanted to be. We have to get back to the drawing board and correct our mistakes. Our plan for this country is an excellent one so we just have to focus better.
TN: Political scientists would argue that any political party needs to remain visible in order to increase its support but for some reason your party is one of the quietest, despite so many things happening in the country….
HL: You are 100 percent right. One of the things we’re doing wrongly at the moment is us not being vocal or seen. It’s sad, but that’s true. If we need to make any difference in this country we need to get some of the basics right.
TN: Finally, Hidipo Hamutenya’s resignation from RDP did not go down well with some members of the party. Did you attend his funeral or memorial service?
HL: Yes, I was one of the pallbearers and I am grateful to the Hamutenya family for asking me to be one of the pallbearers. I visited the family a few times during that period. I attended the memorial service and the burial at Heroes Acre.