Scourge of tribalism: the fault lines


There is absolutely nothing wrong in belonging to a tribe. All of us should be proud to belong to a tribe because in Africa it is tribes that became nations. The reversion to tribalism in recent times has created consternation among the citizens of our country. This is especially evident on commentary in the media, including social media.

What is especially worrisome is that even young people have jumped onto this bandwagon. It is sad when young people call each other Kwangalas, stupid Vambos, etc. In Namibia, there are still parents who encourage their children not to marry someone who is not from the same tribe as them. It must be concerning to all of us that the stigma of tribalism stays with the tribesmen and women when one is wounded because of their tribe. In truth, the worst things are said in private.

What we hear in the public is just the dessert of the lion’s feast.
With intermarriages and movement across the land, one would have assumed that the tribe would fall in favour of nationalism. Twenty-six years after independence, it should have become difficult to create an identity out of tribes.

Unfortunately tribes have become a defence of our fault lines. One needs to go back to the election campaign of 1989 (after the various AG proclamations were torn apart to dismantle the homelands) to find a period in time when Namibians were most united along tribal lines.
It is fair to assume that the excitement of independence consumed all our prejudices such that we forgot we belonged to tribes. Seemingly, we have fallen back into the Bantustan mentality.

What went wrong? All of us must necessarily take our share of the blame in the rise of the tribe. The likelihood is that if I am a Minister from Zambezi region, all my personal staff would necessarily come from Zambezi region – if not my village.

The Office of the President needs to be commended in being one of the most inclusive public offices in the country. When fellow tribesmen and women are prioritised in the appointment of Chief Executive Officers and Directors of Boards, the tribe wins. Beyond the realm of politics, Public Enterprises must also participate in the killing of tribalism in the pursuance of the public good. When only people from Zambezi region are the only ones deemed qualified to work at NEPC, it is wrong, and the tribe wins.

Tribalism holds development hostage and holds our country back. We need to think more about us being Namibians first than the tribes that divide us. The reality is that a significant number of Namibians live below the poverty line.

And poverty does not discriminate against one tribe in favour of the other. The tribe must not guarantee anyone anything. Talent and capability must. Therefore the tribe must not win.

Dr Audrin Mathe,
Editor in Chief and Chief Executive Officer of New Era Publication Corporation


  1. You are in part wrong Dr. Mathe, we’ve always been tribes before being Namibians and we can only succeed if we embrace and believe that Namibia is a Nation of Tribes/made from Tribes, the problem is that we tend to confuse evil vices of corruption, nepotism, poor government decisions like importing so many Chinese and Zimbabweans into our country without considering the consequences,even when all signs are there to see.Our government turns a blind eye to corruption,the practice has become semi-official in our country, that’s the problem and that drives people back into tribal inclinations when natives realise there’s nothing left good for them.Stop the Chinese and Zimbabweans already,we owe them nothing!


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