The year 2016 ended on a note many never expected, and on which I am certain the protagonists never intended. Our country is at a tipping point, calling for leadership at all levels of society. We are called upon to place the country first, whatever the consequences! We are also called to earnestly consider our national project, beyond the sloganeering of an undefined house, in whose hallways the residents step on each other’s toes as they seek to navigate the night of an unresolved racial and ethnic legacy.
A country consists of different ethnic groupings, all of whom are very essential in giving it a national identity. The nation has been at pains to forge a nation-building strategy, beyond racial reconciliation. Do we subsume our individual ethnic identities into some amalgamated national identity, or do we acknowledge and appropriately place our historical and cultural journeys in perspective, seek to address historic injustices, and ordain a destiny where no citizen of our great nation requires an invitation nor an apology to claim their place as they are. We sadly still have a considerable journey to travel before our nation can enjoy a level of cohesion that warrants it to claim nationhood. In the interim we are forced to endure interactions between the different tribes and classes, which have over the last two years in particular left much to be desired.
After independence, the late Nathaniel Maxuilili – when asked how he felt about Sam Nujoma (Founding President) being president and not him – stated that Nujoma came with 44 000 people (minority) from exile and Swapo won with more than 300 000 (majority). What the lion of Erongo meant is that we all need each other, but we all cannot be leaders.
Whatever our actions, whatever the unintended consequences thereof, no group, tribe or race in this country can live exclusively from the other. We are called upon to undertake a genuine introspective reflection, and resist the base practice of sharing “mocking” video clips or comments on social medial belittling the one tribe over the other.
We should depoliticise the genuine concerns of inequitable resource allocation and persistent structural economic, social and cultural injustices, inherited from illegitimate colonialist and discriminatory regimes, and thus illegitimising subsequent regimes which have failed to adequately address them. Regardless of the foregoing we should be wary of attempts by all and sundry to make the country ungovernable on account of longstanding systemic issues that require a thorough national dialogue on the transformation we all would like to see. We should equally reject any opportunists hijacking the many just causes being waged by the youth and the landless masses, which threaten to be undermined by the tribal and political tinges being applied to them. It calls for us to be wary of the messengers and their motives, and dissect the message for what it is.
The year 2017 is set to be just as messy if not more so than the year 2016. We are called upon to step out of the selfish and tribal cocoon we have ensconced ourselves in, and appreciate the bigger picture of a stalled nation building project, and the untenable colonialist and apartheid legacies on whose foundations we are building our Namibian house. This year calls for us to help the president realise the full ambit of the presidency, and not seek to undermine the authority the majority have elected him to exercise; and to see a compatriot who does not require a particular tribe or race to justify that claim.
The matter of the fact is that the fear by the majority of a transformative agenda that rights wrongs and fair consideration of all, is premised on them losing local geopolitically driven economic and social privileges; whilst the minority feels left out of key decision-making organs with their own geopolitical interest left to waste, and also feel hard done by the perceived inequitable distribution of national resources. This dichotomy needs to be studied, understood by all, and addressed by those with the mandate to do so.
Our country is at a tipping point in terms of tribal relations and political instability, and whether it tips backward or forward depends on the collective. Whatever the end result, it will be felt by the collective. We need to understand that the young generation of today are different to those of yesterday.
They are now educated, well read and exposed to a broader and more progressive world view. Their needs have evolved from the young generation of yesteryear. The heroic struggle of the elders is a narrative they have not experienced, and they are increasingly appreciating less as they wage their own struggle for emancipation from the dehumanizing colonial and apartheid legacies the previous generations have failed to completely dismantle. Therefore the elders need to engage them and not shoot them down, as they seek only to have the baton handed to them so they may continue the race, swiftly. On the other hand, name-calling from the young ones should be condemned as this is unAfrican, distasteful, and not conducive to issues-based discourse.
Our generation should never go down in the annals of history as the generation that led to the break-up of this country. We need a deliberate and systematic approach in integrating this country across all regions and spectrum. We need to reassure all citizens that no separation along tribal and class lines for economic opportunities will be tolerated, not even for political expediency as same has proven to be temporary. When a member of the minority bemoans resource allocation, or seeks to have specific wrongs of the past addressed, is not tantamount to tribalism, it is a legitimate and just cause. In the same vein, when the majority attack the minority for generalising the state of allocation of resources, this too should not be seen as tribalism. I shall go to my grave knowing that this land belongs to all who live in it. We have made mistakes so far, and have not been brave in dismantling the chains that have held us back as a people for generations, and have laid the foundation that seeks to tear us apart, and now is the time to rectify same, whilst we have time.
Setting a field alight requires the action of that invisible individual. Our children deserve to inherit not less than what we inherited in 1990. Full stop.
• Joshua Razikua Kaumbi is a holder of a BA Political Science (Unam), LLB (Stellenbosch) and is a practising admitted attorney. Opinions are expressed in his capacity as a Namibian by birth.