Tribalism not the issue, but marginalisation

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A stern week it has been indeed. But no doubt that Namibian democracy emerged the only winner; now and in the long run.

It was a stern week in the sense that despite obvious reservations and misgivings on the part of the Namibian parliament about entertaining a petition of the Landless Peoples Movement, it eventually accepted it.

It was also stern week in the sense that they delivered such a petition amidst an unprecedented show of power bordering on intimidation by the Namibian Police, which seemed fully mobilised.

In this regard, first and foremost, one can only highly applaud and commend the two parties, parliament and the leaders of the Landless Peoples Movement for coming to an understanding,

They agreed to deliver the petition to Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Loide Kasingo, and that she would accept it.

This week, which one would consider to have been a tough week that posed a severe test to the Namibian democratic process, was indeed a culmination of last week that one could properly see as the build-up to this very tense week.

In that week the President of the Republic of Namibia, His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob spoke on the Land Bill, when he announced the suspension of the re-tabling of the Land Bill until a “thorough national dialogue” had taken place.

How more categorical could the president have been during his address at the opening of the legal year? That obviously must have meant that for now, the Land Bill remains on hold until broader consultations with the nation have taken place.
Sadly, the media save for one or two media houses did not seem to have noted this important and critical announcement by the president to the nation with the necessary urgency.

Because the issue has after all seen a groundswell of public opinion on the Land Bill that has led to its suspension for now, and made a clarion call to government, which it has responded to.

The President may not have categorically stated that they will suspend the Bill until the second national land conference in September, but surely he has clearly signalled that a “thorough national dialogue” must take place on it.

Once again, in this trying week, the president on the occasion of the opening of the fifth session of the sixth Namibian parliament on Tuesday could not have indicated more categorically the suspension of the Land Bill to allow everyone a chance to recommend solutions to the land issue.

Certainly the president’s announcement must and should now pave the way towards the road forward to a solution on the much vexed land question.

But true to our democratic dispensation, between now and when consultations take place, nothing should bar any lobby from continuing to make its voice heard on the issue.

Whether it is in terms of educating our communities, party members and even making our lawmakers aware of the bigger issue and sensitising them to it.
One should perhaps caution against such mobilisation, education and sensitisation veering off into polarisation.

Actually, this is the challenge from the president for the land lobby to not only come forward boldly with their concerns on land, but equally with concrete proposals for solutions to these concerns.

But there’s a great concern by the president, which indeed should be a concern of equal, if not greater worry to every Namibian, of the ugly head of tribalism lurking in the dark and threatening to overshadow what may be genuine concerns on public policy issues.

Truly one cannot ignore the fact that there may be some elements out there that for their own selfish reasons may draw the tribal card.

Such elements must of course be condemned in the strongest terms and shown up for what and who they are, tribalists!

However, it is beyond any comprehension why any section of society, group or individual that genuinely feels strongly about any aspect of a public policy issue, must and should be seen, understood and interpreted as polarising the society/nation on tribal lines?

This is an accusation or deflection more often than not, touted by those in higher offices, who seem allergic and averse to the ideas and opinions of others.

It amounts to hegemony over ideas, which is also an ism of its own. Granted that people express such opinions/ideas with the necessary and appropriate political, democratic and civic decorum and spirit.

It is incomprehensible why they should be labelled isms? They forget that freedom of conscience, which is freedom of thinking and having ideas on any issue, even a public issue like land, and expressing or letting such be known for that matter, is part of the basic tenets of our fundamental democratic freedoms and rights as enshrined in our Constitution.

Equally when public officials pronounce themselves on public issues, for such pronouncements to have the necessary credence and urgency, they must take care that such pronouncements are not undone by unintended caveats. But we must take serious note of the president’s caution against tribalism!

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