A History of the Present

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History is a more or less objective account by a more or less biased individual about something which, with a greater or lesser degree of accuracy, occurred or did not occur. What is known as history is a human narrative of what is remembered at some point in the past that people can talk about.

Not everything that happened is talked about even though it is part of a totality of what went on before. Political leaders are the best makers because they have power to do things, and the worst victims of history because they are remembered mostly for the ill deeds they commit in their lifetime.

While South Africa was the model nation under President Nelson Mandela, there was a euphoria that made people forget about their own histories, especially those who were on the ugly side of history before 1990. In 1998 I had the honour to preside over a national conference at Sun City. I had the challenge to talk up many notable speakers, one of whom was Mr Pik Botha (yes, that one) who was no longer in the executive government. Introducing Pik Botha was particularly interesting.

I was struck by the illustrious CV I was given to read from in introducing Mr Botha. Nothing in what I was given said anything about the fact that Pik Botha was a minister in the apartheid government or that at one time he was the longest serving minister of foreign affairs in the world. Nothing! Nothing was said that after the death of the erstwhile Prime Minister of South Africa, John Vorster, Pik Botha was one of the strongest candidates to take over the leadership of the National Party.

Nothing was said that by coincidence Pik Botha was near the site where the Mozambican President Samora Machel was assassinated and he rushed to confirm the news that Machel was indeed dead. Nothing was said about his role, near deadly role in Namibia as the denialist in chief of the right of self-determination for the Namibian people. Nothing was said that Pik Botha was one of the chief haters of our liberation movement Swapo, and one who, at the sound of the name Sam Nujoma, would lose appetite and turn to serious drinking instead to avoid serious nightmares and ‘daymares’.

As a disciplined master of ceremonies I stuck to the CV I was presented with and read the only reference to Botha’s history in government the following line: ‘In April 1986 Mr Botha predicted that South Africa will have a black President one day.’ Yes I read this in the audience’s hearing. Botha predicted. He prophesied the most unusual – that South Africa could have a black President. Apparently he was summoned before a disciplinary committee put together by P.W. Botha for bringing the party and country into disrepute. Rumour has it that Pik Botha became an ANC member and campaigner before he left politics into the sunset of history.

Twenty-seven years ago this time, the national conversation in every corner of the Land of the Brave was about transformation – from a divided and war-torn country to One Namibia, One Nation. The world’s eyes were fixed on Namibia, a place that was ready for the best success story in the history of the United Nations. International law was being rewritten right here in the Land of the Oldest Desert. Sam Nujoma was being transformed by history from a ‘terrorist’ to Father of the Nation. His appearance, his voice, his smile represented meaning for and to all Namibians – black, white and not so colorful!

As we celebrate twenty-seven years of self-rule, we need to pause to hear the voices that are (re)writing the nation’s history as we speak. History is being made through what people are going through, hearing, speaking and doing – in the here and now – not what they went through, said or did even last year. The voices in the national conversation are not of peace and celebration. Not of joy and grace to the leadership. People partook of the struggle to change life, their lives, regardless of the side of the struggle they were on. They remained in the history. They were part of history. The history of the past. The pages of the history that is being written right now reveal the Age We Live in:

It is an Age of Anger
Age of Un-Truths
Age of No Empathy for others except those who live for us
Age of No Past beyond our own Footprints
Age of No-Alternative to the cannibal leaders we are saddled with
Age of No-Cohesion
Age of No Congruence
Age of No Courage
Age of No Equilibrium
Age of No None but Me Myself and I
Age of No Memory
Age of Nothing I Do Is Wrong
Age of No Future
Age of No Common Sense
Age of No Love but Convenience
Age of No Unity
Age of No Leader to believe in or to follow
Age of Not beyond My Stomach politics
Age of No Explanation for what we do
Age of No Real Rules except to fear the leader
Age of No Politics of the heart but politics of the scarf
Age of None of My Business or Yours
Age of No Communication
Age of No Confidence
Age of No Compliance
Age of No Education
Age of No Meaning of what we do and why
Age of No Language
Age of No Access
Age of No Success
Age of No Alignment
Age of No One Namibia One Nation
Age of No Teacher Education
Age of No Equality
Age of No Comprehension that resources belong to the people
Age of No Credit to Anyone but the leader and the fearful
Age of No Common Good
Age of No What if, what if, what if …
Age of No Regard for those who are at the margins of life
Age of No Concern for those who think differently
Age of No Change to the system because the murderous comrades will get hurt
Age of No Questions asked
Age of No Journalism
Age of No Cabinet
Age of No Police Training
Age of No Conferencing except to hear the leader chastise the hearer
Age of No More Participation in nation-building
Age of No Planning
Age of Nowhere
Age of No Return
Age of Impotence and Incontinence

Namibia will never be the same after 2017. If we wish to move forward, regroup around the fundamentals of the struggle for freedom – for all. It is time to start dealing with ourselves first and differently. The devil is in the detail of how we do this without fear or favour. We are here to be part of a history that must restore dignity and honour on those beautiful ones too small and not yet born. Until we change the way we look at one another as citizens, with equal liberties and obligations, regardless of the tribe, ethnicity, race, political party, religious affiliation, nationality and creed, we are bound to leave this beautiful country in a worse state than we found it. In fact, this is how history is recording our deeds today. What we feed, be it our fears or insecurities, or our egos, or our greed to be better and richer than others – grow. Big men and big women ought to realize that grass never grows under a big tree. Superficial things of wealth overnight, bogus titles, and positional power will be flattered by the pages of history. What is recorded is what we see of ourselves when naked in the mirror. That is who we are. In His Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad wrote:

‘We die as we dream – alone!’

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