It is Murphy’s Law that if anything can go wrong, it will. Most of the time, it is not that things go wrong; it is just that life is ruled by many things – unpredictable events, disasters, disappointments, luck and pure and simple contradictions and irreconcilables. In a real and more positive sense, life is about managing polarities and appreciating the ying and yang.
Here are some of the contradictions we live with and through in our small country, and often we are not even aware of them:
* Namibia is a unitary state which is supposed to be one nation, yet we are more divided now than when we became independent, as our political leaders owe more allegiance to their political parties than the nation, and our national leaders behave as though we are still fighting a war for freedom, this time from ourselves.
* Our national coats of arms commit us to Unity, Liberty and Justice, yet we are becoming the most disunited, the most fearful and increasingly unjust nation.
* Leaders, be they in family, religion or politics, are supposed to be like shepherds of their flock. Leaders, be they in religion, family or politics, are supposed to be like shepherds of their flock, not terrorists of their communities and demanding respect and compliance.
* Most post-colonial political leaders came out of liberation movements that sought to liberate their people, yet the liberators turned out to be the worst oppressors of their own people.
* Our current President means well when he preaches the idea of a Namibian House, where no one should feel left out, yet by the very design of this house it excludes and deliberately shuts a good number of Namibians who do not fit certain self-serving descriptions.
* Our education system has churned masses of young people through the doors, yet we have fewer thinkers than before.
* As a self-governing country, we ought to have more confidence and freedom to think and do things in the interest of the nation, yet we are ruled by fear and guilt.
* Namibia has a black majority government, yet the majority of black citizens live in exactly the same if not worse conditions as during the days of white minority rule.
* Enlightened nations are supposed to care more about the youth and the children, yet we in Namibia consider the youth the enemy of the state. They are disgraced because they were not born early enough!
* Namibians got excited about the moral logic of gender balance, but no one talked with equal vigour about age balance in tackling inequalities in our power relations, etc.
* We encourage and teach entrepreneurship, yet we depend on Chinese for entrepreneurship and ridicule those who are trying to make it from the humblest of beginnings.
* Namibia is a country with a multiplicity of churches, including those with pastors who can pray airtime in your phone, yet there are fewer marriages all around, especially amongst the poor who flock to these churches.
* We are a country with English as the only official language, yet we speak the worst English in southern Afrika and in our homes we have children who speak only English with parents who speak no English or English without singular and plural.
* As a country we declared war against corruption, yet use official power to get rich overnight and nothing happens, and declared a war against poverty, yet we celebrate bogus rich people as the standards of quality service to the nation.
* In our One Namibia One Nation, certain officials have the immunity to employ only their tribes’ members and there is no template to remind them that it is not right to promote in a Republic executive tribes.
* In Namibia education and skill do not sell as much as political loyalty and obsequiousness do. In other words, in Namibia you do not have to know anything, just stay silent and attend all the possible rallies you know of as a license to public office and, by extension, immediate wealth.
* In Namibia we promote the value of education as the best equaliser, yet we punish those who are educated because they have the gall to think freely. Here, education is to think in a programmed way and clap hands enthusiastically, even when what is heard does not make sense.
* The system of constitutional democracy requires that representatives be selected by the people themselves who reserve the right of recall when they are displeased with the performance of the leader. In Namibia, lawmakers do not need much except be loyal members of their political party, such that many of the lawmakers are ill-prepared to understand the quantum of their assignment. Hence they sit in parliament waiting for the President to tell them what to do and open their mouths only during lunch or at home.
* Colonialism in Namibia is both our worst enemy and our badge of honour. We claim to have defeated colonialism, yet whenever we disagree we accuse one another of trying to bring colonialism back. When the youth demand their rightful place to participate, we dismiss them because they were not part of the struggle against colonialism. In other words, without colonialism, the template of our leadership collapses.
* In a free and independent Namibia, where white people are under 8 percent, the black majority who hold political power, still need to pass a law (NEEEF) to contain the tiny minority. It is like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly that is sitting on a jewellery box. In so doing we are admitting that blackness is an economic disadvantage, which must be managed through legislation.
The contradictions and paradoxes that we need to come to terms with and hopefully develop deliberate mechanisms to overcome are many. It will take a measure of a national consciousness, such as the one that Steve Biko injected into the South African freedom struggle, and Nelson Mandela’s model of ruling with elegance and magnanimity, for it is these forms of logic that continue to remind South Africans that they are their own worst enemies.
We, in Namibia, have yet to agree what our real problem is and who our enemy is so that we can see one another not as problems, but as the source of a solution we seek.