We became citizens of this country only after midnight on 21 March 1990. Hence the idea of citizenship and Namibianness need further clarity. As the nation evolves and grows in many ways, there are grey areas about what/whom we are and what constitutes a Namibian today and hopefully in the future.
It is unfortunate that we had not had a moment as a nation to define ourselves as yet and we continue to call one another names, and this takes away from our collective strength to build a strong and true nation. It is not too late to do this now. The fundamentals are in place and the foundations are strong, thanks to the men and women who governed this land of our ancestors since 1990 when we became a nation.
It would appear, following Mazrui’s proposition that our identity as Namibians is by and large dependent upon our self-understanding, self-definition and self-repositioning relative to our roles, real or imagined, in the liberation struggle. It would appear that there are two parts to our identity as Namibians: the one part which is based upon self-righteousness and the other upon guilt or apologeticness. In between are the mindless opportunists who go with the wind! Many citizens of Namibia see their identity only in opposition to others. There are those who are more Namibian than others. At the same time, the country has a paucity of true democrats – those men and women who stand out and stand up in defence of and to champion the cardinal values that bind the nation together and offer it the compass to the future.
The story of the struggle has limitations as it always has winners and losers – and losers are always portrayed in the light that they have to apologize for their existence in order to be relevant. The winners are high priests who can do no wrong and in the process they are denied the space to account for their wrongdoings. What is needed are values that beckon all of us to stand together, walk and work together to safeguard the freedoms that were the reasons for the struggle in the first place. Most of the leaders we have today, especially in the opposition parties, have no vision for a better Namibia. What they see as sacred is themselves in positions of power.
The starting point in defining a Namibian is that of our common humanity, regardless of how we came here. A Namibian is that human being living in Namibia. In many ways we did not choose how we got here. We are here now. Let us assume that we all mean well and we want to take into the future the best that we can be. This is so because we have learned enough from our own experiences and the lessons from others that we owe one another a duty of care. What had divided us in the past cannot loom larger than our will to survive together in this uncertain world. What kept Namibians together thus far is the understanding and acceptance that each and every one of us matters. This common sense is not very common as yet. It means that we ought to accept that given an opportunity we can all make a contribution to the common good of our communities and the country at large.
The second stop is the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, which is clear about the sacredness of the Namibian citizen compared to office holders who are entrusted with the responsibility to execute state and government functions in the name of the citizens, not themselves. This is where the rubber hits the tar as most of us are not there yet. A great number of Namibian citizens define themselves in terms of their political party affiliation, which is a fleeting identity as political parties come and go but the nation stands.
The third port of call is Vision 2030, which beckons all of us to think differently about ourselves in relation to our own roles and contributions. This country needs to get where we are peaceful, prosperous and harmonious. We cannot move speedily towards this grand vision as long we remain ignorant about and indifferent towards one another. White people must become interested in what happens in the lives of their African compatriots and vice versa. This country, unlike most of the Afrikan countries, is neither black nor white. It is a zebra nation needing both black and white colours to grow into ripeness. In the final analysis, to be a Namibian is a state of mind. To be born in Namibia does not necessarily make one the best Namibian as he/she may choose another country to make his/her living and/or contribution. So people born elsewhere who choose to live and raise their families here and qualify to go to war to defend Namibia cannot be lesser citizens than those whose only claim is birth. They are equal in all respects save to run for the office of President if they were not born here.
Namibia belongs to all who live in it. There are Namibians of the blood or by birth. There are Namibians by ancestry. There are Namibians by choice. Namibians today come in different colours and different shades of everything, yet they form one family who must make it work here for the sake of the generations to come – the generations that must never suffer the inhumanities of yesterday and yesteryear! White people have nothing to apologize for any longer and black Namibians have nothing to feel inferior about. What we need to feel is a duty of care for one another and the understanding that our rights end where others’ begin. We live in contractual and compact relationships with one another premised upon a Golden Rule that we do unto others that which we wish them to do unto us.
Our identity is wrapped up in our common and collective undertaking that an injury to one of us is one too many. When a woman or a girl child is hurt, we are all hurt. We are one another’s keepers. As long as we play by the rules of our Republic – rules agreed upon by the greatest number of the citizens of the country and rules that depict and bespeak the will of the people, not just a few, we are building the new Namibia we wish to see.