Namibia is a nation so rich yet so poor. In this regard, something is seriously amiss in a highly blessed country of a population of less than 2.5 million people and the earlier we admit and confront this curse the better for the current and future generations.
Namibia unfortunately has a very dark history of atrocities that were committed by whites against blacks and blacks against blacks which unfortunately till today is directly and indirectly tearing the nation apart, to the detriment of the current and future generations. The indelible mark of Namibia’s colonial past, if not dealt with, will continue to haunt our nation in the manner it is already doing.
In retrospect, the struggle for political independence managed to unite a certain generation to successfully defeat the apartheid regime, after which division and greed emerged from nowhere causing the political leadership at the dawn of independence to significantly lose focus on how best to utilize the country’s natural resources blessing for the benefit of the masses as was initially intended.
And in contrast to that, the same fundamentals that were used to unite the nation towards the attainment of its national independence are now significantly lacking to uplift the living standards of the masses to those of the previously advantaged counterparts.
To substantiate my point in this regard that Namibia is historically a cursed nation, let me ponder on the economic blunders of the policy of national reconciliation declared at independence 27 years ago.
Although with good political intentions, the policy of national reconciliation enhanced an environment where the previous white dispensation significantly distanced themselves from any form of mass social responsibilities, which despite the deep rooted atrocities they committed enabled them to get away scot-free to economically milk the country without any mercy to the general welfare of the people they historically hurt.
They were supposed to immediately after independence directly partner with the new incoming government in the economic reconstruction of the country in the areas of school and library construction, the construction of hospitals and clinics, roads, sport facilities and among others in the provision of water and sanitation infrastructure to peri-urban and rural communities. This political oversight at that time has hence without any supportive and progressive economic legislation widened the economic gap of Namibians, creating an unequal and unjust society, but where both whites and blacks for the sake of harmony can work together as Namibians to build the country.
Inbuilt in the failure of the policy of national reconciliation to truly unite whites and blacks to commit themselves to the social economic development of the country lies deep-rooted hatred and mistrust on both side of the struggle. Namibia’s history is very long and many elders of the struggle know very well what transpired by the various generations that participated over the decades in the struggle to liberate the nation from the yoke of colonialism and apartheid. The issue of land dispossession and the economic plundering of the nation’s natural resources, plus the mistreatment of blacks through regressive segregation policies of divide and rule, are still very fresh in the minds of many and to suddenly just shake hands as if nothing happened is foolhardy to those with good memories.
The wounds of yesteryear are still very fresh in the minds of many and until there is true restoration, economic stagnation and inequality will continue to prevail in the land of the brave.
Last but not least, the lack of political know-how to truly reconcile and unite warring parties and to treat past atrocities for the sake of nation building and moving forward is the biggest curse of them all. For what it is worth, the political generation that liberated the country were economically ill-prepared to run the country and as a compromise left the economic fundamentals in the hands of whites, while they focus on self-administrative institutional set-ups, education and health maintenance, social protection and state security organs. This position has been further supported by the fact that Namibia relies heavily on South Africa for most of its basic domestic consumption of which whites have a strong redistribution link and outlets in the fields of financial services (banks, insurance companies, brokers), mass retailers (food, furniture, vehicles, parts, petroleum products etc.) and construction companies, among others.
In conclusion, the spirit of yesteryear is still hovering above the land of the brave, which as a consequence has caused national economic stagnation resulting in poverty and a lack of unity among Namibians towards the nation’s true economic development and prosperity potential. The only way to break this curse is to admit to what had transpired and a true unity among all Namibians through a sense of co-ownership and responsibility towards the social economic development that will uplift the economic living standards of the majority.
* Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian socio-economist.