• Johannes Ekuki Shilongo
Colonial land dispossession and the resultant concomitant genocide (1904-1908) led the communities to lose over 94 million hectares of land. This calls for restorative justice.
Swapo sold out in 1982 constitutional principles discussions and insisted on the inclusion of the protection of the property clause. Hence, the affected communities feel that Swapo is just another neo-colonial party in a post-apartheid country hell-bent on continuing and deepening the legacy of the Odendaal Plan Commission.
Colonialism was experienced very differently south of the red line. The political liberation of the country was spearheaded by an organisation that represented the interests of northern communities. Hence, the reason many minority ethnic groups who have been conquered, dispossessed, and exploited by the imperial capitalist machinations of colonial rule are now feeling alienated from the “liberating” government, and their own heritage.
The Swapo narrative of liberation is subjective, and particular to northern communities, and, therefore, not universally Namibian. Yet, this northern political narrative is treated as a universal Namibian historical experience. The national political narrative of Namibia, that is endorsed by the government, is set up to create an ethnic conflict in our heterogeneous society, much like Marx’s conception of class conflict in homogenous societies like the Western powers. The answer to resolving Namibia’s ethnic conflict lies, ironically, in pursuing political conflict.
Yet, for ethnic minorities, who are alienated from their own ancestral land, to pursue such conflict, a suitable political consciousness needs to be adopted. The official national narrative undermines the ontological framework of the ethnic minorities, who are affected, to form this political consciousness from their own standpoint in the historical experience of colonialism.
Thus, it is the duty of those committed to the cause of ancestral land to create a counter-narrative of Namibian history that challenges the official national narrative that has turned from an instrument of liberation into an instrument of oppression. The strategic and tactical methodology to follow for new political movements such as the Landless People’s Movement would be to take upon itself the task of informing, and spreading this counter-narrative, to focus its efforts on the communities who are directly affected. It would prove valuable to Namibia’s fledging democracy to incorporate the North-South dichotomy of colonial discourse of the people and government in Namibia.
We cannot hold hands and pretend everything is fine while some indigenous communities are alienated from that which is most sacred to their people, the lawful heritage of their ancestral land, and a sincere acknowledgment that all are entitled to a place, which can be called home. Let us build a new Namibia for all and leave politics out for once in settling our historical challenges.
Johannes, for the sake of informed engagement, we feel obliged to challenge some of your assertions. First, to insinuate that apartheid and colonialism were experienced differently because of the so-called redline, sounds reckless a claim. The harsh injustices and colonial thrashings experienced by Namibians, since the arrival of the Imperial Germans, the incursions of the colonial Portuguese and the subsequent arrival of apartheid colonial South Africa, have left deep wounds that are still too fresh for anyone to carelessly trivialise it this way. Further, it would be good to first understand and contextualise the Constitutional Principles of 1982, which you so wantonly referenced as back up to your argument. These Principles, as they are called, were included in UN Resolution 435 as an official annexure. However, it is important to understand that it was the colonial apartheid South Africa, and its political allies in the Constituent Assembly, and the Western Contact Group, who pushed that the Principles be used as the framework on which to draw the Constitution of what was to become Namibia. While it was Swapo’s Theo-Ben Gurirab who, at the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly on 21 November 1989, proposed that the Principles be accepted as the framework of negotiations, a proposal happily adopted by colonial South Africa, its allies and the Western Contact Group, who had long feared of reprisal, these Principles did not become law and the Namibian Constitution took its rightfully place. Land is a very sensitive topic for every Namibian, after all, the fight for the independence of Namibia was about land. However, government has always made it clear that in pursuing that aspect, it is not going to be antagonistic given the spirit of reconciliation adopted at Independence. We hope the second national land conference slated for October 2018 would thrash out solutions for all Namibians.