Where others wavered, he stood firm

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Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma turns 89 tomorrow. Whereas some prepare to join him in celebrating his birthday anniversary; ironically others are seeing this as an opportune time to bolster their hatred-laced slander campaigns against and cast cavalier aspersions on the person Dr Nujoma.

Nujoma has survived several well-orchestrated slander campaigns before and after independence, even from the apartheid regime with great military and financial might. Therefore, new attempts to discredit the good name of the Founding President remain urban legends and should not be taken seriously, unless in the case of genuine or constructive criticism.

Some have even claimed that the role of the Founding President in the struggle for liberation has been greatly exaggerated and that he is over-glorified and worshipped. However, the fact is that he was the undisputed leader of the Namibian revolution. Nobody has ever come forth alleging that Nujoma was never the Commander-in-Chief of PLAN. Hence, if there’s honour to be accorded to Namibian heroes and heroines who resisted and defeated apartheid, considering his name – and those of other distinguished PLAN fighters and commanders – it is appropriately representative of all those who relentlessly participated in the struggle.

It does not purport that he was the only freedom fighter who liberated the country. It was a collective effort, which required the determined leadership Nujoma and his fellow comrades provided. Not every freedom fighter could be made president, minister or senior government official. Therefore, it does not mean that if an individual does not have a seat in the top echelons of government, their participation in the struggle is worthless or belittled, and the honour they deserve has now been selfishly snatched by Nujoma.

Similarly, it should be noted that the “Founding Father” title was not going to be conferred to a freedom fighter who was incarcerated for many years by the colonial regime; participated in many battles; fired most shots in the struggle; was the most educated or clever, but the one elected as first President of Namibia. Period! Whether it is Dr Sam Nujoma or anybody else. Nujoma did not steal that title from anyone; he does not owe it to anyone.

Whenever Nujoma is praised or honoured for his struggle for liberation credentials, that glory belongs to all freedom fighters who fought under his vanguard leadership. Interestingly, neither Nujoma nor anybody ever claimed to have liberated this country alone. The recent bestowal of the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in Gold to Nujoma in South Africa is indeed thus an accolade to all freedom fighters.

Any street/venue/institution named after the Founding Father should be viewed as a representative and collective recognition of the efforts of all freedom fighters, and not that his name sounds better than any other name in Namibia or that he’s being idolized as an individual.

Any monument/statue erected in honour of Nujoma ought to be understood as an honour to all freedom fighters (who fought under his leadership) and not necessarily as a mere personal honour. Or is it better for Government to erect statues in honour of each and every freedom fighter instead of honouring all through their leader? I hope this addresses concerns that the Founding Father is ‘selfishly’ named by many streets/venues/institutions.

Of course, others have been honoured too –named after streets/venues/institutions, in the similar manner as Nujoma. It was never stated that Nujoma singlehandedly opposed apartheid in Namibia. He led forces that fought for independence. It ought not to be an arduous exercise to fathom that.

It was also never said that the life of Nujoma is an epitome of a perfect life lived by a saint. None of us are perfect and he is no exception. He is not worshipped or idolized, he is just respected, which respect he earned. In fact, the SWAPO Party Constitution warns that “personality cult” tendencies should be averted. Nobody claimed that the Struggle for Namibia’s Liberation was a one-man show. It was a concerted effort, and Nujoma, with many others, provided the needed leadership during very difficult times during our struggle.

As we join Nujoma and his family in celebrating his 89th birthday anniversary, we should always remember that he’s the face of our Liberation Struggle wherein many obdurately participated to bring about our much-coveted independence. Happy Birthday Tatekulu!

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