By Tangeni Amupadhi
2010-04-01, Issue 476
Countering the motion: 'This House believes that Namibia is a shining example of post-colonial peace, democracy and development.'
Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
It is sad indeed, taking this position and being the bearer of bad news. But we have to speak some home truths. Have you heard that hammers were selling very well at Namibia’s hardware stores last year after our founding president, Sam Nujoma, said whites, especially the English, must be clobbered in their heads? And just what was their crime? Alleged criticism of the ruling party and the Namibian government.
This might sound like a bad joke, but it is the material comedians are presented with from public rallies addressed by our most revered political leader. Such jokes remind me of the time during apartheid, when the best way to deal with ghastly realities was to make light moments of those conditions to avoid national depression and insanity.
The truth is Nujoma’s call, made at a SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Orgnisation) elections campaign rally in September last year, was a continuation of anti-democratic, anti-peace, fervour not only by the first president of democratic Namibia, but by many other leaders of the former liberation movement, which has been in power for 20 years.
Please, do let me dwell on a few examples, which have continued to wipe the shine off any aspiration we harbour to be the barometer for post-colonial peace, democracy and development.
JUDAS ISCARIOT AND SATAN:
The Namibian head of state, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, at a public meeting in February 2008, called his erstwhile comrades Judas Iscariots. These were people who, after several years complaining they were being witch-hunted and hounded out of the SWAPO, left the party to form the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP). The message the president was sending was unequivocal, as you’d imagine in a country with 90 per cent Christian following. Such a label means nothing less than a call to SWAPO followers to destroy the devil. Small wonder then that violent scenes broke out in Windhoek and some northern parts of the country during the elections campaign last year.
My team member has told you about the violent attacks that SWAPO supporters inflicted on opposition members who dared holding meeting in the areas traditionally regarded as strongholds of the ruling party. These SWAPO supporters were not ignorant, ordinary followers acting on their own. In fact, they were putting into practise a warning by Namibia’s prime minister, Nahas Angula, that this newly-formed opposition party should not be allowed to campaign in places he identified as ‘no-go areas’ for any politician but SWAPO.
And when the ruling party leadership were asked to condemn the violence and the notion of no-go areas in the interest of peace, democracy and development, guess what they did? Instead of promoting a contestation of ideas, they feebly called on their members to restrain themselves and strongly criticised the opposition for ‘provoking’ SWAPO members by campaigning and holding meetings the so-called no-go areas. Even trees were marked off as belonging to SWAPO. Talk about shining examples of post-colonial peace, democracy and development. The opposite is more apt.
MINISTER SHOOT SON:
And have you heard about the shooting incident last year? A senior minister in theNamibian government, a law-maker, fired at his son. Yes, with a gun and live ammunition. He was apparently blind with anger because the 20-year-old joined an opposition party.
Asked by a newspaper reporter why he had resorted to firing squad measures, he said: ‘I raised him with my SWAPO money, now he wants to go to RDP? He knows that I am working and getting my money from SWAPO. It irritates me so much that I breed someone with my SWAPO money and then he defects to the opposition, let him go and be educated by RDP.’
It is scary enough that a father would draw a firearm on his son because the young man joined another political party. But that shouldn’t stop you asking what SWAPO money this minister was talking about. Is it the funding that the then liberation movement received from its anti-apartheid supporters all over the world or is he talking about his government salary that comes from taxpayers’ coffers?
Anywhere in a peaceful and democratic world, such a leader would have done the honourable thing. As it is, he remains in cabinet and I don’t remember him being charged with the crime of drawing a weapon and shooting at someone, albeit his flesh and blood.
There are broader general examples of anti-peace, anti-democratic measures the country’s politicians take to discourage dissent.
Ten years ago, the government at cabinet level banned all state advertising in The Namibian newspaper. The Namibian is not only the biggest and most widely read paper in the country, it is also the newspaper that ideologically aligned itself with SWAPO and the broad anti-apartheid movement.
Yet the SWAPO-government had the temerity to do what apartheid rulers did – ban state advertising from appearing in The Namibian. And this they put in writing. The reason, listen to this, ‘because of unwarranted criticism of government policies’. This would have been funny if it were not a decision of a democratically-elected government.
To date, no government money is allowed to buy a copy of The Namibian. The ban, however ineffective, remains in place as a political message that criticism of the government comes at a cost. That wipes further shine of our democracy, peace and development.
The Namibian newspaper is not the only entity that has had to incur the ire of its former comrades because of dissent. Several businessmen in the former war-zone of northern Namibia are finding out the hard-way the price of leaving SWAPO, especially to support opposition politics.
Several of these former SWAPO members have seen their businesses crumble after their customers were instructed by SWAPO leaders to stop buying from them because they dared to support opposition parties. Unlike The Namibian newspaper, these businesses operate in an area totally dominated by SWAPO, where mob-rule can severely punish anyone who deviates from the popular view. Economic strangulation has worked as intended.
The same economic strangulation has been used in the form of political patronage. Many Namibians of notable intelligence have been denied the opportunity to work in the civil service because they were not ‘loyal party cadres’. And no proof is needed that a person is indeed an opposition party member. For nowadays, we have ‘hibernators and saboteurs’, you see. Jobs go to comrades. And these jobs for comrades are offered without regard to competence. Mind you, I’m not referring to politically sensitive positions, but to civil service positions below that of a permanent secretary, for instance.
In Namibia this day, dogma has replaced rationality.
How much of the shine would you think such incidences have already taken off any possible exemplary stage that Namibia has been through for post-colonial peace, for democracy and for development?
Examples are plenty to support our position that Namibia is not a shining example of post-colonial peace, democracy and development. The state-funded media for instance, are a classic example of Stalinistic propaganda.
Even Namibia’s former prime minister, Hage Geingob, cautioned in his doctoral thesis about a trend that was emerging in Namibia towards a concentration of power in one person. It was a subtle jab at founding president, Sam Nujoma, and Geingob went as far as comparing the tendency to the likes of Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Kamuzu Banda of Malawi. Geingob said we were at the cross-roads. I’d argue that instead of power being concentrated in an individual it is concentrated in a small group. That, in itself, does not auger well for peace, democracy and development.
Land resettlement has become largely the preserve of the privileged, few black elite. And many take the land more for the pleasure than productivity, in the process threatening food security for the country. That my learned friends does not augur well for peace and stability.
Worrying still is the education system that spews onto the streets 50 per cent of its grade 10s and 12s every year. On the whole, we are sowing the seeds of disaster instead of being a shining example.
I bemoan the loss of solidarity by the elite. Here I refer specifically to solidarity with the poor and the most vulnerable in society.
I therefore argue, without the fear of contradiction but with sadness – Namibia is not a shining example of post-colonial peace, democracy and development.
Ladies and gentlemen, the only reason you and I can support this motion tonight, is if we take the lowest common denominators – Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Angola, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Our beautiful, beloved ‘Land of the Brave’ deserves better. We should aim to be the best!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Tangeni Amupadhi is editor of lnsight Namibia
* Tangeni Amupadhi was second speaker to Henning Melber at a discussion organised by the Friends of Namibia and the Royal African Society at the Houses of Parliament in London, 18 March 2010.