2 December 2011

Namibia: Kazenambo Kazenambo - Calling a Spade a Spade


Kazenambo Kazenambo, the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, affectionately known as 'KK' in some circles, is probably one of the most controversial and outspoken government ministers of our time. He has called for prostitution to be legalised; he has said the Namibian Constitution can be put aside if "they scratch too far"; he has called for a non-Oshiwambo speaking president and has also hailed Hidipo Hamutenya of RDP as a hero, among other statements. Why does he not fear controversy and what motivates him to say the things he does? This is what he told Magreth Nunuhe of New Era (NE).

Many people do not have an idea who Kazenambo Kazenambo is. Some say you are controversial, some say you are radical, and others feel you are a freedom fighter for ordinary people? Who is the real Kazenambo?

"I am a son of the soil. I mostly see myself or describe myself as a person who is issue-driven. Even issues that people will see as taboo, not to touch or mention, if I think that issue needs to be said, I will say it. Or if the issue drives me to confront a situation, I will confront that situation without fear or favour. Anybody who looks at an issue from a moderate point of view, from a radical point of view, or from a controversial point of view, will judge Kazenambo that way. So, those who judge me as controversial, they may be correct, those who judge me as radical, they may be correct, those who judge me as a freedom fighter for the poor, they may be correct. But Kazenambo the person - I see myself as Kazenambo the most humble person and that humbleness is influenced by people, the environment and upbringing. I was brought up in a house of a freedom fighter, a Christian, a pastor, although I never attended church. It would also fit in the category of those who say I am a rebel. I am a humble person but very arrogant when you push me too far. Those who say I am arrogant, I can agree with them because I can be rude and arrogant depending on my disliking. Some people bully others, they dominate others, they will like to manipulate others. When you resist situations like that, it starts from humbleness, but nobody listens to you. If you are humble and you are being pushed into your non-character, the only thing that comes to the fore is that you are arrogant and rude."

You tend not to fear controversy and say your mind even when your leaders/party do not agree. What motivates you to be so outspoken?

"In many cases issues that are said to be controversial or we tend to say sensitive, are those issues that we are consciously aware of and we speak about in certain circles, but we cannot talk about them openly in public. Once they are regarded as taboo, they are spoken about in selected areas and platforms. Some are good and for the good of society, they are treated that way. But there are issues that are pushed underground that are also not good to push underground. It's better to bring them to the surface, discuss them, seek solutions but because people avoid them deliberately and ignore them for convenience and comfort, once somebody touches those issues publicly, and then it's seen as controversy. For example on prostitution, it is there in the public. The issue of lesbians and gays is there but nobody would like to talk about it. There are lesbians and gays in this country, you can't throw them in the ocean, they are our families, our relatives. People that go onto the streets, they are our families and our relatives. Because we are failing to come up with solutions, we will choose to avoid them and anybody who talks about them is controversial. Issues of oppression are there - there are those who suppress the rights and freedoms of others, then when somebody says no, then you are {called} a controversial figure. You are controversial because you are speaking up. You are supposed to make them remain exploited and abused. I am not an angel, mind you, but my principles and my philosophy are that my interests must be met against the interests of others. My arguments should be compared with others' arguments. Let the good idea win the day. I believe that a rude system needs to be confronted with rudeness. Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth."

You also called for a non-Oshiwambo president. Do you still stand by that?

"I did and I still do. And mind you, I did not only call for a non-Oshiwambo president, it was a distortion of those who want to dominate, those who have vested interests, those who want to move away from reality. I am still sticking to it.

Kazenambo sitting here said, the next president after President (Hifikepunye) Pohamba steps down, I would like to see a non-Oshiwambo speaking president. The next president, after the one who is going to take over, I would like to see a female president in Namibia, and if that can happen in my lifetime, I would be the happiest person because the principles of my party, of a non-discriminatory society, building a non-racial, non-sexist society, the principles for which I have suffered would have been realized. Because then all Namibians from all walks of life, from all tribes, from all races can dream of occupying the highest office. It should not be men presidents {for} more than thirty years alone, it should not be presidents from one group alone. Building societies is based on perceptions and reality. If you are building society and perception is that no other tribes can become president, it's wrong. People like to say when you talk about tribe, you are promoting tribalism.

Far from it, I am a Herero, I was born a Herero and I will die a Herero. I am a Namibian Herero, there is Ndonga Namibian, there is a Tswana Namibian, there is an Afrikaner Namibian. These are realities. It's for us to accept these realities as they are, but to try and say that I am against Owambos because I want a non-Oshiwambo president is not true. Maybe the opposite is true, the one who sees it that way is the one who is against other tribes. If he sees it from a tribalistic point of view, then he might have an agenda to dominate others. I for one would not like to be dominated by others. I have got an inborn space created for me in this country. Let others also feel a sense of belonging. It's a question of consolidating peace, unity and diversity and nation-building. If presidents from one group would perpetuate themselves (on the issue) either deliberately or by design or by omission, we are building a wrong foundation for nation-building. Because the perception of those who would like to destabilize this country, will find justification to say that other tribes are excluded because facts speak for themselves that since independence, people who have been ruling were all from one ethnic group. It is not in the best interest of nation building."

Your stand on legalizing prostitution. Do you still support the notion that it should be legalised in Namibia?

"I still stand by it. Botswana, one of the conservative societies, highly hit by HIV/AIDS has woken up. Their former president has called for legalization of prostitution because it's the reality. There are push factors that you can't ignore.

Prostitution in Namibia must be legalized, we cannot regulate it effectively and efficiently control something that we do not regulate. How do you do it? Because by pushing it underground, it doesn't mean that you have addressed it. So for us to address this, to assist these people who are subjected to untold suffering is to open up."

You said recently in a press conference where you lambasted the Namibian Sun's Jan Poolman over an article about the skulls trip's spending that the Constitution could be pushed aside if they scratched too far. Would that not be in contravention of the same Constitution that you swore to uphold when you became Minister?

"I said I have taken oath to protect and defend the Constitution of Namibia and the territorial integrity of this country, and I said leakage of documents is a violation of my oath. The article was written in a manner as if either I am the one who leaked the document or told the reporter the things that he erroneously wrote.

The gentleman was saying in that article that Kazenambo has said that the return of the skulls was unnecessarily costly. I never said that. In that document, I stated how we ended up going beyond the budget and I did not say that it was unnecessary. But the author of the article portrayed and described the whole cost as unnecessary.

Members of the affected communities picked that up and started calling me, asking me if the return of the skulls was unnecessarily costly. Those who read the article said that I am underplaying and I am not sensitive to the return of the skulls.

Those who wrote the article wrote it in a manner to suit their agenda. That is why I say we must be cautious how we write these things. I am injured twice, first by this article, then by my grandparents, who were persecuted, killed, or forced into exile.

For somebody to write in that fashion and ascribe that to me was a double injury. We should not push the affected communities too far and then hide behind issues such as press freedom, freedom of association, non-disclosure of a source or hide behind the Constitution that allows rights and freedoms. That is why I said, if you push people too far, the Constitution is just an ordinary paper, although it's a binding paper that should be respected within an environment that is conducive. But if you start insulting people and beat people around and then when others react, you say the Constitution allows you freedom. Where your rights end, the rights of others begin.

A Constitution does not give you the right to abuse others. I never said I would put the Constitution aside, I said if you push people too far, the Constitution can be put aside. It is different from saying it will be put aside. I never violated the oath; I was protesting the leakage of government documents, insinuation of distorting facts in a manner that is annoying to other people. The Constitution is here to protect all of us, but in this country increasingly, people abuse others, but when they protest, they are told, "talk to my lawyer". It means that because there is law and order, some people are using this to oppress others, because they have money. If in the eyes of many, the Judiciary will appear that for your rights to be protected you have to have money, then that is already undermining the Constitution. In the past only one group benefited economically to an extent that they still live in cocoons, that they are the only ones who are taxpayers. Even if I compare myself to some of those who call themselves taxpayers, I employ a bunch of people in my companies, I pay tax more than some of these people of different colours or race."

You also said you would grab white people's farms - did you say that in the heat of the moment?

"When people are being oppressed, they talk about it. When they feel that the instruments are being used to oppress them, although they show respect, it doesn't mean that they are quiet and they are not aware of their oppression. Those who are sitting in comfort will say that Minister Kazenambo and his government have failed and must just shut up and go, forgetting that the Namibian government and the majority of the disadvantaged have heeded the call for reconciliation in a nurturing environment, hoping that those that enjoyed privileges in the past those controlling the means of production would have a human feeling and consciousness.

Although we have enjoyed political liberation, the majority has remained where they were. They have advanced in some areas in education and health, but the majority still remain where they were. Some of those communities who asked about the article on the return of the skulls, their parents are buried on farms that are owned by absent landlords. The very same communities that you are writing about comfortably behind your computers are people who have to ask permission to go and bury their people on those farms. If you push these people too far, they may seek their second liberation because the Constitution protects those who own the land while some got the land through dubious means. If you continue to say that you will not open up and extend hands of friendship, you are not helpful to reconciliation or defence of the Constitution. Some of these people who write these articles don't go to Katutura or go to funerals, they don't go to the villages to see the frustrations of over-crowdedness in those reserves. For how long will the Constitution bar or contain the anger of these people."

You have had some altercations/confrontations with whites, especially on what you concluded to be racism. For example, the Spar in Hochland Park's manager. Do you think that the policy of reconciliation is working in Namibia? What should be or should have been done differently?

"The policy of national reconciliation in Namibia is at its infancy stage 21 years later. The reason is that, we tend to formulate policies but we don't come up with effective means of monitoring, evaluating their implementation. My own layman observation 21 years after independence, is that I have seen polarization not only between whites and blacks, even among blacks themselves. There is quarreling. We are hypocrites, we are pretending that we are united, that we have reconciliation. Unity and diversity should be natural, even reconciliation if people are truly reconciled. In exile, I didn't care what language you speak, we were all freedom fighters.

Immediately we arrived here, we went to our black locations, Wambo location, Herero location and so on. Even now at independence, you can check how many Hereros you can find in Gibeon, how many Owambos you will find in Okakakara, how many whites are you are going to find in Caprivi and so on. When we go out of the office, we retreat back to where we belong. In companies, you find that one ethnic {group} dominates, is that reconciliation? We don't know how we are reconciling. I went to school in Britain. They came up with affirmative action policies that in Britain, they are not hiding, they produce forms to see how many kids from public schools are entering Oxford and Cambridge? How many are black? How many are coming from families with low income? If you are employed, they ask you what race you are, what country you are from? This is for monitoring and balancing purposes.

If I do that in Namibia, to ask how many Hereros, how many Damaras are employed in this company, they would say that I am dividing the nation, I am the most tribalist, but yet we are excluding others, employing fellow villagers or bar mates.

Reconciliation is broad, it's social, it's economical, we can't only confine it to politics. There are people in this country who are socially excluded even among blacks. Policy of reconciliation is not defined, there are no instruments for implementation, no monitoring mechanisms. It's just a slogan. That is why we are not integrating."

 Some people compare you to Julius Malema, suspended ANC Youth League President. What are your views on Malema?

"It's their right again to compare me to Malema, they can compare me to Satan if they want. For me it's not a question of black and white, I am a non-racial person. I say Namibia should be a harmonious and inclusive society. I feel pity for white young Namibians. There are white Namibians that are at the receiving end and it worries me, because these young Namibians are growing up in an environment that they should be held responsible for the (sins) of their forefathers. I detest it when some Namibians treat young whites as though they were responsible for apartheid.

That is why I will not allow anyone to compare me to Malema, because Malema's agenda is not my agenda. But I will speak for Namibians for humanity, irrespective of colour or gender. If the majority of whites are discriminated against in government structures, I will say it. If the majority of blacks are discriminated against at supermarkets, I will say it. If certain tribes are discriminated against in government structures, I will say it."

Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture caters for so many constituencies. How do you manage to handle so many constituencies?

"This is a vast Ministry. One is dependent on the directors to coordinate effectiveness. It's not easy portfolio, we have accepted it, but it's challenging. Youth and Sport are more challenging, because they are active sectors. Their resources are never enough."

The youths who represent the highest percentage of the population are crying out for jobs, education and better opportunities. What is being done to better their chances/opportunities?

"The Ministry of Youth alone cannot address youth unemployment. We can come up with programmes and projects to try and encourage entrepreneurship but unemployment is not something you can blame on a sector. The size of our economy and rate of growth of our population, tells a lot of the issues of unemployment. Government remains {the} biggest employer, but if you expand the bureaucracy, it is not good for the economy. It means your private sector should expand. Private sector is foreign dominated, mining companies are here to exploit and not expand the economy.

I think we should change course. Economies that performed and expanded, like the US economy were dominated by small firms. If we want to address the issue of unemployment in Namibia, let us take the risk of growing small firms that will employ a number of people, on a small scale but in many sectors. Foreigners currently dominate our small-sized economy, be it in the construction industry or mining. The private sector is too small to accommodate youths that graduate from UNAM. Let us encourage them to create small firms that will grow into regional and global players."

What are your hopes for the Swapo Congress next year? Who are you backing for President and why?

"We have been told not to talk about the succession. At the moment I will abide by that directive, but I am sure it will be smooth going. But I am not standing for any position of power."

You said that RDP President Hidipo Hamu-tenya was more of a hero than some other Swapo members/supporters. What did you mean by that?

"Hidipo Hamutenya and I are very close. He is one of those men who taught me to construct journalistic sentences. I was under HH when he was Swapo secretary for information. I used to sit with HH and write for Namibia Today when everybody left that newspaper and at one point, it was being written by me, Mr Tjombe and even Mr Jan Poolman before Mr Asser Ntinda came.

Hidipo was one of the people on the hit list of South Africa. Hidipo has been a top leader of Swapo. He never waivered until the end. His bitterness with Swapo as a party has nothing to do with me as a person.

Politically I will grill him, arrogantly, rudely like they say. If there is an issue, we are on a collision course, we will collide. I am a person who is loyal to people, I value friendship, I respect others' views, dignity, but when you are in my way, even a tsunami {I} will collide with. But when I am out of that, I am a humble person. With Hidipo Hamutenya we have walked a long way together, we have shared happy moments.

He has groomed many of us. Even those who today insult and call him names and want him vilified or dead. Hidipo

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