columnBy Helvy Shaanika
Pensacola — Every now and then I have listened when President Pohamba spoke about Namibia's development in his speeches.
"People, you must travel. Before you send SMSes to newspapers, please travel to Africa. Go even to the neighbouring Zambia or Angola and you will understand."
My original views were, "yeah right! That is a political statement - after all, what else could he say." But I now understand President Pohamba's sentiments.
Travelling around the US in the company of other journos from all over Africa made me realise that Namibia is a first class country and I am proud to be Namibian.
My heart however bleeds for my motherland, which is brushed with the same comb as other African countries, where homes in the capital cities look like my grandmother's house in Okongo, where capital cities do not even have a single double storey, where 93 percent of their population is illiterate, and countries do not have metrological centres because they don't know the importance and necessity of having a weather forecast. I am talking about the likes of South Sudan and Ethiopia.
"Ooh Nambia is that in Africa? You are coming from Africa! How are the lions? And the giraffes ...?" That was my first greeting by a security officer at the airport in Washington -and that marked the beginning of my tour around America, flying over different states .
I came to understand that Americans perceive Africa as a country (not a continent) of misery, hunger and starvation, with zero development and no education.
"I think Africa is this country where the Hutus ... aaah, aaah those tall people ... were made to turn against each other. This is the country where leaders have failed to put up infrastructure and roads to allow people to move around freely," said a so-called black consciousness movement leader in Arizona when he was asked about his impressions of Africa.
In his view, it is difficult to travel between Windhoek and Cape Town because there are no roads. He thinks Africa is all about Hutus fighting against each other and "a corrupt president".
I have somehow come to regret not asking him if he knew the name of Africa's president. I guess he would have told me that it was Desmond Tutu, Koffi Anan or Robert Mugabe.
For a moment I thought, "Americans are so ignorant, prejudiced and lack education." Then I thought again -it wasn't actually the poor guy's mistake. The western media is to be blamed for all the labels and bad images that they have created about Africa.
But Africans that visit the west under a pretext of representing Africa are more to be blamed and my blood boils more and more because of such people!
"I just want to know if you guys are like us in Africa where we don't have an organ that regulates the media?" This was a question posed to an American-Hispanic lady who operates a one-woman-show newspaper on the outskirts of Pensacola.
For God' sake, where does Namibia fit into this question? Which Africa is being referred to? Why not simply say South Sudan? I really felt like throwing my shoe at the South Sudanese male journalist who asked the question. After all 'shoe-throw' is not a new concept to the Americans or journalists in general.