4 January 2013

Namibia: A Gift Against Prejudice

While a cloud of euphoria still hangs over the country suggesting that the mere choice of a non-Oshiwambo speaker in Prime Minister Hage Geingob will assuage tribal and other prejudices, reality appears to have hit fast with media reports suggesting a racial outburst from yet another government minister.

The police are reportedly investigating the tribal tirade of the minister towards police officers. Meanwhile, unreported at the Swapo congress is also information that a lawmaker used tribalistic language to campaign against Geingob.

It is difficult to regulate prejudices based on colour, language or cultural origin among ordinary citizens in their usual habitat. But what appears to be an increasing tendency among leaders and people who should know better to accentuate racial and tribal differences in a country of so much diversity, should be viewed with dismay.

That the language of prejudice is coming from leaders within the ruling party can only lead to despondency among many who are very conscious of the fact that playing up such superficial differences makes the job of having a peaceful and prosperous Namibia much harder to achieve.

The myriad social and economic problems most Namibians face will never be solved with members of one ethnic group lashing out at another. In fact, not one tribal or racial group will rise by trampling on another and colonialism has proven that.

The sooner our leaders accept that reality, the sooner perhaps they will start to address the root cause of racial and cultural prejudices that seem to occupy many Namibian hearts and minds.

It is nearly two years since the Ministry of Information Communication Technology launched the nationhood and pride campaign but so far it is barely visible.

The nationhood campaign must find ways to bring these difficult conversations into the open but only with the view to finding solutions. For the reality is that among prejudices in allocating resources [including school bursaries and jobs] ethnic and racial identity rank highly in dishing out such sought after opportunities.

Experiences such as hiring based on language groups has driven more people to identify themselves firstly with ethnic groups and race, with their 'Namibianness' coming second.

Togetherness and the appreciation of the wealth that diversity offers can only be achieved with deliberate education campaigns. Namibians of all hue and colour ought to be made constantly conscious that to live in harmony requires citizens to row together or cycle in tandem.

Nation-building [an exercise that never stops] is akin to team sport where each individual must go it alone when in possession of the ball, for instance, showing off their skills for whatever the moment allows, but the general direction and goal of being on a pitch is the same for all players.

Divisive leaders must face the music and be reminded why they are representatives of their constituencies. The ordinary Namibian ought to see that leaders who promote divisions are not rewarded.

Unless all Namibians begin to address these difference, each in one's own small but significant way, we will head the way of many of our fellow African countries where civil war never stops and the real grievances are not systematically and effectively dealt with.

Patching up with cosmetic dressing will not deliver us from our many problems.

If there is one gift each Namibian must wrap up for one another as we kick off 2013, working towards tolerance and togetherness may be the most useful step we could take.

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