opinionBy Udo W. Froese
FINNISH and Rhenish missionaries documented on their journeys into the far north of a part of southwestern Africa, well before colonial borders divided nations and foreign settlers colonised Africa's open and disciplined areas, that the Kwanyama people were a caring nation. They had looked well after their women and children, after their elderly and even after those, who could be seen as lazy. All had a place to live, to move and to be taken good care of. Their herds of cattle and goats were in good balance with the surroundings.
This humanity and respect for life was sincerely reflected in the way, the big Namibian family and its biggest member, the Swapo Party, has taken care of one of its good sons, the late Minister Abraham Iyambo, when he had fallen ill and eventually died. He was cared for all the way to his grave. Now, compare this to the former occupants' mindset of sowing death and destruction, when tens of thousands of indigenous Namibians were tortured and killed. Cassinga is a leading example of an evil, unchristian act of no respect for human life.
When colonialism, apartheid and land theft had taken their toll, Namibia's indigenous population was described as marauding, landless, thieving, amoral, filthy, lazy and war-thirsty and therefore, living beings of a much lower ilk. The history books of the colonial-apartheid-UDI-Cold War era reflected such. The rest is history too.
One of Namibia's activists against colonial-apartheid occupation, the Reverend Michael Scott once prayed quietly, speaking the prayer the late Herero Chief, Hosea Kutako, spoke at the annual ceremony at the Okahandja graves of the Herero Chiefs: "Oh Lord, help us who roam about. Help us who have been placed in Africa and have no home of our own. Give us back a dwelling place... "
Today, after an enduring war against foreign occupation, life has changed in Namibia. As one lands at Windhoek's Hosea Kutako International Airport, trained indigenous Namibians greet the incoming and outgoing visitors with reserved friendliness. Mostly indigenous Namibians run the airport's businesses. The taxi drivers are indigenous people. As one drives to Windhoek, near the former 'Kapps Farm' one has to stop at a checkpoint, to check car and driver. Again, it is a reserved, but friendly indigenous Namibian face that greets and might ask a question or two.
Once in Windhoek, there is a wide participation of indigenous people in the daily life of the country's economy. Indigenous Namibians make up the hospital staff, the Namibian Police Services, the Armed Forces, the national and regional administration, the city council as well as many other professional services. In fact, some new, indigenous landowners take pride in their farms.
This writer was invited to enjoy a hunt on one of the local indigenous African farms outside Omaruru. It was a healthy and enriching experience. Please note, I only watched how the Kudu was shot, as I am not a hunter. The atmosphere throughout Namibia is laid back and peaceful. Like anywhere in the world, the poor and neglected have remained and need upliftment. Naturally, there are shortcomings that need to be addressed, as they are part of the responsibility of power and management.
Visitors and tourists alike, comment favourably on Namibia's beauty, cleanliness and peacefulness. The difference in cultures and mindsets is also clear. The original Namibians have a more relaxed, open approach and respectful attitude to their fellow human beings. Those, who benefited from former colonial-apartheid, seem to remain welcome and enjoy their lives in Namibia too. But, the hurdle is not yet overcome.
For example, the minority groups will not participate in the national celebrations of Cassinga Day, Independence Day and other such public holidays. Those minority groups seem to lead a shielded life, yet, enjoying all the benefits of the democracy and the economy of the Republic of Namibia. It would be good to see those too accepting Namibia's hand of reconciliation with the grace it deserves.
By Udo W. Froese, non-institutionalised, independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.