20 September 2013

Namibia: Fundamentals of Our Socio-Economic Transformation?


What are the fundamentals of Namibia's socio-economic transformation? One is tempted to juxtapose this question against the generally accepted ideology of a mixed economy, whatever this means as contained in the Namibia Constitution.

This question is particularly invoked by the observations one of our deputy ministers made regarding an initiative by one of the country's youth organisations, HANO, on establishing a gardening project in the Okondjatu communal area in the Okakarara constituency recently. Yes, one cannot but join the deputy minister in lauding and commending HANO, and indeed all the youths behind this gardening project.

Indeed, given the high rate of unemployment in Namibia, with a substantial number of our youths, if not the majority affected, such initiatives by the youth to alleviate the effect on this sector of the Namibian population, it goes without saying, is highly commendable and laudable. But the aspect that must be bugging each and every Namibian ideologue/philosopher/ thinker/academic and/or indeed any patriot and/or agent for transformation, and which of course should be the concern of each and every Namibian, is the context, ideological and philosophical, underpinning any societal socio-economic efforts and/or initiatives geared towards transformation. Not only at the micro grassroots level, even at the macro level.

A case in point is our grandmaster industrialisation plan, Vision 2030, and its derivatives, if one may refer to them as such, our national development plans, the latest thereof, of which is the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4). Hence the polemical question is to what ideological and/or philosophical postulations and/or or conceptualisations inform and underpin such development initiatives and drives?

One is compelled to pose such a question in view of the copycat habit of always trying to imitate other societies in terms of one's development, whether such an imitation is only philosophical or ideological or real without necessarily subjecting such philosophy or ideology to a rigorous internal socio-economic analysis based on scientific research as to the state of society, politically as well as socio-economically and otherwise, pertaining. Thus, in most cases such constructions underpinning socio-economic transformation, not conceptualized homely and/or homebred and constructed but usually borrowed or simply copycatted. The same can be said about the Namibian transformation currently.

Reference is hereby made to South Africa and the African and/or indigenous philosophy of Ubuntu. Likewise to Kenya with the philosophy of Harambee while in Tanzania there was the philosophy Ujamaa.

Roughly translated Ubuntu refers to "human kindness" and in South Africa and Zimbabwe it has come to be used as a kind of humanist philosophy, ethic or ideology. But it can be traced back to the beginning of the 1950s in the writings of Jordan Kush Ngubane in the African Drum. Based on the context of Africanisation propagated by political thinkers in the 1960s period of decolonisation, Ubuntu was used as a term for a specifically African or Southern African kind of socialism or humanism found in blacks but lacking in whites in the context of the transition to black majority rule in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

From the 1970s it came to be described as a specific kind of "African humanism". "A person is a person through other people strikes an affirmation of one's humanity through recognition of an 'other' in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for creative inter-subjective formation in which the 'other' becomes a mirror for my subjectivity.

"This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The 'I am' is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance," according to Michael Onyebuchi Eze.

Although generally associated with Kenya, the term Harambee, meaning 'pulling together' in Kenyan political or socio-economic jargons, is applicable throughout history to many societies and communities from Africa, Latin America, and even Europe, and basically underlines something of common concern, and for the good of the group. And Ujamaa was the concept that formed the basis of Tanzania's first President, Julius Nyerere's social and economic development policies. Nyerere translated the Ujamaa concept into a political-economic management model through, among others, the vigilisation of production. It is debatable whether Ujamaa (or Nyerere's brand of Tanzanian African socialism) failed or not. But that aside, there is no denying that there was a indigenous transformational ideology or philosophy.

But what about in Namibia? Yes, lately there has been the "My Land, My Pride" campaign spearheaded by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. But can this campaign in anyway be likened to a socio-economic transformational ideology/philosophy to the same degree as, for example, Tanzania's Ujamaa? The call is for you and me to make, and even to redefine this and mould it into an indigenous socio-economic transformation ideology and/or philosophy.

Until Namibia addresses such constructions upfront, I can guarantee you that her efforts at development would remain superficial, ineffective and inefficient because they are not based on any fundamentals. And perhaps at this juncture I need to clarify myself what I mean by fundamentals. When we talk for instance about justice, this would remain a hollow concept, both in its economic meaning, as well in it broader meaning, until such concept is rooted and linked in its historical essence to the historicity of the Namibian society, political, socio-economic, cultural and otherwise. To amplify this, would justice in an inherently pastoral society or community mean the same thing to an in inherently crop producing society or community? And would, for that matter a capitalist society have the same understanding of economic justice as a society emerging from a pastoral or crop-producing mode of economic production? Your guess is as good as mine.

But hence the need to inquire into this and to define the fundamentals of our society or communities we hail from before toying with different concepts such as equal distribution, economic justice and the likes. Whatever ways and means of dispensing social justice we choose, can only be realised if there is a symbiotic relationship between such, and our own historicity, political, socio-economic, cultural and otherwise from which we depart and premise our transformational endeavours, and fundamental which in turn defines our current mode of production and relationship of production and living.

Just to make a simple comparison with reference to the welfare state or society just like any welfare society like the Scandinavian country. Can our society emerging from years of deprivation and economic injustice of its citizens really count on a welfare system? No and a BIG NO because such welfare systems have not been designed to address abject poverty and squalor such as Namibia have inherited from the Apartheid colonial system. In this regard Namibia needs a fundamentally different approach to its socio-economic problems, and a different philosophy for that matter based not only on her socio-economic objective conditions, currently, as well as that of its colonial legacy. And as much underpinned by her own indigenous philosophy based on her own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. The other question that one needs to pose is whether within a kleptocratic society, that an influential section of the Namibia society currently seems, economic justice is attainable, however good intentioned our efforts in this regard may be?

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