On Thursday last week Karl Eichoff, a farmer of the farm Vergenoeg in the Hochfeld area, was arraigned in Okahandja. The allegations against him are ghoulish.
He stands accused of a count of murder, defeating or obstructing the course of justice, and the ill treatment of animals. Eichoff has been remanded to 25 November pending possible psychiatric examination and further investigations by the police.
These did not stop the social media to go into overdrive comparing this macabre incident at Vergenoeg with the Buffalo bar fracas involving Levi Katire and his party in Gobabis. The fact that the suspects in both these cases are white while the victims are black have led many to conclude that these cases amount to racism or, at the least, are crimes motivated by racism.
Understandably, given the pivotal role race has played in defining our misery in the not too distant past, our tolerance levels for racism - real or imagined - cannot be very high. It, therefore, requires very little provocation to roll out our armada to nip the ugly face of racism in its bud.
As a matter of fact, our Constitution is alive to the scourge of racism and therefore states in the preamble, inter alia, "Whereas these rights have for so long been denied to the people of Namibia by colonialism, racism and apartheid... " And while Article 10 of the Constitution provides for the equality of all in Namibia, Article 23 dealing with Apartheid and Affirmative Action, provides for a framework to redress the race and gender bigotry of our colonial past.
This constitutional provision is further underpinned by the Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act (Act 26 of 1991) as amended. This very detailed and comprehensive Act, outlaws racial practice in all its possible dimensions and therefore makes its practice criminal. It also provides a legal framework for the aggrieved to litigate against all manner of perceived perpetrators of racism.
To the best of our knowledge neither the Gobabis defendants nor the Vergenoeg suspect have formally been charged with racism. This does not mean that charges relating to racism may not be added following investigation. But it would be careless to accuse the suspects of racism without doing the necessary work which could serve in our courts. As a matter of fact, the overwhelming cases of crimes in our country, sadly, continue to be gender based violence.
To pretend otherwise will put us in the same category as one Steve Hofmeyr and his lunatic fringe who peddled a case for 'volksmoord' in the face of overwhelming evidence pointing to the contrary in a march on the Union Building in Pretoria on the same day Eichoff appeared in the Okahandja magistrate court.
Hofmeyr's 400 odd men, women and children were in no mood to allow any facts to spoil their preposterous rant as Hofmeyr and his fellow travellers where angry because "we are not used to be raped by other tribes and ethnic groups" as he told the eNCA news. So an orgy of incestuous rape would otherwise be acceptable?
But then, rape is a serious crime in most jurisdictions, including Namibia, with its high levels of gender-based violence. It has nothing to do with racism. It also follows that not every bar brawl, assault or murder where the parties are from different racial groups amounts to racism.
The Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act ( Act 26 of 1991) clearly spells out the transgressions which would be treated as racism. And it is this law which provides a recourse for victims of racism to seek justice in our courts of law. While we have appreciation for the costs of litigation very few cases of alleged racism have served in our courts.
This is, by no means, to wish away the pervasive and insidious practices of racism, ethnicity and tribalism to which many are still daily subjected to at places of work, school, restaurant ,etc. It means that the battle against the deep rooted culture of racism and tribalism is far from over.
And while both our laws prohibit racism and tribalism we can only rid ourselves of these vices by the manner we live our lives. As that tired cliché has it, an eye for an eye would render us all blind.
Our republican Constitution seeks to build a new humane civilisation upon the phoenix of the racial order of yesterday. And we must all always go back to the preamble as a good place to start. In crafting a rights based culture, our Constitution intones...
"Whereas the said rights include the right to the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of race, colour, ethnic origin, sex, religion, creed or social or economic status."
This imposes responsibilities on all of us, namely, to continue to live and promote these values even when others detract from the same.
So, no, there is no race war if we continue to live by what OR Tambo has taught us, namely, "we do not take our standards from those of the enemy".