A tipping point refers to “the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change”. And yet another tipping point is on the horizon and this fast approaching era of change is fuelled by discontentment over inequality in Namibia and a change within the political landscape is simply put, inevitable.
The root of this approaching change is economic inequality because how is it that after independence where all Namibians emerged from oppression, some are now the sole proprietors of the means of production and they are only in the (elite) minority? It is saddening that one cannot argue that education is necessarily the main reason why some are faring better than others because even the educated are unemployed in the land of the brave. This in itself is a major human development challenge and according to Transparency International there is correlation between corruption and inequality.
Namibia despite having a small population of about 2,5 million people and being an upper-middle income country with a GDP of 11,49 billion contrastingly enjoys a Gini coefficient of 0.597 which neatly places us amongst the highest in the world when it comes to unequal wealth distribution according to the available 2015 world bank estimates pending latest updates.
I am no economist but this much I understand about these numbers in laymen’s terms; that we have more poor and unemployed people compared to those enjoying salary increments in the millions.
The reality is that Namibia’s 1st generation of born-frees are now adults. These are the youth born from 1990-1999 and they are currently 18 to 27 years old. Although technically those born in 1989 also qualify to join this age bracket. Nonetheless we are looking at a group of young adults whose worldviews and realities are shaped by principles of democracy, good governance, freedom of expression and believe it or not are able to differentiate between right and wrong.
They are adults and cannot be dismissed as too young to understand the cost at which the freedoms they enjoy was purchased.
What becomes the point of this freedom if it feels and looks like oppression? The point remains that the current socio-political and economic inequalities are a closer reality for this generation of Namibians then apartheid or colonialism will ever be and they are asking questions and visibly dissatisfied with the lack of transparency and justifications on why some for lack of better word are unable to ‘adult’ compared to their fellow citizens in the minority.
I opine that 27 years’ post-independence; we are a nation fast approaching political tipping point.
To demonstrate an interesting pattern, let us take a trip down memory lane on how historically Namibian generations in two different eras ushered in change relevant their contexts. The first tipping point for what was then known as South West Africa (Namibia) occurred during colonialism when the Herero and Nama ethnic groups combined efforts to retaliate against oppression. History tells us that as early as 1903 the Namibians bearing the brunt of German imperialism in that era made a stance on where they draw the lines when it comes to their rights.
They lost the struggle with their lives and land by 1908, however this part of Namibian history despite still being a festering open wound due to no closure pending ongoing genocide negotiations, remains etched in our memory culture as the first tipping point of note signifying what national unity looks like for Namibians in the face of oppression.
The second tipping point presented itself in the form of yet another ‘liberation’ struggle in 1966 where the aim was independence from the South African apartheid regime.
This equally had dire consequences to the point of death and this we all know very well and history records that it lasted until 1989 when the UN enforced resolution 435 that ushered in Namibian independence on the 21st March 1990.
As Namibians we can never forget this rich history, let alone dismiss it. It is a great part of our memory culture and heritage.
If anything it is because of the blood that watered our freedom that in true Namibian spirit, socio-political and economic inequality should actively be rejected. Historically the pattern is that oppression and Namibians are not synonymous of each other. However, unlike the previous eras where the tipping points occurred forcefully and were against foreigners.
It is highly unlikely that civil unrest will feature in this new era. Instead I anticipate a demonstration of democratic principles where clear lines are likely to be drawn between voter empathy for the past and the present dissatisfaction caused by inequality.
Namibians nation-wide are calling for change and perhaps it is far wider than just economic as per my analysis, nonetheless there exists discontentment that can either be addressed by the current government within the next two years or a new government post-2019.
Rakkel Andreas is currently an MA Development and Governance candidate at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. She holds an MA European and International Studies from Centre International de Formation Européen (CIFE) in Nice-France as well as BA in Media Studies and Political Science from the University of Namibia.