More than any other public holiday, Namibia’s Independence Day serves as a symbol of how far the country has come since 21 March 1990.
The country’s transition from the armed struggle to Independence earned it international acclaim. It represented the new values of inclusive politics, reconciliation and transitional justice, social transformation, human rights and constitutionalism.
Namibia’s struggle against colonialism was bitter and hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the process. Of course it was not a walk in the park nor did Namibia rely on its own prowess to gain Independence, countries such as Cuba, Soviet Union, Angola, China and Zambia all contributed immensely towards Namibia’s march to freedom.
In the year of the 27th anniversary of the new constitution and the 112th and 39th anniversaries of the Nama/Herero Genocide and Cassinga Massacre respectively, it would be appropriate to focus on the state of the nation where so much has been done to improve the lives of Namibians, yet so much still needs to be done.
The construction of the Independence Memorial Museum was part of fulfilling the sacred task to tell, record and preserve Namibia’s history. Former President Hifikepnuye Pohamba in 2014 described the museum as a centre where Namibia’s long history of anti-colonial resistance and national liberation struggle is told. But despite all that, many continue to ask whether the expectations of 1990 have been met? Swapo Party still dominates electoral support. But it has come under increasing public criticism and the political narrative has turned against it in recent years, mainly due to internal bickering and failure to find lasting solutions to the land crisis in the country.
Most domestic political discourse is centred on land, and although Swapo has conceded that it is struggling to find the necessary solutions, the rate at which the Swapo-led government is tackling policy issues around land continues to take place at a slow pace.
The provision of affordable housing continues to be the bone of contention.
Last year Minister of Economic Planning Tom Alweendo said the national housing backlog has surpassed the 300 000 mark.
Swapo’s dominance since 1990 has limited the space for creative opposition, which remains small and fragmented. Support for the ruling continues to increase but that does not mean its governing policies sits well with the populace.
DTA of Namibia, the official opposition, has grown in the previous election while smaller parties continue to gasp for political survival. Swapo’s overwhelming majority in parliament-to a certain extent-renders the opposition irrelevant.
During the celebrations, President Hage Geingob reiterated the importance of national unity across the country. “A key contributing factor to our peace has been our national unity. Unity is defined as a state of being one; oneness. That is why we have launched the narrative of One Namibia, One Nation. Unity is also described as the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole i.e. unification,” he said in his speech delivered in Rundu on Tuesday. He added: “This is why we talk of the Namibian House, whose walls consists of the bricks representing our various tribes/ethnic groups and races, however once plastered and painted with the colours of the Namibian flag, the individual bricks are not identifiable and therefore the various bricks have been combined into one and we shall achieve unification. Yes, we still have a long way to go with regards to unity, but that is our desire.” “This is the new narrative we have started, in order to ensure that we consolidate the solid foundation that was laid by our Founding President and our Second President, who have joined us in celebration here today.”
The lacklustre economy is another major source of worry, while poverty, unemployment and inequality remain stubbornly high.
The country had to enforce several economic policy shifts to make up for the capital shortfall in the country. Several capital projects were suspended and major tax reforms have been undertaken to improve revenue flow into the State coffers.
Geingob warned the nation to be weary of “centrifugal forces who are intent on destroying what took us so many years and so much blood, sweat and tears to build.”
“It is easy to destroy but difficult to build. If we allow Namibia to be torn apart by malicious elements, then this beautiful land of ours will struggle to recapture its pride and glory. So when we talk of the concept of Harambee and peace, it should not be scoffed at or ridiculed; rather it should be seen in the context of promoting oneness of the mind and a concord amongst our people in order to safeguard our sovereignty,” he further said.
Said a visibly perplexed Geingob: “It puzzles me when I see that there are Namibians who are intent to see the Government of the day fail, even to the point of wishing for some kind of calamity to take place and jeopardize our plans to take Namibia forward. We are aware that after 27 years we still face many uphill challenges, most specifically with regards to our socioeconomic architecture. Poverty is a scourge that continues to wreak havoc in our lives, because if one Namibian is poor, then we all are poor and we will all pay a price for that. What I am referring to in this instance is abject poverty, and not a Utopian existence in which we are all millionaires and equal.”