Local academic Joseph Diescho says Namibia’s struggle for independence partly ill-prepared Namibians to become one nation upon the attainment of freedom. Delivering a lecture at series of the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) dialogues under the banner ‘From Bantustans to One Namibia, One nation’, Diescho said the divisions among various Namibian tribes can be attributed to the liberation struggle. “The road of the liberation struggle ill-prepared us [in becoming one nation]. The struggle for liberation taught us to be suspicious of one another, [it taught] taught us to be indifferent from one another; to be careless with one another. Both apartheid and the politics of the struggle ill-prepared us to become one nation,” Diescho noted.
Diescho added: “In the struggle for independence, our efforts were spent on fighting a war and winning that war by all means necessary. It is very difficult to find a moment where we really thought about what to build after independence. No African nation got it right.” While acknowledging attempts by Namibian leaders of different generations to unite Namibians into one nation as far as 1904, there is yet to be leadership that “has really mortgaged the depth that dictum, one Namibia, one nation”. In his famous essay titled ‘What is a Nation’, distinguished French historian Ernest Renan described a nation as the “culmination of a long past of endeavours, sacrifice and devotion and a large scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past”. This means, inhabitants of a nation must share a common past.
A classic example of Renan can be seen with the Jewish people. The memory of the Holocaust is shared by all Jews, and it unites them for a common goal of national existence. Seemingly agreeing with Renan, Diescho argued that it is difficult to find a single commonality among Namibians making it difficult to fit into the description of what a nation ought to be. Diescho said the dream of One Namibia, One nation did not start today as it dates back to the days of Ovaherero chief Samuel Maharero and Nama chief Hendrik Witbooi. “The genesis of that dream (One Namibia, One nation) my friends is in the genocidal moments of the struggle. You will discover that in 1904 when the Hereros and Namas were fighting a common enemy, they gravitated towards one another and said we need to stand together.” He used the example of when the Herero Chiefs Council under the stewardship of Chief Hosea Kutako sent Founding President Sam Nujoma overseas to petition the United Nations.
“It was the Herero Chiefs Council that discovered Nujoma and said: “We cannot sent only Otjiherero speaking people overseas to petition on our behalf. We need to reach out beyond our noses”. That is how Tate Nujoma was smuggled out of Namibia through Botswana to petition to the UN and he became the founding President of Namibia.” President Hage Geingob, through his five-year strategic plan, the Harambee Prosperity Plan has vowed to build an inclusive ‘Namibian House’. The Namibian House has become a buzz word in his public addresses in an attempt to unite the nation. In Geingob’s narrative, the Namibian House is an inclusive country wherein no one should feel left out and where there is no poverty and a place where every Namibian feels a sense of belonging and is presented with a fair opportunity to prosper. Geingob’s idea of a ‘Namibian House’ ties well in with the dream of a nation that those who came before him envisaged.
“This one side is the track of colonialism, imperialism, divide and rule and apartheid which told us to hate ourselves (Africans) and that road left us in a difficult situation of a psychosis and disease called black inferiority complex,” said Diescho. As a direct consequence of ‘black inferiority complex’, many Africans today suffer from self-doubt, self-hate and self-pity according to the veteran academic. More so, with attributes such as self-hate, self-doubt and self-pity still intact in post-independent Africa has been to the detriment of creation of nation among many African states, Diescho added. “Nations can only be built on the foundations of love, not doubt, not hate and not pity,” he said.
Bantustans were homelands created in Namibia by the South African colonial regime by dividing the country in 10 territories along tribal lines. In 1964 Namibia had 10 homelands, namely: Bushmanland (San), Damaraland (Damara), Namaland, Kaokoland (Ovahimba), Rehoboth (Baster), Tswanaland, Caprivi (Lozi), Hereroland (Heroro), Ovamboland, (Ovambo) and Kavangoland (Kavango) and Coloured Affairs (Coloureds). The impact of Bantustans is very much alive as most Namibian tribes finds themselves predominantly in the same location and still settle along their tribal origin.