Wednesday 14 April 2021
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The rise of political popularism and the undermining of human solidarity

Some twenty years ago, Nigel Farage started a campaign to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
His campaign was a revolt against tolerance and multi-culturalism.
This was the start of a political phenomenon known today as political popularism.
Political popularism signifies the emergence of a polarized world order, state nationalism and egotism.
Global order is under threat as anger against the established institutional power grows throughout the world.
This anger is fuelled by insecurity created by mass migration and slow economic growth in many countries. A tribal notion of identity is dominating political behaviour as political popularism emerges as a dominant force in world politics.
The anti-European campaign by Nigel Farage was rewarded through the Brixit referendum. Prime Minister Teresa May is grappling as how best Britain could divorce itself from the European Union.
Currently Britain’s political landscape is polarized. There is no common ground.
The Euro sceptics have a field day. It is a political world of horse trading.
In France, Madame Marine Le Pen and her National Front was elated when Donald Trump won the United States Presidency. She hoped that Trump’s victory would boost her electoral fortunes in France.
However, the French electorate chose reason than emotions. They reasoned that polarization would not serve their interest. The French majority elected Emmanuel Macron, a pro-business centre right politician, as their leader.
The America First movement of President Trump signalled the triumph of political popularism in the United States. True to his electoral promises President Trump pulled back the United States from its global commitments.
He froze United States participation in Climate Change discussions. He reneged on the Iran nuclear agreement. He imposed tariffs on America’s trading partners. Unilateralism is the name of the game in world politics today. It is the world of “them and us”. It is a dangerous world.
The spirit of inclusive solidarity is dead.
In Africa political popularism manifest itself in the nativist politics. Nativist politics seek to re-establish or perpetuate native cultural traits.
Nativist politics takes place at the intersection of tribe, race and regionalism. Its manifestation ranges from tribalism, racism and xenophobia.
The nativist politics is tribal, exclusive and polarizing.
In Namibia, the politics of nativism became pronounced through notions such as “non- Oshiwambo speaking President” and the ancestral land claims. Normally, political leaders are elected on the basis of their political ideology, political character and trust.
The introduction of the criteria of “non-Oshiwambo speaking President” is exclusive, discriminatory and polarizing. The nativist politics are divisive in Namibia just as the popularist politics of Europe and the United States.
The claims of ancestral land are similarly exclusive. The history on Namibia tells us that our ancestors shared this area as a common heritage to all. When one cultural group experienced threats to its existence, other cultural groups came to its assistance.
When the war of genocide was waged against the communities in the Central and Southern parts of the Territory communities from the Northern part of the Territory came to their assistance.
Nehale lya Mpingana, the leader of Eastern Ondonga, sent his worriers to attach the German settlers at Amutuni Fort.
When the Otjiherero speaking community was destroyed by Imperial Germany forces some Heroros took refuge in Ondonga community. In my father’s mahangu field there was a big maroela tree known as The Maroela Tree of Shipangandjala. Tjipangandjara is a Herero name. When the Tjipangandjara family escaped the Germany genocide they found refuge under this tree.
Similarly, when the Oukwanyama kingdom was destroyed by the combined forces of the Portuguese and the South Africans, some of the surviving traditional leaders of Oukwanyama sttled in Ondonga area.
They were not only given shelter but were given traditional wards, “ omikunda”, to rule. Our ancestral communities were each- others’ keepers.
Among the Northern Namibia communities, there is an established tradition of sharing. When there is a famine in one part of the area people came to each- others assistance.
The food assistance was known as “ehanga lya pya”. When there was a big famine in Northern Namibia in 1915, many families moved to Central Namibia.
The Ovaherero people accepted them and helped them to start a new life. Our ancestors were not nativists. They practiced social charity. This is the spirit we should return to.
President Nelson Mandela addressing the youth in 2008 reminded the youth about the importance of human solidarity. He said: “… Please, place human solidarity, the concern for others, at the centre of the values by which you live”. Mandela’s appeal resonates today as it did in 2008.
Our world should re-kindle the spirit of common humanity through which we recognise our common origin.
We must return to the ideals of human solidarity which presupposes the efforts for a more just social order, world peace and mutual respect.
We must build more inclusive societies that are resilient to the threats of populism, nativism and division.

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