Antipathy towards Chinese nationals within Namibia on a personal and institutional basis ought to be frowned upon and rejected. The respect for human dignity is enshrined in the Namibian Constitution.
The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights recognizes that if people are to be treated with dignity, they require economic, social, cultural, political and civil liberties without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, language, political opinion, national or social origin.
Historically China-Namibia relations date back to the struggle for Namibian independence in the 1960’s with China said to have assisted the countries liberation movements SWANU and SWAPO with ‘moral and material’ support at a time when it was unpopular to do so.
The rise of China as a global super power and the second largest economy in the world offers broader economic opportunities for developing nations who are no longer limited to the Bretton Woods institutions namely the World Bank and IMF in accessing credit facilities for funding education and infrastructural development programs, loans which often attach stringent conditions that undermine the sovereignty of independent developing nations.
When the president of the Popular Democratic Party attempts to whip up anti-Chinese sentiment for political expediency and paints the Chinese as an economic threat to the livelihoods of Namibian nationals he violates the very constitution he swore to uphold when he was sworn into the National Assembly as the leader of the official opposition.
The practice of racial discrimination is prohibited in Namibia in accordance with article 23 of the constitution. Neither is there any justification for a racism that seeks to discriminate and exercise prejudice towards people based on their ethnicity anywhere in theory or in practice. Sino-phobia in Namibia can be linked to the perceived economic and political dominance that Chinese business people hold over the countries elected officials and their business associates who are said to be selling out the nation and its resources to the Chinese.
But then, who is to blame, the seller or the buyer?
The settler communities from the previous dispensation namely the Germans and Afrikaners are known for their inability and unwillingness to integrate and have long held onto a monopoly of economic dominance in the formal economy in industries such as finance, agriculture construction, transport, retail etc.
These groups exuded an aura of self importance that was reinforced by a mythical belief of cultural and technological superiority that came about as a result of diligence and hard work. Rather than favorable treatment and economic assistance from their governments through schemes such as the Afrikaner Economic Empowerment.
The monopoly of these groups in the construction sector has been broken with the emergence of the Chinese which further dispelled the theory of Afrikaner and German cultural and technological superiority.
According to media sources there seems to be a direct correlation between the presence of Chinese nationals and the increase in incidents of illegal wildlife poaching.
The Asian market for illegal wildlife trade in protected species such as the rhinoceros and African elephant fuels the demand for wildlife trafficking.
However it is unfair to simply attribute the entire traffic in contraband on the Chinese because it is impossible for organized criminal syndicates to operate on such a sophisticated level without the collaboration of the Namibian authorities such as the police, game wardens, farm owners, farm workers and immigration officials.
The hierarchal nature of the police force, immigration and customs enforcement services makes it highly unlikely for junior members to operate under the radar of their superiors without drawing suspicion.
There is definitely a degree of complicity with officials in the higher echelons of law enforcement; it just hasn’t been proven yet. Such is the nature of organized crime. We just never know who is running the show.
As a country governed by the rule of law it is imperative that Namibians are sensitized about the dangers of racism and how it affects society, especially the victims of this complex that seeks to distinguish people as being superior or inferior to others.
Discrimination on the basis of language, culture and nationality hinders social and cultural progress.
As a member of the international community it is impossible to develop without collaborating with other countries because we do not exist in a vacuum. Mutual respect requires that we show consideration for each other’s thoughts and feelings.
The way African’s expect to be treated when they find themselves as visitors in other countries is the same way they should treat visitors in their country.
If Namibian’s feel they are mistreated when they are in foreign countries and would therefore like to reciprocate the same behavior should remember that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
Vitalio Angula is a socio-political commentator and a firm believer in the spirit of Ubuntu.