Sunday 11 April 2021
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Identity politics is a threat to social and political cohesion

Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro was quoted in the Windhoek Observer of 15 March 2019 of having said that the notion of “One Namibia One Nation” is a twisted and naïve political doctrine. He claimed that the notion is an attempt at homogenization of the population.
Paramount Chief Rukoro is a bitter man. He sounds angry at any one who does not have Otjiherero cultural background. He is the epitome of someone who believes in identity politics.
Identity politics is the tendency for people of a particular background to form exclusive political alliances to the exclusion of others. Identity politics promotes particular interests without due regard for the interests of a larger political group.
With regard to Paramount Chief Rukoro, the Ovaherero identity is used as a tool to articulate claims for Genocide reparations from Germany. What Chief Rukoro is forgetting is the fact that other traditional communities fought against Germany colonial dispossession in solidarity with the Ovaherero people.
The Aandonga of Oshitambi under the leadership of Chief Nehale Mpingana fought the Germans at Amutuni.
Other traditional communities accommodated fleeing Ovaherero people within their communities.
Genocide is therefore a national issue.
Germany is likely to listen more and decide on reparation if all the people of Namibia speak with one voice on the subject of Genocide. Yes, restorative justice should target the most affected communities.
Identity politics seems to be a new narrative in the Namibian body politic today.
The Affirmative Repositioning (AR) uses generational differences as a basis of asserting its distinctiveness.
The Landless People’s Movement uses the notion of ancestral land to articulate its political message. Gender parity is conveniently used by women to claim a place in the political space.

Veterans of the Liberation Struggle use their status to claim benefits from Government.
Identity politics is a reflection of the failure of mainstream politics. People resort to identity politics when they feel marginalized by traditional party politics.
In Namibia, identity politics is driven by perceived unequal distribution of resources. Under the conditions of poverty and inequality people are likely to resort to competition for resources.
Competition for resources has a potential of causing political and social schisms along the lines of social identity.
In a society characterized by ethnic identities such as ours, identity politics has a potential of exacerbating political fault-lines which threaten social and political cohesion.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr in his book titled, The Disuniting of America (1992), warned that identity politics has a potential of fracturing society along the lines of power and powerlessness.
He observed that identity politics works against the creation of real opportunities for ending marginalization. Such politics perpetuate marginalisation through the affirmation of difference.

He asserts that a liberal democracy requires a common basis for culture and society to function.
The challenge Namibia faces is how to leverage and maximise our diversity with the view of managing our social, cultural and political fault-lines.
Failure to do so our society will slide in all sorts of dysfunctions.
The challenge of leadership in Namibia is how to manage our diversity.
This requires us to honestly admit our political shortcomings, such as our failure to distribute resources equitably and our half-hearted response to perceived corruption amidst inequality.
One way of distributing national resources fairly is to decentralise, say 40 percent of the Development Budget to Regions on the basis of their population and other considerations.
Regions will be able to define their priorities and address them accordingly. Fighting corruption requires a special investigation unit in the Police Force to assist the Anti-Corruption Commission.
It further requires special corruption courts to try alleged corruption cases.
Furthermore, Government should engage communities to understand their priority needs.
The one size fit all approach does not capture the specific needs of a particular community.
Development should be need based. Such an approach will bring benefits to communities directly.
Our development approach has concentrated too much on infra-structure.
It is time now for the Development Budget to address community development.
Community Development should address the needs of communities, such as to improve sanitation, to create food and nutrition resilience, to modernise traditional agriculture, to develop markets in rural communities, to build community halls at Constituency level, to rehabilitate rural schools and clinics, to improve water distribution at community level and so on.
Such an approach shall minimize rural- urban migration.
Paramount Chief Rukoro bemoaned what he perceived to be an attempt to create a homogenous society or a melting pot in Namibia.
Namibia believes in unity in diversity.
Diversity is celebrated. Those of us whose world-view was forged in the crucible of African solidarity, we view ourselves as Africans first, Namibians by nationality and Omuwambo by culture.
One Namibia One Nation!

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