Thursday 6 May 2021
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Politics of truth commissions at the expense of justice

Allow me to respond to the glorified idea of establishing a ‘truth commission’ for Namibia to address colonial, apartheid and liberation struggle crimes.
Truth commissions have been promoted as the basis for healing nations that have experience violence, thus idealised. Few countries in Africa which Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and South Africa are among some of the forty countries in the world with truth commissions. As noble as the concept sounds, I’d like to give a critic of it. The Namibian government has refused for the establishment of such a commission, a move critics don’t agree with.
Recently both President Geingob and former President Nujoma have rejected the suggestion.
Whatever be their reasons for not agreeing to it, I cannot tell. My reason to the idea of such a commission is much more for teleological reasons rather than political. Let me draw us to a close to home example, South Africa. When the truth commission was established, the De Klerk and his Afrikaner nationalist minions hijacked its agenda and weakened it further by adding the concept of ‘reconciliation’.
The outcome of the inquiry turned out to be deeply Christianised and in as much as the world applauded the processes, this was a cosmetic process. South Africa hasn’t healed and the effects the apartheid injustice continue to face ordinary ‘Blacks, Indians, and Coloureds’.
The inquiry threw justice out of the window and focused on story telling. Nearly three decades later, the perpetrators of injustice have continued from the negotiations made between neo-liberalists and ANC’s sold out leadership.
The truth commission of South Africa failed to allow the cause of justice by smearing it in the language of mere confessions and discussion.
For one, the victims were never allowed to express their anger or even be heard what their expectations were or what they thought should be the just course.
When people like Prof. Makau Mutua, suggests that Namibia needs a truth commission to deal with the German led genocide against Namas-Hereros, they over-glorify the process.
The issue isn’t about inquiry but much about justice.
Truth commissions have an elitist agenda that doesn’t trickle down to the most affected of people.
And the Namibian situation, although there is need to open up about our history, needs to first find conceptions and systems of justice to address the continued effects of apartheid.
Colonialism, massacre of the Namas-Hereros and apartheid are crimes, are often overlooked in the name of seeking a truth commission. Instead of falling prey to an entire agenda of talks that do not address these historical crimes, we need to focus on just measures. At present, the whole talk around truth commission politics is at the expense of justice for those who have been victimised by these brutal events of history.
What about the liberation struggle? Surely, we cannot run away from crimes committed in the name of liberating the country. The same way apartheid is a crime, killing people in the name of liberation is just as a crime. These crimes should be settled in courts not by truth commissions, which have failed so far and have focused their entire attention on cosmetic fixes.
The whole idea that seeks to copy how South Africa went about on addressing the crimes of apartheid, only reflects our love for bad models of justice.
I’m cognisant of families who need closure over their loved ones who disappeared, and I can only hope that that will happen in their lifetime.
What we are suffering at a national scale are not mainly the effects of people who have disappeared during the liberation struggle. We are suffering the effects of the apartheid system, whose negotiations have left members of the oppressive group to continue living absolutely unaffected. This is what we must deal with.
The continued weak social and economic structures of Black communities which have not been reciprocated with just and sustainable means.
For this I think the whole idea of focusing on truth commissions is a distraction from focusing on the real issues that continue to plague us as a nation.
If there be any truth commission to be established they should do so because they seek to establish justice and not just be another platform for merely pampering crimes, by giving them a platform to insult the dignity of those they’ve offended. We need to start talking about justice, before we start addressing after effects such as reconciliation. The whole talk for a commission of truth from whichever angle is a reversal of the real issues – justice.
Apartheid wasn’t a mere social crime; it was a multi-facet crime against the Black people of this country. Until now, we haven’t seen justice.
It has all been swept under the carpet of national reconciliation and policies that are aimed at protecting the oppressive history. Now we want to worsen it by adding another burden of empty inquiries which will only be extended talks with no effects.
The history of colonialism and apartheid will only be reciprocated by justice and not by empty talks. This should be our current pursuit.
Basilius M. Kasera

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