14 THOUGHT LEADERS Friday, July 28 2017 | NEW ERA Africa the cradle of humanity The ancient African history is indeed distorted. The way the Africans lived and ruled themselves centuries ago sometimes is just a fascinating mystery to many people. Many believe that ancient African history is total savagery and primitiveness. However, traditional African societies were well organised and sophisticated. When the other people came, particularly the white people, they misunderstood the lifestyle and traditional governance and power authority of the African people and concluded that Africans were primitive and had no administrative structures. They did not understand that African societies had sophisticated extended family relationships that developed into proper administrative structures and authorities. Of course, there was lack of sophisticated technology and the remoteness and isolation of Africa from the rest of the world created the perception that Africa was primitive and a dark continent inhabited by backward people. However, socially, politically and economically African societies had their own functional systems. African lifestyles were not so much centered around material benefits but more so around and on humanism and a communal caring lifestyle based on Ubuntu. Individual persons were expected to live in close and respectful relationships with each other. The African philosophy of Ubuntu dictates that people can and should live as one unit which is bound together, in other words, people can be people only if their lives is dependent on each other. In that sense the African lifestyle and their political systems dictated that their societies remained inextricably interwoven. In their relationships and family links their culture dictated that there should be love among all of them and uncompromising respect for human values, sex and age of the people. Because of these they put human values above materialist interest. The Western people who arrived were more materialistic and misunderstood these livestyles of African people. These historical issues are many and need more space to be elaborated on. For this article it suffices to limit to a Ngarikutuke Tjiriange few aspects. The black people had varied social and political structures as well as varied economic structures, beliefs and cultures. However, over the hundreds of years African societies built amazing and admirable life systems and relationships of mutual support and dependency. The societies were interwoven and turned to each other for help and support in terms of need and during times of disasters and such help was given freely in the spirit of Ubuntu. Most of African communities were based on united and loving family units of extended family. Families lived together but as a son reached manhood and married he left his family’s household and established his own independent household while not breaking family relationships and unity. In that way the united clan was extended but family relationships and bonds remained intact. In many African societies one tribal group has a number of sub chiefdoms consisting of thousands of extended families with numerous households which are working together, and have respect, love, and help each other. For example in Ovaherero there are Onguatjindu, Otjikatjamuaha, etc. All these sub chiefdoms constitute and make up the united tribe. The various black tribal groups varied in their culture, economic and social life but despite these there were still and are very many common and striking similarities. One thing that colonizers did also not understand is that political and administrative systems of most African people were based on democratic principles. The powers of chiefs were controlled and the chief could not do things by himself but in concert and consultation with his counsellors and grass-roots input. The traditional African societies’ administrations were complex, sophisticated and based on extended family rules which were the cultural democratic norms. The white explorers did not understand this and concluded that ancient Africa was a backward and primitive place. The truth of the matter is that, socially and politically, Africa was more democratic than medieval Europe, which was ruled and controlled by autocratic and oppressive monarchies. It is also true that Africa technologically lagged behind but surely socially, democratically and politically Africa was not what white explorers concluded it was. In fact technological backwardness might be explained by the remoteness and isolation of the continent from the rest of the world. However, the early discoveries did disclose that Africa was, indeed, far in front of the world in the Old Stone Age. Africa is the cradle of humanity where people thousands of years ago used various tools in their lives to make their lives easy. Now we are in a different age and environment altogether. The whole world has become a global unit and Africa must go fast to advance its technical and scientific knowledge to catch up with those who in the meantime developed faster. The situation where Africa will now freely exchange sophisticated technology with others will propel the continent into a high level of development. The continent is no longer isolated and it can immensely benefit from scientific knowledge and global cross-cultural experience. However, to achieve these, the culture of selfenrichment and corruption must not be tolerated. I might end by saying that the best is still to come for Africa as long as we have the right and honest people in power in the continent. Social Media: Overcoming regressive and authoritarian politics As much as we are ripping and enjoying the social, economic, cultural, and political benefits of social media, there are others that equalise social media to a living hell for political infightings. Strictly speaking, social media came to our rescue as a source of information that was difficult to get before the 21st century. We can watch news via streamlining applications, read newspapers, listen to radios and all the other good things that come with digital media. Lately, I have noticed and observed that, instead of social media being a living and attractive platform for social development, it is now making life difficult for some people and organisations. It is making it cumbersome for the poor and marginalised communities to express themselves as they have limited access or are intimidated by the elites. While on the contrary, it is a political heaven for the few elites and well-off members of the society. But there are inappropriate usages of social media, particularly in Namibia whereby people are currently using mobile phones to access facilities during church events, funeral services, and meetings. These platforms are also being used to instruct, direct, control and manipulate the poor, marginalised as well less well-off citizens. It has become a political weapon for the elites and aspiring politicians to silence, threaten and discourage citizens from actively exercising their political rights. It is worth noting that, to some extent, some citizens misuse these platforms by sharing inappropriate pictures, videos and unconfirmed news (fake news) due to illiteracy and lack of exposure. Our politics of the day is questionable as it lack ethics and if not well controlled, it will not bear the fruits we are dreaming of – social inclusivity. Our political leaders, be they old or young, make themselves prone to bribery, manipulations and political exploitations. They are all fighting for self-enrichment and extending their hands to ill-gotten wealth by pretending to be addressing social inequalities and economic injustices. This can be observed from the current scenarios whereby political leaders campaign aggressively and make a lot of empty promises but by the time they will be in positions of responsibilities, they will keep quiet and enjoy tea and coffee with their political partners in crime. Most of these unacceptable behaviours and practices in our political climate are lately being revealed by social media as most of the dirty tricks of blinding citizens are exposed unexpectedly. In the same vein, our electorates or citizens are also to be blamed as they only vote, nominate and support those that are likely to fill their stomachs once in position of powers but not because of their leadership abilities to lead and take us out of extreme and regional segregation poverty. This regressive manipulative politics is also slowly emerging and entering the corporate world and other organisations. This is where our heads of divisions, institutions and others play political favouritism by assigning responsibilities to those that are in agreement with their initiatives, plans or strategies even if they are driving to unreachable destinations. To a certain extent, employees are also frustrated purposely so that they can resign since they are seen as threats and disruptive elements in various organisations. Similarly, no favourable and conducive platforms are created by managers and political leaders at different levels for employees to exercise their freedom of speech and rights. With this regressive authoritarian politics, employees are summarily dismissed, reprimanded, fired, disciplined and in most cases blackmailed for questioning the authority of those in power. The Namibian political climate, as well as work ethics, is slowly becoming dictatorial with massive instructions and irresponsible delegation of authority from ill-conceived political leaders or managers. This is what forces some employees or citizens to use digital platforms such as social media to discuss, caucus and agree on certain issues as well as express their frustrations on the performance and behaviors of our leaders. Time has come now for us, as Namibians, to address this regressive and psychological dictatorial tendencies of our leaders by questioning any movements, strategies, instructions, motions, policies and moral well-being if one disagrees with them. We should take note that democracy is not only about agreeing for the sake of agreeing – it is all about making collective decisions and reaching a mutual understanding on topical and common issues affecting our society to find solutions amicably. We need to learn and acquire the skills to identify political hibernation traits in some aspiring political elites. It should be clear that I am not saying elites and those that are currently too vocal about political leadership ambitions do not have societal issues at heart, but I am warning our citizens to be on alert as these political manipulators and psychological traumatising agencies can be dangerous to our democracy. We should be aiming at progressive political debates with genuine aspirations and peace forecasting. Additionally, we need to do away with political friendship, family politics, tendency of being bribed for you to vote or support some individuals and build self-directed empires aimed at looting our government and people of their resources and freedom. I noticed with concern that the current debates on various social media platforms are regressive, authoritarian and psychological manipulative signs causing division, social disharmony and disturbances in our society. Despite all the abovementioned setbacks, social media still remains the best tool to address the current political issues. As long as we adhere to work ethics, digital practices, cultural norms and values, I strongly believe that the digital public sphere created by social media can successfully help us to address these regressive tendencies by strengthening and empowering each other without any digital hindrance. As a political researcher I am now advising our electorates and representatives at different platforms – be it section, branch, district or regional – to nominate and support leaders that have the society at heart. •Sadrag Panduleni Shihomeka, is a citizen engagement, social media and politics researcher at the School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He is also a lecturer in Educational Technologies and Research at the University of Namibia, Department of Lifelong Learning and Community Education. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, July 28 2017 | NEW ERA THOUGH LEADERS 15 Conference must address land holistically, rural and urban Can anyone really be blamed for being fixated with the land question? How and why with the land issue very much being a vexed question that it has been. In a largely agrarian economy, like Namibia, where agriculture and farming employ a substantial number of the economically active section of the local populace, it is understandable that land is and shall for some time in the future remain high on the political agenda. The existence of many, especially impoverished masses in the backwaters of our presumed prosperous urban centres, revolves around land. For many in our rural populace, land, and even what to many may appear an insignificant negligible piece of five hectares, but big enough for the all-important shelter one can call home, land is indeed a pivotal asset and resource, an essence of being. Both in our urban centres, as well as in our rural enclaves, land remains equally important, if not the centre of everyone’s existential struggle. That being the case rarely has the urgent need for land in the urban areas seemed to have enjoyed the same focus, politically and otherwise, as agricultural and farmland in the country. Even with barely two months to go before the long-overdue and muchawaited Second National Land Conference, one has as yet to see any real focus on urban land, in contrast to the attention that farmland has been enjoying from all and sundry, including political and non-political actors. The thousands of Namibians who are deprived of urban land, starved and hungry, right across the country’s urban centres, have no doubt remained a voiceless and benign flock, not to mention a leaderless and neglected silent majority, wallowing in their landlessness and consequent homelessness. In fact, even the agricultural and farmland that has hitherto been acquired by the government since independence, has in many aspects and respects, mostly come to resemble mere living spaces and means of survival, rather than the means of production they ought to be. Dubiousness and confusion seem to have been the hallmark of the government’s resettlement policy, an avenue for privileging the anointed, usually those close to the powers that be. It has become a means of providing such lucky individuals a living space reminiscent of Imperial Germany’s quest for lebensraum (living space), which eventually prompted and propelled her occupation of the then South West Africa – later re-named as ‘Deutsche Südwes Afrika’. Unless some political miracle happens, if not some economic wonders, our rural backwaters will for a foreseeable future continue to provide convenient safety nets against the pressure cooker urban centres, and indeed necessary buffers between the haves and the have-nots. This is the harsh reality, thanks to the demise of the apartheid relic, and our post-independence Constitution, allowing anyone freedom of movement, and indeed to settle and live anywhere within the border of the country. The false economic lure of the urban centres we have been seeing since independence has led the mushrooming of informal settlements in most of the urban areas. More than anything else, these centres are a realistic pointer to the urgent demand for land. They speak volumes in testimony to the fact that landlessness and land hunger is - akin to our rural backwaters - a much more acute problem in our urban areas. In this regard, the Second National Land Conference should and must with equal urgency as is expected, address the agricultural/ farmland and also seriously attend to the issue of urban land, because there’s no way we can address the acute problem of homelessness unless we address urban land at the upcoming land conference. Axiomatically, there’s no way we can address urban land, and thereby tackle homelessness, not to speak of the needs of those without shelter, unless, at the same time, we look at our property laws and how they impact on the availability of land, especially for community and social housing. This reality on the ground notwithstanding, with two months or less to go before the envisaged land conference, one has been hearing little, or next to nothing on the accessibility of land in our urban centres, not to mention the latest consultations by the Ministry of Land Reform all over the country, at which the issue of urban land seemed taboo. If the media reports are anything to go by, the question of urban land rarely featured during the said consultations, its centrality to urban living conditions, especially to the wellbeing of the thousands of our urban impoverished masses notwithstanding. And it is not hard to see why. The dichotomy between urban and rural land reform is manifest in the fact that responsibility for each aspect is vested in two different ministries, the Ministry of Land Reform and the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, respectively. Watch this space: it may not be long before the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development calls for the First National Conference on Urban Land. The 13 Generations of Namibians and their Fates – Part II Professor joseph diescho The population of Namibia today can be divided into different generations with particular sets of issues that either affect or characterise them as they interact with other generations, who also have their own issues. A generation in this sense is a group or cohort of people falling within the same range of age, have fairly similar experiences and can therefore be expected to hold relatively similar assumptions about an issue or challenge they face at any given time, and are more likely than not to have similar responses to challenges as time goes on. Here are the last seven generations of Namibians today: The Misled/Misguided Generation: One of the disadvantages of postcolonial Afrika is the notion that our existence is a consequence of European colonialism. This suggests that the Afrikan people were not there before colonisation and therefore cannot have an existence without having been colonised. Post-independence Afrikan leaders are master magicians at making their nations totally beholden to them for dear life. Most of us have been misled by this distortion of history, so much so that we are stuck in the Us versus Them dilemma of independence politics. We forget that we had a history before colonisation and which history is the main source of our power and relevance. We are so misled that our identity is wrapped up in the claims, false or true, of the struggle, which lasted less than 50 years. Until we find ourselves properly, we shall continue to be misled by greedy powerpreneurs. The Missing Generation: In the life of any community or nation, there are stories that show gaps or marginalisation of certain sectors of certain entities. The absence of the voices of such essential components makes the nation incomplete. In the past black people were the missing generation in national politics. Today the so-called born frees are the missing generation, as they are neither here nor there, neither old enough to have a voice, nor confident enough to assert itself, for fear of being ridiculed not to have been part of the liberation struggle. Yet, without their participation, planning and strategies about the future are incomplete. The Silent Generation: At any given point in the trajectory of national governance, there are always marginalised voices that are rendered silent, at least for some time. It is more often than not the silent members who make stronger voices later and may even emerge triumphant. The history of Southern Afrika was altered a great deal by the silent generation of the time, the youth, particularly the high school students of Soweto in June 1976. Silent generations often move to the back and regroup, only to emerge louder as underdogs and better poised as victors. In our time, the silent generation is the white population, especially young white citizens who feel encumbered by the sins of their forefathers and who will have a voice one day. No group stays silent forever. The Fake generation: In God’s creation of things, there are always weeds and bad predatory herbs and animals amongst the good. These bad elements are important variables so that a distinction is made between the good, the bad and the ugly. In political histories, there are always people who falsify their own narratives to fit the circumstances. In today’s Namibia these are people who are politicians who joined SWAPO at halfpast-midnight and are very militant scarf-bearers of the governing party. They are also intolerant of different perspectives of national politics. Their enthusiasm includes falsification of their contributions, with fake claims that they fought for this country, that they liberated this country, and even died for this country – while they are still alive! Their oozy political commitment is tantamount to boiling a silk SWAPO scarf and having it for soup.The Ridiculous Generation: There are people in our body politic today who are so phony that they choose to forget what everyone else cannot forget, namely that they were on the opposite side of the liberation struggle – for pay. Now they are the hangmen of those who stand for constitutional freedoms – also for pay. In the end, nobody takes them seriously and they cannot take themselves seriously either. These are zombies in the true sense of the word. The Militant Generation: History would be boring and without valour if there was no moment of marvellous militancy, for better or for worse. Oftentimes, it is the militant voice that brings out the critical importance and essentiality of the middle or reasonable voice. It is when there are possibilities of radical options that make people move towards the common centre. The militant generation enunciates what is too ghastly for the moment, so that the reasonable becomes the best option. Unfortunately in Namibia’s political options, there has not been a militant scenario offered, as yet. Maybe this is why we are stuck today in the politics of greed, mindlessness and oneupmanship, and seem to be going nowhere very slowly. The Our-Time-to-Eat Generation: The context of our greed and corruption in the public sector can be attributed to the culture that has evolved after independence. Before 1990, people, especially the young people who sacrificed everything to participate in the struggle for national independence, did what they did not for gain, but to bring about a better Namibia – for all. That is all gone. Now we get involved in most things to obtain wealth or fame. This banality has reached the levels where we feel entitled to eat first as a tribe, party, religion, or any criterion that gives us an advantage over another Namibian. This, sadly, is the tale of most post-independence Afrikan nations south of the Sahara, where the politics of the belly is far more important than the ethics of good governance.