An appeal for an African Republic of Namibia

> By Lapitomhinda Hashingola

NAMIBIA, officially the Republic of Namibia, has an estimated population of 2.1 million inhabitants. The cultural majority is made up of 94% Africans. This means that its cultural and spiritual foundations are (theoretically) first and foremost African. This is as it should be and there is no mystery in this. Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has recently declared the formerly secular country in West Africa an Islamic Republic. This move is regarded as a step to achieve genuine self-determination. In following we are going to attempt to outline pointers to assist President Dr Hage Geingob to follow suit and proclaim Namibia as an African Republic.

National identity:

Let’s understand this gently, colonialism and its cousin Apartheid, were not a single event. These were intense power structures carefully planned and purposefully implemented to advance the colonial project in Namibia. The main objectives were to create dependency, and to culturally alienate and fragment African people. We argue that many perceived differences in our society today arise from exactly that: cultural mis-orientation, mistakes of meaning and a lack of collective national identity. The so-called Reconciliation policy is possibly not the full answer. The term denotes to bring together something that was once united. The truth is probably this. One cannot reconcile something that was never united. This means that we are probably starting at zero. This realisation requires a different approach and instruments. Required is a national idea supported by the supreme law, institutions and determined efforts towards nation-building, maintenance and survival.

Nation building:

The campaign “My Namibia, My Country, My Pride“, is admittedly a genuine attempt towards nation-building. Its aim is to instil (national) pride and patriotism among Namibians. But for us, this is a bit like expecting to harvest the Mahangu before sowing the seeds. It is essential that we first adequately self-define this nation-state and anchor it into a worldview. At present, the campaign lacks a pragmatic, African perspective. It appears that the Namibian constitution, its super structure, does not appropriately guide it either. A case in point is Article 1 of the Constitution. This part defines the state, its powers, main organs, national territory, seat of government, and finally anchors the Constitution as the supreme law. But this same supreme law is dead-silent on the national identity of the nation-state. The few identity markers that can be found there are in Article 2 (National symbols) and Article 3 (Language). But are these truly centred in African ideology and do they project an African self-image? My purpose is not to criticise the Constitution, but rather to highlight the apparent Anglicisation of our society and to illustrate what possibilities are left for us to Africanise it.   

Kenyan intellectual Ngugi wa Thiong’o, in his book “Decolonising the Mind”, describes the greatest weapon unleashed by imperialism as the “cultural bomb”. He says that the effect of cultural imperialism is to crush a people’s belief in their unity, their languages, their heritage of struggle, their capacities and ultimately in themselves. So, if we are serious about shaking off the burden of being a “conquered nation”, our Constitution needs to take the lead in framing a national identity that is founded on the values, ideology, as well as the cultural and spiritual identity of Africa. Political freedom must always be connected to economic and cultural freedom; else freedom does not truly exit. And here, the collective African culture is the Leitkultur (Lead-culture). With this we mean a cultural system manifested in diversities. In reality however this African culture system appears to lack confidence, and struggles to impose itself on the colonial structure. It needs serious help because the success of the European culture conflicts with the survival of African culture system as a self-defined entity. This can be explained by the fact that the previous structure was possibly not adequately deconstructed. Fittingly our Elders have this to say: “The past is present in the future”. What they probably mean by that is to say that colonialism is still in us and among us.

Self-determination:

Working toward decolonization, then, requires us to critically evaluate how our minds have been affected by the European “cultural bomb”. And decolonisation can be seen as self-defence mechanism which positions us to reject alien definitions imposed on us. And the Constitution should provide us with the relevant markers to give national purpose, identity and direction. In a way it would be so easy to effect the change. All it takes is to add the descriptive adjective “African” to Article 1 (1) and to adopt the title: The African Republic of Namibia. The goal of cultural survival of our people does not necessarily suggest the denial of European or other cultures in Namibia. We see it as a question of national strategy, behaviour and possibilities. The promise this holds is great: a self-defined, self-determined and united nation centred in an African worldview and ready to overcome its current social, political, economic and educational limitations. The time is now.

l Lapitomhinda Hashingola is a Namibian professional and commentator who focuses on big African ideas for deeper meanings. He writes in his personal capacity and covers topics on Culture, Black/Cultural entrepreneurship, African psychology, Politics, and Identity.

January 2016
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