In Defence of Sam Nujoma

A Statue of His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma, the Founding President of the Republic of Namibia and Father of the Namibian Nation, was recently officially unveiled by His Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba who said: “The statue represents the heroic history of the Namibian people.

“It represents a symbol of modern heroic resistance by the Namibian people against colonial oppression and exploitation.

“Therefore, the statue should be seen as symbolising Comrade Nujoma's heroic and dynamic leadership against apartheid colonialism. As our leader during those difficult years, Comrade Nujoma's statue represents PLAN fighters and all of us. It represents our history of resistance against colonialism in Namibia.”

Indeed, the statue constitutes our solemn pledge that we will forever remain vigilant to defend the freedom we won at great cost in human lives as it represents a struggle whose collective experience is embodied in the person of Dr Nujoma, who has been our torchbearer and the organic expression of our struggle and who promised to liberate us and stuck to that promise with tenacity until we witnessed the ushering in of political freedom in our lifetime.

When he unveiled the statue in honour of Dr Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, President Pohamba further said: “Comrade Nujoma led the National Liberation Movement, SWAPO through difficult and trying times until final victory was achieved. Our Government has, therefore, found it fitting to honour Comrade Nujoma as Commander- in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) with a statue here at Omugulu-Gwoombashe.”

On the plaque it is written, “HE Dr Sam Nujoma, Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) 1962-1989.”

This period denotes the moment when the South West Africa Liberation Army (SWALA), later renamed PLAN, was formed and when Dr Nujoma acquired the first weapons of two PPSH sub-machine guns and two 7.6 mm TT pistols with which we launched our armed liberation struggle.

It also denotes the decisive and heroic battle of Cuito Cuanavale where the power of the South African white minority apartheid occupation army, including the so-called Presidential Regiment of PW Botha, was crushed and thoroughly defeated and forced to negotiate for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435 of 1978, culminating in the attainment of Independence on the 21st of March 1990.

In his acceptance speech, the Founding President said: “In accepting this honour, I am mindful of the long and difficult journey our people have travelled when we collectively charted a course soaked by the blood of generations of Namibians…

“I therefore consider the honour bestowed upon me today as our collective accomplishment, resolve and an affirmation of the aspirations of our people… I accept with humility and gratitude the honour bestowed upon me on behalf of my comrades-in-arms in the SWAPO Party with whom I shared the trenches and crossed many rivers of blood and the thick jungles across the length and breadth of the African continent in search of our freedom and Independence.”

Dr Nujoma further said: “I also accept this honour on behalf of the Namibian people in recognition of their struggle and sacrifices for freedom and human dignity and thank them for allowing me to lead them not only during the difficult moments of our protracted armed liberation struggle, but also as the first President of the Republic of Namibia.”

However, rather than enjoying the support amongst the citizens across the political divide, the memorial aroused feelings and expressions of contestation by the secretary-general of the main opposition party, RDP, not long after its unveiling, when – with his deflective utterances – remarked that “if elected to power” the RDP would “remove and destroy” all Nujoma's statues.

He described as “madness” the erection of Dr Nujoma's statues and naming of “several streets” after him.

Here one wonders what other national projects and symbols the RDP will destroy once in power?

Does that mean, some parties do not have the interest of the nation at heart, but are only there to destroy what others have built?

It is not clear if these reckless and deflective utterances are against the memorial per se as image-object and representative of the struggle.

But as the editor of Namibia Today put it eloquently thus: “The anti-Nujoma antics are not just occasional slips of the tongue made by a reckless politician, who has run out of ideas and steam.”

They reveal the deep-seated hatred by some towards the Founding President.

Let us replace the adrenalin rush with rational debates with common purpose and look at the true meaning of the symbolism behind the statue and its aesthetic.

Lest we forget, our people were engaged in a modern liberation struggle, which started at the historic battle of Omugulu-Gwoombashe until the attainment of our freedom and Independence.

To honour those who died during this protracted armed liberation struggle, a number of monuments are being set up.

These are not only retrospective enterprises in terms of honouring the dead, but also serve as peace pursuing guiding posts in the process of reconciliation.

Thus the statue is a celebration of our collective resolve to fight for freedom and independence. In fact, the determination to be free is stepping forward and is meant to be carrying the torch of freedom through the only means the colonialist understood well, the barrel of the gun from the historic site where our people fired the first shots to the rest of the country and beyond.

In addition, monuments as symbols are unique initiatives toward reconciliation in societies which were divided by violent conflict and through them, the communities and society at large start to engage in a transformation of collective identity and building new values.

Monuments also serve to undermine issues such as narrow ethnicity, regionalism or political divides by inclusive processes, which are undertaken and are also perceived as physical symbols of a commitment to peace.

Furthermore, in their resolve to destroy colonialism and apartheid, our people came together to form an organisation. After the organisation had struck deep roots, it had a decisive effect on the people.

It determined who would do what, and what position and functions they should hold in their spheres of activity.

In this regard, leadership was essential and the leadership of Dr Nujoma developed and matured in the trials and tribulations of the struggle.

His leadership emerged from the people; he learnt to articulate and champion their aspirations, demands, fears and hopes and lead by force of example.

Therefore, our Founding President – whose track record is unparalleled anywhere in this country – deserves not just a statue at Omugulu-Gwoombashe on behalf of the struggling masses of our people, but also at the Independence Memorial Museum to mark the birth of our nation and its triumph over the forces of subjugation, as well as to symbolise the dawn of a new democratic dispensation.

The Pan-Africanist, Kwame Ture (named after Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure), was a fierce advocate for the self-determination of Africa and African people and argued for a revolutionary struggle rooted in our own culture and values for “culture represents the values for which one fights”.

Even in his days as the most prominent Black Power leader, he defined our struggle in terms of community, culture and self-determination. He noted that “a lot of people have fought against their oppressors yet maintained the culture of the oppressor and thus simply changed personnel”.

Therefore, he said “if one is fighting for a revolution, one is talking about more than just changing governments and power and that is changing the value system”.

This means, through a liberatory thought and opinion that gestures towards the possibility of another world, we must re-tell our story from a vantage point of creating new meaning from the colonial matrices of power.

As such, RDP’s utterances are not only clearly politically expedient, they are also vigorously challenged and dismissed as shockingly contemptuous.

This article has been excerpted from New Era newspaper.

October 2013
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