‘Nujoma has united Namibia’
By Lahja Nashuuta
KOBUS van Zyl, a prominent white businessman in Namibia’s north-eastern town of Rundu, thinks reconciliation is a momentous achievement worth celebrating, as Namibia marks 27 years of independence.
Van Zyl, a former member of the South West Africa army and one of the few coded welders in Namibia, says Namibians from all walks of life and backgrounds should be thankful to Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma.
At independence, Nujoma, who spent close to 30 years in exile, chose the path of national reconciliation, which Van Zyl says was aimed to improve and harmonise relations among Namibia’s various racial and ethnics groups.
“I wish one day I could meet with the Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, so that I can thank him personally for introducing the national reconciliation policy that brought reconciliation and forgiveness among ethnic groups and individuals.
It was not just words on paper but it was action that happened and is still happening today,” he said.
Namibia today serves as a unique example in Africa in terms of reconciliation, peace, unity and justice, he adds.
“I have travelled to most African countries and I was also fortunate to be in Iraq for two years and every time the plane torches the ground at the Hosea Kutako International Airport, I always feel like the Founding Father of the Namibian Nation going down and kissing the soil and I believe one needs to travel to other countries in order to tell how beautiful and peaceful Namibia is.
Therefore, I believe Namibia is a good example that other countries can emulate when it comes to unity, peace and reconciliation,” Van Zyl said.
Van Zyl is a former instructor at Ogwendiva (Oshana region), Okakarara (Otjozondjupa region) and Rundu vocational centres between 1979 and 1997.
He says Nujoma, as the nation’s first president, created a conducive environment for all Namibians, regardless of “their skin colour and ethnicity”, to live in.
In the same vein, he thanked the country’s second President Hifikepunye Pohamba (2005-2015) for maintaining peace and stability during his tenure and commended the incumbent President, Dr Hage Geingob, who is currently fighting tirelessly for economic emancipation.
While sharing his perspective on the developmental progress made in Rundu since independence, Van Zyl, the owner of JR Welding CC, a company that manufactures and erects steel structures locally and internationally as well as offering in-service training to vocational students, confirmed witnessing the economic evolution at the town over the past two decades.
“When we moved to Rundu, known as Runtu in Rukwangali by that time, this town was empty.
This was a small town mainly for government officials from the army.
There were also a few teachers and farmers.
“All houses, schools and clinics were owned by the South African apartheid government.
Even we were staying in a government house – me and my wife. There were not enough shops.
“I remember those years, there was a truck that used to come from South Africa every Thursday with fresh fruits and vegetables and you would find our wives waking up early in the morning to go and buy those vegetables and fruits,” he narrated.
Van Zyl said independence has brought lots of international investors, especially in the retail sector.
Apart from that there have been improvements in terms of infrastructure, as well as health and education.
“In the past, we used to travel long distances to seek medical help or send our children to Windhoek for education.
But today we have enough schools, private and state schools, institutions of higher learning as well as hospitals with medical doctors and specialists in our town,” he said.
After independence, the government decided to sell the houses to the residents and first priority was given to people who occupied the house at that time. “It was a smooth process that resulted in many of us owning houses in Rundu and that’s what we call progress,” he said.
He said although there are misconceptions that white communities, especially Afrikaners, do not attend celebrations and always isolate themselves from national events, he and his family always attended national events.
“We are grateful for the independence we are enjoying today. I am grateful that we have peace and stability in this country that you cannot find in most African countries,” he said.
Despite progress made over the 27 years of independence, Rundu still has many untapped investment opportunities.
He said the town has vast land and water for both industrial and agricultural activities.
And the geographical location of the town makes it a gateway to neighbouring countries such Angola, Botswana and Zambia.
This year’s Independence anniversary celebrations would be held at Rundu in the Kavango East region on March 21 under the theme “United We Stand for the Love of Namibia”.