Namibia: Rejected Reconciliation Policy Haunts Namibia

The issue of a national reconciliation policy, which has been rejected by the National Assembly (NA), is currently in the spotlight as Namibia grapples issues of ethnic and gender discrimination.

Analysts are contemplating whether the lack of a national reconciliation policy has led the country to being intolerant and exclusive.

In 2020, the NA rejected the adoption of a national reconciliation policy because the house was divided.

This motion was introduced by Tangeni Iijambo, the president of the South West Africa National Union (Swanu).

Political and human rights analysts say the long track record of racism, and ethnic and gender discrimination indicate a country that is yet to reconcile with its past.

Analyst Rui Tyitende says Namibia is currently a dangerous laboratory of ethnic tensions and economic exclusion as a consequence of leaders politicising ethnicity for their own political purposes.

Over the years there have been numerous examples of this.

In April, government legal aid counsel Eva Maria Nangolo made some remarks on social media which were regarded as tribal and discriminatory.

She praised the cultural identity of the Damara people, while condemning the violent image she said was associated with them.

In 2020, a senior bank manager publicly equated black people to being at the developmental stage of monkeys.

Likewise, an aspiring councillor has declared on social media that he hated all white people.

This took place right before Khomas regional council and local authority elections.

“With the upcoming elections, we should expect it to gain momentum, Tyitende says.

He says the current policy of national reconciliation is a myth.

‘THE HEART OF PEACE’

He says reconciliation is at the heart of building and making peace culturally.

“It is not in Swapo’s interest to open up the chapter of a dialogue between former enemies, as they have committed atrocities against their own people.

“The government and Swapo would have to open the space for an honest discussion on the dungeons and the disappearance of people during the struggle,” he says.

‘LONG JOURNEY’

Human rights activist Linda Baumann says Namibia has a long journey to reconciliation, because the country’s history is not properly documented.

“We have the genocide history there, we have the Cassinga history. All of that in terms of what the South Africans did to us before Resolution 435, and so forth,” she says.

“We are now tribal, but they had to take the step after independence to address the realities that happened during colonialism and how it impacted Namibians psychologically, physically and economically.

“Only then we are able to move in unity to the next level,” Baumann says.

She says the country has reconciled in the sense of being tolerant of the system, although the system itself carries pain.

“So, there is a need for citizens to also be engaged on this policy,” she says.

‘MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS’

Political analyst Basilius Kasera says the 2020 motion would never have addressed the current issue of discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) community in Namibia.

Last month, numerous members of parliament from both the NA and National Council were accused of hate speech and inciting violence against the LGBTQI+ community and other Namibians.

This comes after the Supreme Court in May directed the government to recognise same-sex marriages that have been validly concluded outside Namibia.

Kasera says the LGBTQI+ issue is one the majority of the country’s lawmakers were never prepared for.

“Politicians capitalise on this, because they cannot compromise on kingmaking by adopting a liberal view that may cost them power,” he says.