Tuesday, 20 July 2010

On tribal integration in Namibia

Tjitunga Elijah Ngurare wrote: Just wondering: is tribal unity the same as national unity in Namibia or Africa? In other words, is our being wambos, kavangos, hereros, damaras, namas, caprivians, basters, coloureds, twanas, afrikaners, germans or english in Namibia more important than being Namibians and our being Namibians more relevant to being Africans: what is your honest opinion?

I start by addressing the words of Albert Einstein, “He who cherishes the values of culture cannot fail to be a pacifist.” I must first address mistakes that I have made in my feeble attempts at contributing to the nationhood of our beloved land during the past twenty odd years. I have thought it unimportant where my family comes from, what their cultures and beliefs were, and often thought these were to be considered and ultimately rejected as part of their living in a past dominated by the racial classification given by the system of Apartheid.

Who I am is not dictated by our external environment, but rather by the internal. As humans we tend to blame our culture, society, government, employers and even our own families for things that goes wrong, but rarely give them credit for “our” achievements.

We have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. This is the only explanation of the total lack of information based on cultural affiliations in our census in Namibia. Unfortunately, this attitude of “let’s pretend it is not there” does not make it so.

Even in South Africa, where the Apartheid system was the most formalised, they have recognised the need to keep the information and knowledge of all cultural groups as part of the “rainbow nation”. Discrimination because of race colour or culture is a thing of the past and is replaced by recognition and acceptance of our differences.

We have also outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender, yet still need this categorisation to measure the needed changes that must take place in our country for gender equality. In the same way it is important to note that when a previously marginalised group, such as the San people, have qualified teachers from within their own tribe and culture (Republikein – 14 April 2009).

The lack of recognition of certain groups can have detrimental affects on our country. Look at what has happened to some of our pre-Independence orphans who returned from East Germany. More recently we have seen the SWAPO veterans and orphans also wishing to be recognised as a distinct group with specific needs. In the near future we will see a new group forming of AIDS orphans who have grown up differently with specific disadvantages that need to be addressed to allow them to fully pluck the fruits of our freedom. What culture shall all these groups inherit?

There is a national culture Namibia. Thus we can refer to our language as Namlish with its peculiarities and pronunciations. We are known by our friends and foes on the sport fields as the Brave warriors and the Biltongboere.

In business we refer to the marketing process. It starts with an analysis of the present and then moves to develop a strategy. In marketing it is recognised that to provide the best product for the customer you need to segment the market. Tools such as the Living Standards Measurement are used to focus our marketing efforts. A typical LSM would include age, gender, race or cultural group and income. (Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) household surveys have become an important tool in measuring and understanding poverty in developing countries.)

The people of Namibia are the customer. To serve our people better we must recognise our difference not only in gender or language but also in race. The census in Namibia must measure the race and culture embraced by each resident in future.

The tertiary education institutes in Namibia must then participate in research focussing on cultural, racial, gender, urban-rural economic and livelihood inequalities in Namibia. This ongoing research must continue to ask what the relationship is between the growth and spatial distribution of the public and private economic sectors. It must also encompass the formal and informal economy, the nature of poverty, the characteristics of poor areas, and socio-economic empowerment.

Lastly, we must learn to say "We are Namibian (Wambos, Hereros, Coloureds, etc.) proud to be working to a better future for our family, tribe and country!