Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Written Interview with Andreas Thomas - Windhoek Observer - 7 Feb 2012




Good afternoon Mr Louw
It seems that a new political stance has emerged were tribal sentiments and ethnicity is now at play in local politics. Tribal outburst allegedly made during the interview by Youth Minister Kazenambo against Oshiwambo speaking people and the subsequent reactions toward the comments paint a picture of a society deeply rooted tribalism in our society.
I would like to assist me answer some of pertinent questions regarding tribalism and tribal loyalties in Namibia especially in the wake of the upcoming Swapo Party congress and impact it might have on the country.
 1.      Do you think the problem of tribalism has seeped into the ruling party Swapo Party and how bad do you think that is?
Tribalism and associated decision making because of ethnic relationships had been a product of the Apartheid South African ruling system. This we have to accept. However, we as a nation have committed ourselves to another standard, whereby through reconciliation and the adoption of our constitution, we do not base decision-making on culture or tribal affiliation.

Having said that though, we must realise that politicians present things in certain ways to get themselves elected. Look at our opposition parties and all have an ethnic (though some say locality) representation.

Swapo, being the party representing the largest protion of the population, would obvisouly thus also constitute the largest section of Oshiwambo speaking people. From a representative viewpoint, thus also many of the leaders of SWAPO would also be of this cultural group.

However, tribalism is not the problem. I believe the problem is rather nepotism - (patronage or favoritism shown on the basis of extended family relationships) and cronyism (partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications).

If however, the person seeing this act nepotism is only seeing it in tribal terms, as they themselves are not part of that specific tribe.

So no, tribalism is not the problem, nepotism and cronyism are.


 2.     Government adopted the policy of National Recompilation mainly to achieve reconciliation between blacks and white Namibians. Since independence, it has increasingly become evident that there is a tension between the various ethnic groups in Namibia. Should reconciliation between black Namibians therefore not had been the first priority after independence and is there not a need even now to start a process of reconciliation between various ethnic groups?  

Please allow me to explain a little - Reconciliation can be used in terms of either

  • conflict resolution or
  • ethnic relations 


Thus Namibian reconciliation as Independence was conflict resolution between two ideological opposing sides. The one side, wanting Namibia to be a part of South Africa as a fifth province, and the other side wanting independence from South Africa. Thus conflict resolution reconciliation has been effective.

What we are seeing is that there is a need for ethnic resolution reconciliation.

So no, it could not have been a first priority. But it is still a step we need to take as a nation. We need to create a common memory - a history lesson we all feel comfortable with which explains where we all come from, why we came here, and what our shared future vision is.

I would like to see our leaders rather promoting our differences, and what we can learn from each other, than what has been reportedly said my the Minister.

I believe this quote explains what I mean, "..But maybe memory is what young people need to be taught before they can be taught actual history."


 3.     Minister Kazenambo feel that he is being victimised because of the calls he made for the next country President (Swapo) to be non-Oshiwambo. But how would you suggest Minister Kazenambo should have handled this matter during the interview?

I cannot say how the Minister should or should not handle any matter. However, if any reporter should ask me how i feel as a coloured person, I would immediately state that I believe in in integration. By this I refer to the lump sum off all of us as citizens of a specific country. It is the pride we have when singing the national anthem, our support to the members of our national sporting codes, or identifying with a Namibian that has done well on the world stage.

The best way to illustrate this is: "Before Independence I was Coloured, now I'm Namibian".


 4.     Having a current situation of politics based on the premise of “now it is the turn of other tribes to take over". What do you think the impact this will be on politics in the country and society in general? Do you expect tribal loyalty take centre stage at the congress?

First, if it is "the turn of others" to take over - it should be the turn of a Namibian woman to be President. Or do we as a nation, or political party, or as families, not yet believe woman are as good (or even) better as leaders?

I wish to state that there is more gender-based discrimination among Namibian men than what there is tribal-based discrimination.


The issues of leading Swapo, or Namibia will always be what is best for us as a nation. Each and everyone must vote according to their conscience. We deserve the leaders we choose.

Nevertheless, we must face the reality that whoever is elected to be in command of SWAPO after Comrade Pohamba will be the next President of Namibia. So yes, it will have an impact on our society if the person chosen is not the best candidate, but rather the "best oshiwambo" candidate.

During the last congress when Hidipo Hamutenya, Nahas Angula and Hifikepunye Pohamba stood as candidates, it is clear that the Swapo members chose the person who in the long run has been the best choice for us as a arty, and Namibia as a nation

Will tribal loyalty take centre stage - yes in the form of cronyism. All political parties in the world are based on give and take within the voting process - who is my friend, who will do something for me. However, terming it tribalism is just another way to hide from the fact that in Namibia too many of us still do not believe we are "One Namibia, One Nation".

We are a tribe, the Namibian tribe.

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