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Children of the liberation struggle

By Iipumbu Sakaria
Over the past weeks the topic of 'children of the liberation struggle' kept on making headlines for all the wrong reasons in our public discourse. This has partly been due to those who have decided to camp at the SWAPO Headquarters demanding employment from Government.Comments made by high authority that these children of the liberation struggle are special and the true heirs of the Namibian revolution have also not been well received and created confusion and animosity amongst many. Hence there has been much resentment towards the children of the liberation struggle.

In general, children born or raised in exile have been branded as extremely lazy, selfish, uneducated, unskilled, arrogant, annoying, out of order, stubborn and uncontrollable people that are only interested in drinking and making babies, instead of studying and working hard. Otherclaims are that children of the struggle commonly failed school and wasted whatever opportunity they got.

It is also advocated that since independence children of the liberation struggle did not do anything for themselves and have received everything from Government on a silver platter. There are also concerns as to why these adults are still called 'kids'. In short, it is not an exaggeration to note that there is a sentiment that children of the liberation struggle are simply useless, spoilt and annoying brats. There was hence visible relief and indeed great satisfaction amongst many at the manner used to remove those that camped at the SWAPO Headquarters.

I, however, would like to emphasise and advance the notion that not all children of the liberation struggle are lazy, selfish, uneducated, unskilled, arrogant, uncontrollable or even useless citizens. As a matter of fact, the majority are not. After 2008 over 8000 children of the liberation struggle have been registered through the process that was ongoing. Approximately 500 out of the 8000 have been demonstrating, camping and seeking employment from Government. Yes, indeed, many were misbehaving and were totally out of order. However, the ones misbehaving were approximately only five percent (5%) of the registered population of the children of the liberation struggle. If a class has got 100 pupils and 5 fail it is not realistic, nor true, to label the whole class as a failure. That would be a misrepresentation of the status quo of the class and indeed a malicious notion. Has anyone ever asked themselves were the other 7500 children of the liberation struggle are. Has anyone ever questioned why they are not part of those that are misbehaving and indeed what they are up to? Besides those that camped and, according to me, misbehaved, have you ever noticed that maybe the hard-working doctor who treats you, the lawyer that you consult, the teacher, engineer, business man, mechanic, tailor, biologist, technician, quantity surveyor, dentists, accountant, property consultant, chef de mission of a Namibian sports team, or even artist is a child of the liberation struggle? Itis also possible that maybe your hardworkingsecretary, your boss, your colleague, your director, deputy director or even chief, diplomat, managing director, chief executive officer, person responsible for the country's financesor even board member of your company or parastatal,is a child of the liberation struggle.There is no doubt that many police officers and cadres of our military apparatus are also children of the liberation struggle. Many of us did not get everything from Government on a silver platter,as it is being claimed,and have worked equally as hard to get to where we are just like everyone else. Many have degrees and qualifications, have been applying to Government and other positions elsewhere and never got them as well, just like other kids. I have noticed that many people work with children of the liberation struggle without even noticing until they are told that that particular person is a child of the liberation struggle.

Then most wonder why that person does not behave or act like they apparently ought to behave. This is due to the preconceived misconception, lack of understanding and bias that we have towards everything referred to as exile kid or children of the liberation struggle.We just associate uselessness to them. Well, not all of them are useless and indeed your boss or your colleague that you get along with very well, might be a child of the liberation struggle without you even knowing or being aware of it.

It is also true and very clear that we are indeed no more kids. Kids are generally those that are under 18 and cannot make legal- binding decisions. However, the term 'exile kids' or' children of the liberation struggle'must be seen as a concept or a referral matter, so people should just make peace with it because that concept is not going anywhere. I do not agree with the group of the few that are camping, demonstrating and demanding jobs from Government. In life it is not always what you do but how you do it. The way they have gone about resolving their problem is wrong in my view. There are other and better ways to address issues and maybe the way they have gone about it caused the resentment.

Anyways, just like all of us they should rather educate themselves, acquire skills and then apply for employment. Many of us were not done any favours getting employment either. Education is the key to open all doors and hence I agree with the notion of the Rt. Hon Prime Minister that they should rather acquire skills. The key to success lies with nobody but yourself, irrespective of your circumstances. Therefore, they should help themselves as God has always only helped those that helped themselves.

I am also an advocate of 'do notnecessarily ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country'; hence they should apply their minds on how they can assist in overcoming Namibia's main challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. On the other hand, I am also firmly convinced that the group of those demonstrating and demanding things is being incited and used by some people to do so. It is politics, election time and there is also a need to weaken the image of SWAPO at all costs, hence the incitement.

My advice to them is not to allow themselves to be used like that; it is very silly and will not take them anywhere. Furthermore, I am not an advocate of groups or schemes that exclude others as I believe exclusion is the foundation of chaos. It is perceived that Government excludes the children born inside the country. However, I don't agree with that. In any country Governments do pay special attention to certain sections of society with the aim to assist them to be like the others. Examples here are orphans and vulnerable children, the San that receive special attention as well as the German Special Initiative that aims to assist those that suffered due to Imperial Germany's behaviour in Namibia, just to mention a few.

The recent 2011 Census shows that we are slightly above two million people. The youth make up more than sixty percent (60%) which translates to roughly 1.2 million youth in the country. To claim that Government discards the 1.2 million in favour of 8000 is silly and seems, to me, more hogwash than anything else; at the most, political instigation. Government employs roughly 95 000 Namibians and to claim that children of the liberation struggle are the ones that get all the positions without qualifications is in reality not true. These are non-issues and only receive exaggerated prominence in the media because it is something that can be used to tarnish the image of the SWAPO Party. Nonetheless, the issue thatreally sparked controversy, according to me, is when the retired Lt Gen Martin Shalliinformed the NEKA Congress that children of the liberation struggle are special.

Insult was added to injury when the Rt. Honourable Prime Minster Nahas Angula revealed that the children of the liberation struggle are the true heirs of the Namibian revolution and independence. I think this caused confusion and panic and is the real reason why so much discontent arose. Questions were asked as to what makes these 'kids' special and why should they be the only true heirs of the Namibian revolution and independence. It was advanced that those children who were born inside the country suffered too, witnessed their parents being killed as well, saw their crop fields being destroyed, suffered trauma and hence why should they not be special or even true heirs of Namibian revolution and independence as well. Sentiments also bordered on the view that children of the liberation struggle anyways lived in luxury, did not suffer and essentially had good living while in exile. It is even suggested that the kids that lived in the country suffered more than the ones that were in exile. Personally I have no quarrel with anyone calling themselves special or even a true heir of the Namibian revolution and independence.

If the shoe fits then please wear it. However, I have also noted a serious misconception, misinformation, lack of understanding, or just plain wrong perceptions about the way children of the liberation struggle lived and were brought up in exile. First of all, there is nothing luxurious about growing up in the midst of war. According to senior commanders, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) fought more then 8000 battles and had over 50 000 skirmishes with the enemy. Besides that, between 1977 and 1989 PLAN had on average 20 000 armed combatants at the front; that is how tense the situation and the scale of war were. It is estimated that about 15 000 died during the armed liberation struggle and the majority of those are our mothers and fathers, as well as childhood friends. Growing up and being raised in exile was risky and dangerous.

The environmentsin Nyango, Ndalatando, Kwanza- Sul, Lubango, Loudima in Congo and elsewhere were uncertain; there was constant instability and the social dislocation were part and parcel of the experience of growing up in those camps. We generally did not know what family is. We were raised by soldiers, attended morning military parades, constantly hid for coverin trenches, endured endless relocations and witnessed the blood spilled that today waters our freedom. During skirmishes we saw our childhood friends being carried on soldiers' and civilians' backs only to be informed at later stages that those very ones were by then dead already.

As our then Commander in ChiefFounding President Sam Nujoma once said,'we were brought up in a revolutionary environment and exposed to all the conditions and material facts of the military struggle waged by PLAN. The purpose was to groom us and prepare us as future leaders who will carry on the torch of freedom and carry the armed liberation struggle forward'. All of us, at a tender age, already knew and had it instilled in us, that we were going to be the next and future soldiers of PLAN. It is also true that some children were sent to places like Cuba, former East-Germany, and the Czech Republic. Although far from the military front we were used to prior to that, there was no luxury living as it is perceived or advocated.

The liberation struggle was a very special event in our history and one that we are proud of. To have been part of it was special and nothing will reverse it. I therefore agree and see nothing wrong with the Rt. Hon Prime Minister Nahas Angula and Lt Gen (rtd) Martin Shalli informingand reminding us that we are special and the true heirs of the Namibian revolution and independence. It is not to say that those that were not in exile are not, but like I said earlier, if the shoe fits then please wear it. If you don't celebrate your uniqueness and speciality then who should celebrate it for you? This shoe fits the children of the liberation struggle andtherefore we shall wear it.

Iipumbu Sakaria is a Public Servant and the views articulated herein are his own and written in his personal capacity. He obtained a Masters Degree and is currently a PhD Candidate


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura