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The politics of Anti-Oshiwambo

By Dr. Elijah Ngurare
During apartheid, we were regulated by the Bantu Authorities Act (Act No 68 of 1951).

In terms of that particular legislation, black homelands and regional authorities were established with the aim of creating greater self-government in the homelands. After independence, in 1990, the Regional Councils Act of 1992 replaced the homelands with 13 political regions.

However, 22 years later, there is a tribally induced mystic wind blowing in the veins of the country. It can be heard, it can be felt and perceptively, it can be seen. The apartheid homelands are still present in our minds. The fashionable thing to say nowadays is that all development is going to the north and not to the south, in 2012 the minorities are apparently promised to rule over the majority.

Just the other day, a caller who identified himself as being from the "south" lamented on the popular BaseFM 106.2 the decision by the Bank of Namibia to have the Founding President on the N$10 and N$20 notes while Captain Hendik Witbooi remains on the other notes. The caller retorted "your so-called Founding Father" and went on to say that "we are living in Owambo domination" despite the commentator trying in vain to inject sense. The regular commentator Uncle Paul thankfully phoned in and sternly criticized the caller for such sentiments. I learned later that the caller apologized.

It will recalled that these sentiments of anti-Oshiwambo were heard in the by-election of Daures Constituency and in 2010 one opposition leader uttered similar words in Opuwo.

In Khorixas, a police officer who was reminded to not drive recklessly remarked to his superior "it is a car for the Owambo government not yours". Corruption in the government is tribalised and thus GIPF, ODC or Avid take the form of "owambos" and not individual Namibians who could have transgressed. A delegation paid for by the government told a foreign country that they are not representing "the Owambo government". In Otjinene recently it was learned that some individuals are targeting shops owned by Oshiwambo speakers as sentiments of tribalism by compatriots who abide by the notion of "Herero Nation" that reigns above Namibian Nation. It was learned that in this "nation" Chief Kuaima Riruako is more respected than President Pohamba. In the Karas and Hardap Regions the sentiments are prevalent. This is home to NamDeb and other companies.

This is home to Naute Dam, Oanob Dam and Hardap Dam, Orange River and the ephemeral Fish River amongst others. The sentiments there are that "wambos and kavangos" take over "our jobs". During the elections some were threatening not to vote of "wambos occupy certain positions". In fact the founding of tribal political parties in the country are premised on these sentiments.

It is true that no one tribe can claim monopoly over tribalism.

In Kavango there is a mention of "ezimo lyenene" in reference to Owamboland, which could be translated as a "big brother" of some sort when it comes to occupying public offices. I have heard people regretting that "we should have followed the example of Owamboland in order for Kavango which is the second largest ethnic group in Namibia to be in two or three regions". In Owamboland itself there is reference to others who are non-native speakers as "mbwelas" and within themselves there is reference to "aayuninginino etc". The Ndongas would not want to be dominated by Kwanyamas; Mbadjas by Kwambis and so forth. I have however not come across a scenario where it has been said that there is an organized hatred towards a particular person because of his/her tribe and thus asked to return to their places of origin either to the South or Hereroland, whatever this means.

Interestingly amongst the ordinary people in the informal settlements of the urban areas; amongst the ordinary security guards; among the ordinary mine workers; among the ordinary petrol attendants; among the ordinary students; even amongst the ordinary cattle herders the language group one hails from is of no more significant than the colour of their eyes. They regard themselves as united by the common land and sun. The real problem is amongst the "black elite", the Members of Parliament, Ministers, Governors, Permanent Secretaries, Managing Directors, Chief Executive Officers, Editors and so forth. These are the people whom Bob Marley was probably singing about in his song "rat race", but he forgot to call it "tribal race" for their egos and scramble for the economic resources and political power. We have tribal radio stations and even tribal churches, is it perhaps time for a National Conference on Tribalism to decide on tribal quotas in aspect of society if not why are the cattle herders not teach us the values of One Namibia One Nation?


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