By Asser Ntinda
The race card being played against Founding President, Dr. Sam Nujoma, started long ago. It was
started by The Namibian, after it had failed to bring him down on many occasions, using fabricated
and distorted stories to make him look unpopular and unfit to hold a public office.
True, knocking African leaders has always been a favourite past time for western journalists looking
for cheap laughs. They justify their journalistic “heroism” by vilifying and mocking African
leaders, describing them as “bigots, dictators and intolerant leaders” who brook no “dissenting voices.”
Little did we know that such trends would creep into Namibia’s journalism. Unfortunately, such
craps are crept in. The driver behind such dirty wheels is none other than Gwen Lister, Editor of The
Namibian. She has persistently tried to use the race card and drive it into Cde Nujoma’s political
She has dismally failed to achieve that objective, largely because she has got short memories. Short
memories because Gwen has easily forgotten, or pretends she has forgotten, that Namibia’s much
worldwide applauded and commended Policy of National Reconciliation was driven and spearheaded
by none other than Cde Nujoma, as then President of SWAPO Party and as then, too, President
Cde Nujoma has not just preached National Reconciliation. He has lived it, walked it and breathed
it, so much so that none would dispute his genuine commitment to that policy. It was not smooth
sailing for him to push it through party structures. But he tried and succeeded.
We are happy today as a nation. Wars never end at short notice. Ours did, to the surprise of many.
We had enough wells of deep-seated racial and political hatred that could have triggered an endless
civil war. Just look at what happened after independence in Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
You will certainly realize how far-sighted Cde Nujoma was in pursuing the Policy of National Reconciliation.
There were strong voices within the Party that did not even want to buy the idea. Names like the
late Moses /Garoeb and Nathaniel Maxuilili went to their graves still thinking and believing that
National Reconciliation was a bad policy. It was Cde Nujoma who, through his firm, decisive leadership
and majestic sense of purpose, prevailed over them, telling them firmly but politely that let us
leave the past behind, and unite as one nation, truly giving meaning to one of SWAPO Party’s longheld
slogans of One Namibia, One Nation.
It was not smooth sailing, I say, to drive that policy through Party structures. The late /Garoeb,
more than once, declared it dead in full public view, sending our first Prime Minister, Cde Hage
Geingob, to go on a fence mending mission to allay the fears of the white community and those of the
former black puppets. Credit must, indeed, go to Cdes Nujoma and Geingob.
But when you look at how Gwen and her paper are trying to play the race card into Cde Nujoma’s
body politic, you wonder whether Gwen really understands what she is talking about or where we
have come from. SWAPO Party Secretary General, Cde Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, was therefore
right when she recently reminded Gwen about her racial extraction of bygone generations on the
brutalities inflicted on black people just because they were black.
And these are the people that Cde Nujoma freed from the yoke of apartheid colonialism and the
bondage of racial oppression. Cde Nujoma had to command people into battles to fight for their
inalienable rights to freedom and self-determination. Many died. Many, too, were wounded. In the
crucible of that struggle, Cde Nujoma showed the way. And here we are, free as a nation.
The story in The Namibian two weeks ago, horribly distorted as it was, about Cde Nujoma “urging”
people to take up hammers and “beat all English people” must be seen in Gwen’s old attempt to
bring Cde Nujoma down, using the race card. She has long tried to project him as anti-white. Here
are the facts.
On September 20, 1998, Cde Nujoma, then President of Namibia, addressed a rally in Windhoek
where he explained why Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe had sent troops to the Democratic Republic
of Congo. The reasons were overwhelming. Cde Nujoma went further to explain why some European
were liars, citing Christopher Columbus and Jan van Riebieck, who claimed to have discovered
the Americas and Africa, when in fact there were indigenous people already who had lived there long
before they Columbus and Riebieck had arrived.
The next day, The Namibian ran a front-page story headlined “President rips into foolish Europeans,”
adding that the President had also attacked European Union, EU. The story was selectively
edited to create an impression that he branded all Europeans as ‘foolish’ and ‘liars.’ No where,
however, in the story did names like Columbus and Riebieck appear to justify why he said some
Europeans were ‘liars.’ But this was necessary to put in context what he said.
But the only time Cde Nujoma referred to the EU was when he urged Africans to unite and
strengthen the African Economic Community, using the EU as an example of what a united continent
could achieve. The only time Cde Nujoma referred to Europeans as ‘liars’ was when he referred
to Columbus and Riebieck who claimed in history books that they had discovered Africa and the
The story as it appeared in The Namibian made no mention of the African Economic Community,
which brought in the UE as a lesson for Africa. Nor did it mention Riebieck and Columbus to put in
context why Cde Nujoma used adjectives such as ‘liars’ and ‘foolish.’ But these were necessary facts
to put in context what Cde Nujoma had said. Anybody who had read that story would have thought
that Cde Nujoma was referring to current Europeans as ‘liars and foolish.’
As if that damage was not enough, another story on the front page of The Namibian had facts
wrong. Put in bold, it was headlined “Stern Action” vowed on land. “President Nujoma yesterday
warned Namibians of ‘European origin’ who were not willing to share what they had, in particular
land, that stern action would be taken against them.”
Plain wrong. Cde Nujoma never referred to “Namibians of European origin.” Never. He said
“Namibians irrespective of their race, colour or place of origin…” When Cde Nujoma visited Rundu
in June the same year, he held meetings with community leaders where they discussed various issues.
One of those issues that he was bitter about was a coordinated campaign by some white people to sow
division among Namibians, using Epupa as a central plank of their campaign.
A week before the Rundu visit, a British newspaper carried a story quoting some officials from the
Legal Assistance Centre, saying that the Himbas were being “victimized and marginalized” because
they “sided with the South African Defence Force” during the liberation war and the reason for
building Epupa Dam was to “compensate the Ovambos for having fought the war” to liberate Namibia.
This was all rubbish and the race card against Cde Nujoma comes into being again. Cde Nujoma
said clearly that he was not referring to all whites. He said “genuine white compatriots are welcome…”
The next day, The Namibian had a front-page story headlined “Watch it ‘foreigners.” What
followed was a 25 paragraph story selectively edited to make it look as if Cde Nujoma made a blanket
attack on Europeans and whites, which was not the case.
Those stories represented an unforgivable editorial slant on the part of The Namibian. Selective
editing is no near objective reporting. Distorting stories is not the same as “telling it like it is.” Let us
rubbish The Namibian for what it is – an institution which has set itself the objective of vilifying and
mocking Cde Nujoma, presenting him as unfit to hold a public office.
In that battle, The Namibian has set itself against the nation. Come hell or high water, Cde Nujoma
is and will remain an icon of the Namibian revolution. The Gwen Listers of this world can come and
go, but Cde Nujoma will be held in esteem by the current and succeeding generations to come. And
SWAPO Party will win, despite The Namibian’s negative stance against it.