SWAPO’S leadership prior to Independence made it clear that the fight was not against individual whites, but against the injustice of the apartheid system. We all know the pains Swapo went to in those years to host groups of Namibians in Lusaka and elsewhere, whites in particular from business and all walks of life, to reassure them that the war was not aimed at them and that they had a place in an independent Namibia.
It’s no secret that in the process of my journalistic work from 1975 until Independence I was largely ostracised from the so-called white community along with a small number of others who, like myself, were also outspoken critics of colonialism.
I do not necessarily blame the majority of whites in this country who at that time believed the propaganda of the SA regime, but it is a fact that they feared the advent of a black communist regime in Namibia.
They were similarly repulsed by the very idea of reading, let alone advertising in, The Namibian, and were warned against this by the then authorities. I was vilified and publicly humiliated whenever possible, and had my death or demise come about as a result of this, few whites would have shed a tear.
One of the things that we cannot choose is our skin colour. And so there can hardly be a prejudice more harmful or unfair than holding this against someone. We can judge our fellow human beings on many levels, and we do, particularly in terms of values and ethics. We can pronounce against the corrupt, we can condemn the murderers and we can renounce the bullies.
And while many have changed for the better since Independence, it remains a reality that even now, if we must talk in terms of colour, there are whites who are racists; but equally there are black Namibians steeped in prejudice.
The only response I have for such people is that, if they cannot adapt to a multi-cultural society, that they at least keep their thoughts to themselves.
In response to Iivula-Ithana’s other accusations that I hold membership of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) and that I personally write the SMS messages, the following: I would be guilty of no wrongdoing if I chose to join a political party, any political party for that matter; but as it happens I have never held party membership and I don’t plan to do so. As a journalist I have always believed that independent thinking is crucial to our work and credibility.
I have never submitted an SMS to our pages and if Ithana remains unconvinced, I am sure that through the ‘Spy Bill’, she can get the answers she seeks. Her allegation though, is an affront to the people of this country who see the SMS pages as an opportunity for dialogue with Government and others on matters close to their own hearts.
I also believe that in this long process with my colleagues and comrades, we reached a point where race is not an issue in itself. We accepted one another for who we are, in keeping with the rich diversity of our country, and if we differ, it is on matters of principle.
But what is most worrying is the divide between Swapo then and now, and the fact that somewhere along the way tolerance, morality and ethics have been lost.
I am sure that many readers expected me to launch a retaliatory vitriolic attack on Ithana. I could similarly rant and rave but that would serve no purpose but to further polarise our already divided society, characterised by a confused mix of messages from the hierarchy of the party that liberated this country.
Instead I think it is preferable to simply reflect that we’ve lost our way somewhat since Independence, and we are no longer as accepting of fellow Namibians who are of different colours and cultures and political persuasions as we were back then.
We are becoming as intolerant as those who promoted apartheid, and we’re becoming more and more corrupt into the bargain. It is our duty, as caring citizens, to speak out against the bigots and those who would deny us the rights we fought for.
Swapo too, must remember they promised a new deal and they haven’t delivered and that those irrational voices are destroying what others are trying to build through inclusivity. The real Swapo believers know that this is true.
And if in speaking out, I have to be reminded of my skin colour, called any number of names or have my integrity questioned, then so be it.
We have a democracy, and there should be no place for autocrats and racists who will prosper if we allow them to. Our SMS pages are an important voice for civil society, and if in the process their views are not always to the liking of leadership, then it is high time they get used to it. It is not our people making war, but merely expressing their democratic right to be heard.
My racial classification is no big deal to me, and so if it’s OK with my compatriots, I will lapse once again into forgetfulness and assert that I’m a Namibian who’s earned her stripes.