He not only presided over the death of tens of millions of his fellow citizens in ubiquitous Gulags but also gave Socialism and Communism a bad name. This is the man who sought to remove choice and plurality from politics and replace it with terror and murder. This is the man who sought to remove due process and dealt with opposition through grovelling and humiliating ceremonies of self-denunciation in grand ceremonies as “enemies of the people” before they were promptly executed. To crown it all, this is the man who accorded himself, among others, the title of “Father of the Nations”! It is this ruffian and his nemesis, Adolf Hitler, who are the earliest reincarnations of “omniscient” overlords since the storming of the Bastille.
As oppressed people, and in the same fashion as those who stormed the Bastille, we too sought freedom and were equally inspired by the revolutionary values of liberte, egalite and fraternite of the French revolution which formed the basis for the European democracies and held promise for the colonies. The early independence of so much of Africa further convinced us that our dreams and destiny of freedom were achievable. It, therefore, did not need much convincing to draw many to the cause of our country’s liberation. Thousands left the country to better prepare for what was going to be a drawn out fight. But it is the exponential growth in numbers, particularly, with young people joining the struggle outside the country, starting in 1974, which was a game changer in every respect. A standoff between the new and the old, between the young and the old over the manner of the prosecution of the struggle became inevitable leading to the “storming of the Bastille”.
It is these turf battles and the absence of a clear leadership cohort, with a credible command and programme of action, which were clearly predisposed to the reactionary excesses which were to follow and later became institutionalised in Swapo. The sombre lesson of history is that if you can get away with murder, literally, impunity sets in. Recently, the victims of the 1976 pogroms in Swapo publicly demanded restitution. The victims of the purges of the 1980s have long and ritually been asking for an apology (yes, the simple SORRY word, that’s all) for hundreds of their comrades murdered and for their own incarceration, torture and humiliation. Clearly, the point is that these deaths, torture and detention will never go away as much as the perpetrators would wish them away. And it is no longer acceptable to say some got caught up in the crossfire without putting names and faces to those affected in different categories as either spy, victim of crossfire, etc. In an increasing intolerant environment in our country, it also raises the real concern for the citizens whether the culprits may become repeat offenders. For our continent remains a veritable graveyard of Constitutions with generously entrenched human rights but which end up failing the citizens. How can we trust them if sorry is the hardest word for them to say?
For a people whose very survival and human rights were so savagely violated by our enemies, we set the bar so low as to degenerate to the levels of our former tormentors. Given the responsibility history imposes on us, we must simply be better, we must be superior. It is OR Tambo of the ANC who did not tire to remind us that we do not take our standards from those of the enemy.
Unlike pretensions to the contrary, national reconciliation is a constitutional injunction. The preamble of the Constitution reads, “we will strive to achieve national reconciliation and to foster peace, unity and a common loyalty to a single state”. No greater document but the republican Constitution provides an umbrella for the victim and perpetrator a formula for healing and to bury the ghosts of the ugly past. Failure to do so and the continued festering give the impression that the political survival of some depends on this status quo.
That, like Nazi denialists, your stock rises in Swapo if you deny the horrors of the dungeons. If this be the case, be afraid, be very afraid. As we contemplate elections in 2014 we cannot separate this from a leader to take the country into maturity.
Namibia must desire and deserves a leader who will lead IT savvy, well educated, skilled and socially conscious citizens. So let us put to rest the haunting souls of Mboroma and the dungeons and create a country where economic prosperity and human rights are the bedrock of our civilisation.