Despite the handicap of his legal training in Kiev, Tjiriange went on to become our country’s first and longest serving Minister of Justice. Presently, he is a farmer during the day and moonlights as advisor at the chaotic Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
We could not establish whether his flash of brilliance in the government newspaper was intended to be advice to his employers or whether he was flogging to the public a piece his employers refuse to accept or where unable to decipher. Be that it as it may, Tjiriange’s thoughts deal with the important question of nationality – or if you wish, who is a Namibian? In the particular case he raised it deals with the granting or otherwise of those who were born in and have acquired the citizenship of that country.
In addressing this issue Tjiriange cites, at length, the constitutional provisions on citizenship. In this contribution we wish to adopt a different approach, one which goes back to the source of the problem as it were. It was on October 2, 1904 that General Von Throtha, acting in the name of Imperial German, issued an order to the Ovaherero as follows: “I, the great general of the German soldiers, send this message to the Hereros.
The Hereros are German subjects no longer. They have killed, stolen, cut off the ears and other parts of the body of wounded soldiers, and now are too cowardly to want to fight any longer.
I announce to the people that whoever hands me one of the chiefs shall receive 1 000 Marks and 5 000 Marks for Samuel Maherero. The Herero nation must now leave the country.
If it refuses, I shall compel it to do so with the ‘long tube’ (cannon). Any Herero found within the German frontier, with or without a gun or cattle, will be executed. I shall spare neither women nor children.
I shall give the order to drive them away and fire on them. Such are my words to the Herero people.”
So these are Namibians forced into Bechuanaland on pain of death and the Namibian government has quarantined them at Gam, denying children education and the elderly access to the puny old-age pension because they cannot produce national documents? In any event, as Tjiriange has pointed out Article 4(2) covers their plight if the government is being formalistic with these returnees. As a matter of fact, the government is not snared up in its own red tape in this instance, it is simply being rank callous.
But such foolish and insensitive actions on the part of the authorities only create hostages to fortune. It further also only helps to strengthen the perception that this government of former President Nujoma and President Pohamba approach, what must be national problems, through the bigoted prisms of tribe, ethnicity and race.
As for the quarantined Ovaherero, these are victims and survivors of German colonial war who have been dispossessed of both land and cattle. What additional requirement do they need to meet in order to be considered for this government’s resettlement programmes and assistance to re-integrate in this country, we ask? Or should they come camp at the Swapo office in Dietrich Genscher Street?
The national document “problem” is a hogwash and a falsehood of this government. Simply treat these returnees like all others. In any event, they are covered by Article 4(2) of our country’s constitution. No protocols and formalities are needed between Gaborone and Otjomuise.
Further, our courts have repeatedly and consistently ruled that dual citizenship is not illegal in Namibia. So just go out to Gam and register these Namibians, basta!
The value of a great constitution is that all citizens are able to identify with it.
Such is the spirit of our constitution, which is the reason why our political discourse and contestation is free of constitutional challenges. The only constitutional issue which, thus far, divided Namibians was the third term amendment.
If we all endeavour to live by the great ideals of our constitution we shall therefore be able to build a great nation for ourselves and our children. For this reason, injudicious and inconsiderate actions on the part of the authorities only detract from this national journey.
The reintegration of victims of colonial wars, of the liberation struggle and assistance rendered to communities to overcome wretchedness on account of colonial dispossession should therefore help to build that national sense of Namibian hood rather than divide Namibians.
The actions of authorities should never be such that they are interpreted as favouring one group over and above the other. For these will amount to actions drawing a line in the sand of division. It will be reckless from those in government to abuse their privilege position to foment and bolster these divisions or alternatively live in a fool’s paradise.