The crass tribalism that labour minister Utoni Nujoma shamelessly exhibited in parliament is final proof, if any was needed, that he was never fit to be a Namibian leader.
Sadly, the response to Nujoma’s stereotypes by younger lawmakers like Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi labelling entire ethnic groups as thieves seems to suggest these fierce political rivals are cut from the same cloth.
Nujoma’s ignorant remarks that Aawambo are hardworking compared to people in southern Namibia who “are too lazy” exposes underlying reasons why tribal division has increased since independence.
During the colonial and apartheid era, the slogan ‘One Namibia, One Nation’ was embraced as a genuine and meaningful aspiration.
“Go to the north, to Owamboland, where families are building their own toilets,” Nujoma said in parliament, shutting down opposition leader McHenry Venaani’s call for action to reduce poor sanitation in the country.
Where has Nujoma, now a 71-year-old, been that he thinks “Owamboland” still exists?
So foolish are Nujoma’s remarks that he doesn’t seem to remember that only a few years ago Namibia suffered a deadly hepatitis E outbreak at informal settlements in Windhoek and other parts of the country because of the absence of clean toilets, showers and running water.
Thousands of people were infected and at least 66 cumulative deaths countrywide were reported.
What kind of bubble does a so-called leader live in that he feels he can utter such despicable tribalistic remarks – remarks that are not only divisive, but out of touch with reality?
Building pit latrines is a fairly new phenomenon in most rural areas of Namibia anyway.
In fact, research shows that the stereotypes that Nujoma is carelessly throwing around stem from the slave trade and colonialism.
Slave masters in Europe and the Americas decided that people of a certain physique found mainly in Africa were the best ‘commodity’ to do their hard, unpaid labour.
That approach was perpetuated by mining companies to such an extent that they ‘imported’ labourers from faraway places (so-called Owamboland, Kaokoland, Kavango, Zululand) to other parts of the continent.
Colonial employers used the tactic to keep migrant labourers at work around the clock. Locals are not as easy to pin down and exploit.
Any leader with Nujoma’s attitude is a disgrace and should immediately be given marching orders.
Our advice to younger leaders like Swartbooi and Utaara Mootu is to think deeply about the origins of tribal divisions which have pitted innocent civilians against each other rather than stooping to Nujoma’s level and perpetuating stereotypes.
In fact, Swartbooi should know it is not the “Aawambo” who “stole money [and are] building palaces”.
His fellow ruling elites from different tribes and races have been stealing public resources and lining their own pockets, as well as those of their families and friends.
Making theft and corruption a race or tribal issue is to avoid addressing the malaise, which is what Nujoma is trying to achieve – distraction and diversion.
Can Nujoma explain how the more than N$40 million he is reported to hold in savings is a product of his ‘hard work’?
Swapo and president Hage Geingob can only do Namibia a lot of good by immediately getting rid of Nujoma.
Then the entire political leadership must start a process to build a nation, one nation, where all citizens would want to proudly call themselves Namibians before whatever tribe or race they want to claim to belong to.
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