Turn the Other Cheek, Swapo

Anne Hambuda

To begin, a disclaimer. I would like to make it clear that this column is in no way calling for violence or the physical assault of anybody.

I just think it would be interesting to express my opinion on violence as a response to violence.

Someone slapped a Swapo dude and everyone was happy.

I am sure it must suck to be the man who came to represent the ruling party and bear the brunt of the people’s frustration, but some may say it is an expected response for the amount of gaslighting the residents of informal settlements receive from people who pretend to care about them once every five years.

If we listen carefully to what the assailant was saying before the fateful moment, it is clear that after 34 years, people just don’t want to be lied to any more.

Many people have seen the videos and images of the incident and reactions seem to be mixed.

On one hand, there are those who were beyond excited by this clip. By now it has been seen hundreds of thousands of times, and most of the comments are applauding the man for “slapping corruption”.

Others, of course, decry the use of physical violence against someone who has a differing opinion or viewpoint to yours.

Many feel this was going a step too far.

Maybe it was an unbalanced reaction, but are any of us surprised it happened?

Swapo is a political party that has been in Namibia for a long time and has, along with many others, played a part in winning the freedoms that many (not all) Namibians enjoy today. For that, we salute them.

Unfortunately, as the years have gone by, its legacy has been tainted by greed, alleged corruption, empty promises and decaying service delivery.

The joy of freedom this country experienced for the first 15 years or so has slowly faded, and been replaced by resentment, unemployment and apathy, due to the fact that no one at the top seems to actually care about anyone but themselves.

Is that not in itself violent? From my perspective, subjecting citizens to poverty and lack of basic services, keeping people unemployed, allegedly looting state coffers, getting richer and more arrogant as public office bearers is a form of violence.

The Namibian people feel bashed and beaten down.

We have been slapped too many times.

At some point, retaliation was going to occur.

To me, in a situation where someone stands up for themselves against oppression, it’s hard for me to condemn them. Even if I may disagree with their methods.

Nobody wants the nation to turn into a lawless and violent state, where disagreements are solved with fists, but if that were to happen, it must be made categorically clear that the blame would fall squarely on the shoulders of the greedy.

We will never remain stable so long as inhumane levels of inequality persist.

That is not something I am just making up right now, it is a fact.

Detractors will say “violence is not the answer” – a statement that can only be uttered by people privileged enough not to have to reach these levels of frustration.

“Civility” is a word and concept used to pacify the oppressed.

I hope the whole of Swapo has seen that video and feel ashamed.

And truthfully, I hope they feel an urge to do more and be better leaders.

The ironic thing is that our whole brand is violence. Our country very proudly won its liberation through an armed struggle.

That was violence that was justified and made sense.

But when the pigs of ‘Animal Farm’ finally made it to the dinner table after evicting the humans, who did they think was next in line to feel the anger of the barnyard?

It’s sad that one person had to be sacrificed for us all to see just how fed up people are and it’s time for change.

A hungry man has two options in life: fight or stay hungry. If he fights he will win or die, if he doesn’t fight, he will die. For someone in such a position, the most desirable option is obvious.

So on whether or not violence is the answer, I can wholeheartedly say: I hope Namibia as a nation and our government would not have to find out.

It’s not too late for us to do better.

– Anne Hambuda is a writer, social commentator and poet. The views expressed herein are her own Follow her online or email her annehambuda@gmail.com for more.

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