The comments made on the campaign trail by President Geingob about white voters who should be grateful to Swapo are typical campaign rhetoric. There is nothing there to get hot-and-bothered about. There is more noise about Geingob’s comments than proposals to mitigate the economic disaster on Namibia’s doorstep. Let us hear the opposition party’s viable plans to uplift the economy – that is how to win votes.
It is the response by the faded politician Henk Mudge regarding Geingob’s comments that should engender an apology.
Henk claims that whites do not have to thank Swapo for the country being peace-loving at independence. He says that ‘other’ Namibians guaranteed peace in the nation-building phase in Namibia. He claims outrageously that reconciliation had “already occurred” before independence. Henk’s comments are revisionist.
Here are the facts: Various forms of retribution against white beneficiaries of apartheid and colonialism were on the menu of hundreds of thousands of furious Namibians in the years just before, during and after independence. Most white Namibians were shaking in their boots at the very idea of a Swapo ruled government. The phrase, “you reap what you sow” was whispered in tangible fear by most whites and their enablers. Reconciliation was NOT a done deal before independence; peaceful transition was on a knife’s edge.
Whites understood that their position of privilege faced a major challenge with Swapo’s victory. Many of the previously advantaged started running for cover. Black families benefited from whites running full speed out of Namibia. They hastily sold their property and businesses at fire-sale prices out of fear. They were afraid that what they did to blacks would now be done to them.
Whites knew very well about the torture, inferior education and healthcare provision and, land-grabbing their people have done. They knew about the beatings, wrongful arrests and detention, murders and human rights violations. Whites participated in the greatest corruption of all time: apartheid and colonialism and got rich doing it. Back in the day, they begged the South Africans, British and Germans to save them – some received passports to immigrate and they left.
Make no mistake, there were loud and persistent voices from many who fought apartheid to “chase out” whites. Many wanted land immediately returned to blacks, regardless of any international blowback. People who suffered the torment of apartheid for decades were baying for white blood.
Those who helped the whites abuse their fellow Namibians were (and still are) terrified of paying the price for their choices. It is only the strong organization, discipline and voice of Swapo that kept all of that negative energy corralled. Things were on the brink of exploding. Swapo leaders in those early days saved white lives, livelihoods, property and assets.
Had Swapo remained silent when the voices determined to seek revenge against whites were gaining momentum, many like Henk might not be here today. Let those who were involved back in the day; bear witness on this point.
We can argue about whether it is helpful to dredge up these ugly truths now, when the nation needs to be united to overcome our economic misery and manage the pandemic landscape. But we cannot argue that what Geingob said is true.
Geingob is a seasoned, long-term politician. Regardless of the soapbox-speech words used, the president does not support forcing anyone to vote Swapo. Words said that could be construed that way, are merely campaign bluster.
The astutely political president knows (as we all do) that white voters have no relevance statistically to sway any election in Namibia. Whites have never been the traditional voter base for Swapo anyway.
Geingob understands clearly that any Namibian can vote the way they choose for whatever reasons they wish. Let us not confuse campaign trail sloganeering with policy-making governmental ‘to do lists’.
The opposition should not be so anxious to kiss the feet of one tiny slither of the Namibian population that they lose focus. Let them go to the Swapo strongholds (if they dare) and work hard to win the votes they need. Let them encourage voters to come to the polls on election day! They should rather focus on plans to uplift the ECONOMY; not political rhetoric about days long past.