The article a fortnight ago in the Namibian newspapers by members of the Marxist Study Group of Namibia, Shaun Whittaker and Harry Boesak, headlined “Reparations and Nation building” is interesting as it is mentally enriching, thought-provoking, ideological and intellectual.
In fact many a times Yours Truly Ideologically have been challenging the Namibian intelligentsia to make its voice heard and its intellect present in the ongoing debate on Genocide, Apology and Reparations. Because for some unknown reasons this important sector of the Namibian society has been ominously conspicuously absent in this debate. Which has been predominantly a playing if not trampling and masturbation ground for Northern academics and pseudo intellectuals. Worse a scholastic experiment for students from Germany, among others, seeking quick and easy academic accolades.
Because of such an indigenous intellectual input, and thus void in the debate, the result thereof today is manifested in the half-baked Joint Declaration and Agreement between the Namibian government and her German counterpart.
The Marxist Study Group is raising pertinent issues in the article warranting the serious attention of those on the forefront of the campaign, notably the Namibian government; its German counterpart; the affected communities, and indeed the entire reparations movement.
In the aftermath of the US Supreme Court delivering yet another dismissive blow to the genocide class brought by the Ovaherero and Nama case, and the retrogressive Joint Declaration and Agreement, there’s a much-needed re- invigorated push forward. The Marxists Group adds an important and significant voice to the discourse and/or reparations demand and the push and way forward. Thus broadening the base to a mass movement not confined to affected communities only.
As the Namibian government leaders have been maintaining, whether genuinely or Machiavellian, this is a national issue, and indeed international, cognisant of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.
But Yours Truly Ideologically finds it interesting that the Group, given its ideological disposition, does not show any circumspection about “reparations”. If and whenever it shall and may be realised. Granted of course that crucially, and first and foremost the occupation now is and should be “reparations first and the Kingdom of repair and restitution shall follow”. This certainly rings a bell in terms of the old dictum of African liberation of “Seek ye the political Kingdom First”. But with hindsight Africa, and many other colonised countries have achieved political indepedendence and many years thereafter, political or flag independence is what it has remained, nothing more and nothing else. Thus Yours Truly Ideologically cannot but be suspect about “reparations”.
The Group also pertinently observes in the article that reparations would only happen with a “revolutionary” government in Berlin. This is certainly a very interesting and noteworthy point. In view of the context of bilateralism between the Namibian and German governments, being the only context in which issue has been paraphrased, and accordingly negotiated. Culminating expectedly in the said agreement, which in the final analysis is more an outcome of a process of a master-servant relations, in this case between a former colony and a former colonial power. An imposition by a powerful donor country on an begging impoverished recipient every year of aid for which the recipient is desperate to cling like the case of Namibia. As opposed to it being an outcome of a negotiated settlement between two equals.
Thus the authors are pertinently speaking to the power relations between Namibia and Germany that reparations would only be realised with a different regime in Berlin not the current one. Need one really argue against such a reality, unpalatable as it may be, in which the so-called negotiations and the resultant agreement have been taking place.
Attendant to this salient observation is also the geopolitical context in which the Namibian government and its German counterpart have been engaging. Especially the affected communities on whose behalf they apparently been negotiating. Unlike in the case of the Jewish Holocaust, when and where the Jewish people were in the first instance, somehow, not an insignificant people. Besides being also represented by a powerful organisation, the Jewish Claims Conference with a significant political and economic clout internationally. This cannot be said about the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama. Not to loose also sight of the fact that the Israeli government was squarely behind the Jewish people, besides itself having a direct interest and standing in the matter. Plus the fact that the Allied Powers also had an axe to grind with the German government with war claims of their won. And this also strengthened the claim of the Israeli State and the Jewish people.
This is not the case with regard to Namibia. First in the sense that the claim is by seemingly insignificant claimants, at least in the eyes of Germany, which by own categorical admission, does not negotiate with “tribes”. Plus the vaunted bilateralism between the two countries, obviously each with own interest but which somehow converge. Thus excluding those with direct interests, the affected communities, including other countries like Botswana and South Africa, with their citizens but Namibian descent and thus equal and legitimate claimants of reparations.
By deceitful design Botswana and South African and their citizens of Namibian descent, as well as SADC, and AU as regional and/or continental inter-governmental organisations, and even other international organisations like the United Nations have been kept abreast. Of essentially a human rights issue. That conveniently have been reduced to one just between two State actors.
Note must also be taken in the case of Genocide in Namibia that the Namibian government has been reluctantly politically agendising the matter, having for that matter belatedly taken it on board of the national political agenda.
One of the last salient point, but by no means insignificant or less significant by Whittaker and Boesak, is about lack of mass agitation. One needs not a agree with them more that indeed Namibians, the affected communities in particular who been at the forefront of the campaign, have at times seem or been ominously mute on the home front in terms of making loud noise about their claim. Partly a factor of the ethnocentric approach to the matter as the authors well observe, with a consequent lack of a broad mass movement. On the contrary the civil society, especially in Germany has been making noise.
Not only this but cannot but dare guess to what extent civil society in other countries, notably the US, the stage of the recent class case, has been and is aware of the Genocide of the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama for some for civil society organisations, such as the slavery reparations movement in the least, could mobilise American public opinion to somehow bear on the Namibian class case?