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White Namibians feel excluded from independence celebrations

By Anna Salkeus
WINDHOEK, 19 MAR (NAMPA) – DTA of Namibia member of Parliament, Nico Smit has declared that white Namibians do not attend independence celebrations because it is politicised.
“I attended the first celebrations. As a true Namibian, I said to myself that if these platforms are used to criticise a certain group of our people, then it is unacceptable,” said Smit in an interview with Nampa on Wednesday regarding next week’s Independence Day celebrations.
He said the minority want to be part of the celebrations but a culture of withdrawal from such events was triggered by the first celebration of Independence Day in 1990, when some leaders threw insults and accusations at the minority.
Looking at the types of performances at independence celebrations, Smit said cultural groups such as the Ndilimani Cultural Troupe that is owned by Kalahari Holdings of the Swapo Party and has performed at each independence celebration, are conformed to the ruling party.
He explained that such events are generally styled according to the ruling party, as the colours worn by attendees tend to be those of Swapo, which he said discourages white Namibians and citizens of other ethnic groups.
“That is wrong. You cannot go to a national day wearing party colours.”
Smit said DTA of Namibia supporters also do not feel comfortable attending the mass gatherings because they fear confrontations and name-calling.
He said white people tend to plan a getaway on such days or stay at home to complete chores generally done at the weekend.
“This is actually sad. We want to be part of Independence Day celebrations, but you can only be part if you enjoy it. No one decides to be white or black.”
The MP noted that building and reconstructing a nation could only be done through reconciliation and building a future, however Namibia is doing more harm through its independence celebrations.
He said 21 March is an ideal opportunity to bring Namibians together, regardless of ethnicity.
“Government must really look into this issue and resolve it to make it a national day with no party colours, and not misuse national days to try and benefit political parties.”
Director of the Citizens for an Accountable and Transparent Society (CATS), Carola Engelbrecht echoed Smit’s sentiments saying very often, such events are politicised.
Although there are efforts to unite the nation and instil patriotism, a lot is being done to divide the Namibian people, she said adding that some people even attend the celebrations only for the food.
Engelbrecht said one of the perceptions that keep white people away from such mass gatherings is that white people have a lot of money.
The year’s Independence Day celebration is to be held in Rundu and Engelbrecht noted that government officials would travel with government vehicles, receive Subsistence and Travel (S&T) allowances, and wine and dine in fancy places at the expense of taxpayers.
In contrast, the ordinary civilians who will attend the celebration are from surrounding areas and are probably not so well off, “but they are escaping their misery for this one day to celebrate”.
She added that Namibia should follow the example of Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who called off independence celebrations because there was no money.
“If you contribute your tax payers’ money, you are sort of protective over that share that you give. You want to see it used and spent well.”
Engelbrecht said Namibia has not transformed so badly over the last 27 years but how the country’s resources are distributed and used is of great concern.
“We have to find better ways to distribute these resources, so that they reach the people that are poor. Independence has been peaceful until now, but I am concerned about what is starting to happen with people getting frustrated on the ground and being told that they are unpatriotic by their own government.”
Managing Director of the media monitoring organisation NaMedia, Natasja Beyleveld told Nampa some white Namibians, due to their upbringing, prefer to follow the celebrations on national television and social media instead of attending the event.
She said Namibians should be thankful for the peace and stability in the country every day.
“To me, independence means, freedom, sustainability and something that should be for everybody.”

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