Reflecting on 29 years of independence in Namibia, we can spend hours questioning whether we have achieved the lofty, excited dreams we felt on March 21, 1990 - OR, we can hold on to our national pride, respect for heroes who fought to liberate the country and on one glorious day per year, shout to the world that we are not dead yet!
Namibia still has fight left in its bones and our great country is something worth fighting for.
We can choose to console ourselves with clichés saying that the ‘darkest hour is before the dawn,’ while we talk about the economic downturn, criticise our leaders, worry about the drought, protests the land and housing shortage, recognize that we have a poor work ethic, shake our heads at retrenchments and unemployment, become angered by unchecked crime, racism/tribalism, high rates of school leavers, accusations of corruption and other ills.
However, we believe that National Day is a moment to take a breath and look at what has been achieved. No one can honestly gripe that everything in Namibia today is the exact same as what occurred under white minority rule and apartheid; that not a single thing has improved.
We believe those who are frustrated enough to say that, are consciously counter-revolutionary or blinded by their individual circumstances.
Opinions about the state of our nation vary. There are those living among us who wish they still had their white privileges and benefits and others who lament the landslide victory of the ruling party at the ballot box at every national election.
These groups of citizens refuse to see any advancement, change, betterment or potential in the Land of the Brave. Nevertheless, the raw fact, at the base of understanding is that Namibia is far better off today (to varying degrees), than it was in the days of oppression, domestic terrorism and occupation by a foreign country.
Taking time during celebrations of independence to reflect on our country is a celebration of that truth.
We have no problem whatsoever with the reported N$2.5 million budget allocation for the Independence Day programs. In fact, it is too low. Reasonable amounts of funding should have been made available to every region in order to host colourful and well-attended ceremonies with food, fun, dancing and music for all in attendance.
Independence Day celebrations should be reflective of the cultures and the rich history of this country, the meaning of sovereignty, and the value of liberation. Most importantly, it is a time to teach younger generations, those ‘born-free’ Namibians who never knew occupation, struggle, apartheid laws and injustice, what happened, who the heroes are and what responsibility now lies with the youth for the nation’s future.
We would like to have seen a parade of the heroes who are still with us, so they can be named and honoured. A roll call of honour of those buried at Heroes’ Acre and their stories and achievements would be just right for the day.
Those celebrated should be from all walks of life, not only those who fought with the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), those who went into exile and our remaining Robben Island survivors.
Excerpts of stories from ordinary Namibians who fed and hid combatants during the war, those who opposed apartheid on every level, those who quietly did the right thing in their everyday lives and helped to bring an end to foreign occupation and injustice should be read.
The indomitable nature of the Namibian people must thrive, not just survive. We should not allow ourselves to sink so low as to not understand that in the midst of turmoil and fear, the people of Namibia can still stand up and be counted.
Let the celebrations of this day be the opportunity for government to shake the shoulders of a stunned public, many of whom are cowering in economic fear, and assure them that we are not dead yet. The heartbeat of this nation remains strong and steady.
Let the words of our national anthem remind us that the nation is still alive:
Namibia land of the brave
Freedom fight we have won
Glory to their bravery
Whose blood waters our freedom
We give our love and loyalty
Together in unity
Contrasting beautiful Namibia,
Namibia our country
Beloved land of savannahs
Hold high the banner of liberty
Namibia, our country
We love thee!