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Mall Talk: Tribal division among Namibians

17 May 2019
Author   Ismael K and Eliakim NS
The Windhoek Observer sent its intern reporters to Wernhill Mall in Windhoek to get random views about tribal divisions in Namibia.
The term, ‘Tribal division’, refers to people in certain social groupings, in terms of advantages and disadvantages, inequalities and differences.
Colonialism and apartheid have played a major role in setting up tribal divisions among people from different cultural backgrounds in Namibia. From the different locations we have in Windhoek such as Ovambo, Nama, and Herero and Damara locations, to relationships, where people from a certain tribe have wrong perceptions of those outside their own tribe, there are tribal divisions in Namibia. 
Those we spoke to  believe that over-identification with ethnicity above nationality could be a result of our parents, and what they believed and taught us.  Others also feel colonialism and apartheid thrived only because of the boundaries that the whites in power promoted amongst the majority black population.  Divide and rule was their tool and it worked for a long time.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer, Mikyla Hendricks and Nino Appollus, state that the way people are brought or raised has an impact on tribal division. “As a so-called coloured, I have been raised to associate with people of my culture with whom I share common understanding.  It does not mean I am against people of other colours and ethnicities, but that’s how I have been raised.
“For instance if I had to get into a relationship with anybody outside my own tribe that will require a lot of time to learn and understand the norms and traditions of their community. Everything has a root, which means everything that is happening it has originated from home.  If we want to terminate tribal division in our nation, education for the elders raising young people should be the target.  The elders set what is taught in the home,” they add.
Jason Shilongo believes that there is tribal division in our country. “It’s mostly influenced by the cultures that have been introduced by our parents, particularly if you notice a certain tribe that might have a negative view about other tribes.”
“For instance, my girlfriend is Damara and when I introduced her to my parents, I was faced with questions about whether I was serious with her. As apparently (according to negative stereotypes) Damaras are supposedly ‘lazy, drunkards and can’t build a man.’ 
“It’s really disheartening to learn that tribal divisions are still among us after a hard-fought battle to gain our freedom. Independence was supposed to unite and bring us closer but it seems to divide us even further. To me, we need to forget about what our parent say on the issue of different ethnic groups and communities and rather focus on what we want as individuals,” he adds.
Popyeni Shihepo, says that even though this is the 21st century and people are more connected with technology than ever before, we are classified into groups according to our tribes. “Being a teacher for a number of years, at the school in which I am currently teaching, tribal divisions is obvious. As an Ovambo, most of the staff at the school I am currently teaching are people from my ethinc group, which is quite worrisome, as this raises questions for me as  there are so many of only one ethnic group working here?”
“Of course, it is to communicate with our students who are also mostly Oshiwambo speakers, but I wonder if this is being done out of ignorance.  The medium of education is English, and our kids need to learn to master that official language, so what home tongue the teacher’s have should be irrelevant.  But, I fear it is the deciding factor about who works at my school.  If so, then I disagree and that is wrong.  It is tribalism and it is negatiave.”  
“The ruling party has a high membership in the Ovambo community; whereas another political party such as PDM is mostly Hereros.  So, tribal division is everywhere, even in political parties and something needs to be done before we start turning against each other even more,” says Shihepo.
Daniel Simon says the issue of tribal division will never be stopped as children are being raised with their own traditions. “I think a lot of people have started developing the mindset of hatred and envy towards other tribes due to what they have been told by their parents.  For example, Hereros are known for being selfish and disrespectful or Damara’s are known for stealing - all these negative generalisations and perceptions are hugely contributing to tribal divisions.  I think people should be informed on what promotes tribal division in our country,” he declares.