Independence is worth celebrating
25 February 2020 | Opinion
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes,” the great Mahatma Gandhi once said. Namibia is currently embroiled in a heated debate on whether it is worth celebrating our independence. Antagonists have pointed out at the soaring rates of unemployment, poverty, inequality and so forth as reasons enough not to celebrate independence. These are the 'mistakes' Gandhi referred to. To politicians, who have made it a habit to accrue extra money in S&T by traversing the country to attend independence anniversary celebrations, 21 March represents a special payday. It means feasting on well-prepared traditional cuisines, snoozing in cosy hotels, networking (often for personal political gain) and a perfect justification to duck out from the actual work they were placed in public office for. While this day has largely become a regurgitation of history to score cheap political victories, its fundamental ideals are still relevant. It is not true that Namibia is worse today than it was in 1990, except on issues such as greed, patronage and corruption. The ordinary woman in Ohalushu who now has tap water, freedom of movement and is safe from brutal unprovoked beatings or casspirs running over her crops is surely in a better space today – and that's worth celebrating.
But, of course, in the psyche of a Namibian politician, celebrating means throwing parties with taxpayer money. In the corridors of power, 'celebrating' is interpreted in a carnival sense – convoys, gun salutes, dancing and catering tenders. All 14 regional governors, regional councillors, mayors and many high-ranking officials of the State are likely to descend onto Windhoek on the day to listen to the speech of the president when they could simply watch it live on TV. The day is worth celebrating but not in the manner that we have adopted over a span of three decades. Times have evolved and progressive nations, whose history is as painful as ours, have moved away from throwing millions into partying. It is through these parties that we forget about the sacrifices we have made and the convictions for which many sons and daughters of this land died.