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- A Stuijt
- Retired South African medical journalist, ex-Sunday Times of Johannesburg.
Afrikaners want traditional authority in Namibia - by Catherine Sasman
Dec 16 2009 -- NEW ERA, Namibia. Leaders of Namibia’s the Monitor Action Group (MAG), Kosie Pretorius and Jurie Viljoen, met President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week to once again advocate for the establishment of an Afrikaner traditional authority. There were 133,324 speakers of Afrikaans in Namibia, forming 9.5% of the total national population, according to the 1991 census. Afrikaners are mostly found in Windhoek and in the Southern provinces.
New Era ‘s journalist Catherine Sasman spoke to Kosie Pretorius to find out more.
When meeting with President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week, you said MAG and the Swapo Party have one thing in common: That both parties lost one seat in Parliament. Of course, MAG lost its only seat. What is the future of the party?
I said it as a joke. I am now looking at the figures; as a politician I know where you can play with statistics. I have not proven it yet, but I think from the parties that were in Parliament, MAG has done the best, but we have lost one seat.
Where, do you think, did you lose this seat?
Our voters have become uninvolved. That is what I told His Excellency. We are not trying to play the blame game to say it is as a result of the Swapo Party. I think it is our own people who did not go to vote. I told him [the President] that we accept it as is. We don’t have that kind of contact with our people anymore to make them appreciate the importance of it. But if we still want to play a role, we need a platform.
You addressed President Pohamba about a traditional authority for Afrikaners.
“If I can go back in history a bit, with the outcome of the election results of the 435 elections in 1989, I suffered from political shell-shock. Not only because of the results – that one could expect – but in terms of the internal problems of the Action for Christian National (ACN), of which the National Party was part. The extent of the internal problems is not at issue here. That is a story on its own. But after a court case we decided to alternate the leadership of the three parties in the ACN. I held a position for two of the five years. But we soon realised that we would never win an election again. We then decided to disband the National Party and closed its books. We also decided to avoid conflict politics and in future to focus on the politics of persuasion. The Suidwester also died out, which meant that apart from the platform in Parliament, there was no other left for us. In 1994, we then decided to enter the election on our own. We [MAG] got registered, we recruited new members and we participated in that election without any organiser, without any mouthpiece, and without any meeting. But we won a seat. It was the same in 1999. That was actually our worst performance because I was very sick at the time, so things did not go too well. I think our best performance was in 2004, in the same manner; we did not change a thing.
Perhaps it is important here to mention that when the National Party closed its books, I disbanded all branches, and pulled all the money centrally. We survived on its interests. I have never asked anyone a single cent to support MAG over the last 20 years until today. What we did have were membership fees and donations. But I have never gone to any business or gone overseas, but we survived over the years. That is why every win was a miracle. The good Lord has now decided that we should go another route, and everything is actually falling into fold. But let me go back again.
I initially intended to study theology, but politics captured me; my father was also in the political house. My thesis for my master’s degree – and this was written before the 1959 protests at the Old Location – was the political development of South West Africa with special reference to the influence of population groups. I had an immense interest in what the future role of population groups was going to be in the future SWA.
In June 1989, I realised that my ideas were doomed. We had a new playing field, and we needed to figure out how we were going to play. I then read news articles that Swapo was going to give traditional authorities the opportunity to participate in the government.
I phoned the Swapo office to get hold of their manifesto because I wanted to see the original text. I was put through to Hidipo Hamutenya, who said I was welcome to pick it up the next day. At seven the next morning, I received a call from the late Anton Lubowski who invited me for tea at the directorate.
I had the tea with various Swapo leaders – including Hage Geingob, Theo-Ben Gurirab, Hamutenya, and Lubowski. I received the manifesto in which they put their signatures. They wanted to know why I was interested in the document, and I told them I was interested to see what they had to say about traditional authorities.
I also told them that they should speak with the leaders of the various population groups. I do not agree with the concept of “one man, one vote”. Perhaps only when it comes to communities, but it should not be applied universally.
One of them jokingly asked who the traditional leaders of the Afrikaners are. Anton Lubowski answered and said the leaders are elected; there is no succession. We left it at that.
And then we adopted the constitution. I found myself alone. I really did not make any major contribution, except when it came to principles. But I did propose that one half should be elected on the basis of “one man, one vote”, while the other half of the National Assembly be elected on the basis of group representation, where communities would vote in their own leaders. I proposed a formula for this. Nothing came of this.
In 1992, traditional authorities were adopted. I then asked Dr Libertina Amathila – then the Minister of Regional and Local Authorities – what would happen with the whites, Basters and brown people. She got up, hesitated for a moment, and responded that when the Swapo Government adopts legislation, it does so for everyone. But the definition does not refer to groups, it refers to communities.
I fought very hard to have the original proposals identify “community”. But they did not want to. Interestingly, eight years later, they accepted it; it is written in the law today. It describes who and what a member of a community constitutes.
I then realised that I have to operate within this legislative framework. When I mentioned a traditional authority for Afrikaners in Parliament for the first time, I was told that I would have to have communal land. Minister Nickey Iyambo – as Minister of Regional and Local Authorities – also said we should apply for communal land, but that was that.
We participated in the 1994 elections because we realised that we did not have representation on the traditional council that advises the President. We realised that our advice would dissipate. The only other platform was that of Parliament.
But all my efforts came to naught. We are now completely blocked. Now we don’t even have the opportunity to make contact with other leaders. So we feel the time is ripe to re-think the notion of a traditional authority for Afrikaners.
What arguments were made against a traditional authority for the Afrikaners?
- The only issue was communal land. Not all traditional authorities have inherited chiefs. Some just got it, and the law makes provision for the election of chiefs.
“Why don’t you just buy four farms to call your own?” said Pres. Pohamba…
When we raised this matter with President Pohamba at an earlier opportunity, he asked: “Now why don’t you just buy four farms to call your own?” I told him that would mean that the land is commercial. We would have to buy with our own money, to give to Government which in turn would then apportion us communal land. We asked him to help in the same manner the Tswanas and San people were assisted.
Something that is important to mention here is that 20 years after traditional authorities gained recognition, there are still no legal boundaries of traditional areas.
- That is why there are fights among the Kavangos and Oshiwambos over a small town. They cannot go to court, because there are no laws dealing with this. This is a major shortcoming and should be looked at. I am just mentioning it. It is not just us who are standing on the wrong side.
This isn’t about race – it’s about cultural groups:
I also told President Pohamba that traditional authorities should not be for ‘whites’, ‘blacks’ or ‘brown; people. It is about cultural groups. That is why we are saying a traditional authority for Afrikaners. We do not exclude the Germans, but they have to do their own thing.
- The Afrikaners, Basters and brown people form a language community; this is a common ground. But according to the definition, we all have to stand on our own. You can have an overarching entity, but everyone must stand on his own.
To go back again, in 1989 we invested the funds of the defunct Suidwester (newspaper). Those funds were never used for political purposes, but for cultural purposes.
We used the interest on the investments to sponsor schools that belonged to the Christian Afrikaans Education Association. We subsidised N$2 million over 16 years of the existence of these schools. I never used that money for MAG. We continued to exist because we had a seat in Parliament. We received N$250 000 per year.
We then decided to use the funds to build an archive. After we drew up the plans and asked for quotations, our shares fell by 30 percent. That was a hard knock, but we did not stop with the project. We have completed the ground floor. We hope to have completed the building by March next year, although it may take another couple of years before it will be operational because we just simply do not have money. But now we have a place where people can send their documents to. This is a place where their documents can be protected.
Is it only for Afrikaners?
- Anyone can do it. We as Afrikaners are prepared to learn from others, and vice versa. But the focus will be on the Afrikaners.
We have a self-help trust, so we never asked anyone anything. But the rug was pulled from under our feet; we have lost our seat. We cannot continue on our own. We don’t have a platform where our leaders can make contact with others.
We cannot advise the President; we cannot sit at meetings, and we cannot learn from other cultural groups, and they cannot learn from us. I think President Pohamba understood the idea. I don’t think anything will happen overnight, but we will continue with the self-help trust, and we will continue to lobby for a traditional authority. It will open the door for the Basters and brown people if we can get it.
Everyone is entitled to have a central place they can call their traditional area, if we are all treated equally. It is about Article 10 of the constitution.
For years millions upon millions of dollars have been pumped into other traditional authorities, while the three communities – the Afrikaners, Basters and brown people – stand on the outside. This is not right. This is a task the Swapo Party government should consider within the next five years. Personally, we would welcome this greatly; every cent counts to make the archive operational.
What is the feeling among Afrikaners?
- Those who support us are behind us. We have their support, but we don’t have Afrikaners who are financially strong. What people don’t understand is that the Afrikaners are farming communities and they usually have debt. The people have the spirit, but they don’t have the money.
People could argue that MAG has lost its seat because there is not enough support for the idea of a traditional authority for the Afrikaners.
- I would not say that. One of the biggest disappointments while I was in Parliament is that I could not convince Government to do a census on the basis of ethnicity. They [Government] go according to language groups.
There are more black and brown Afrikaans speakers than there are white Afrikaners. So, it is not clear how many there are. We did not lose votes. I still believe we can prove that we still represent Afrikaners. Our core is still there. Those who did vote, voted for the RDP [Rally for Democracy and Progress] because they thought this party is strong enough to break the Swapo Party’s two-thirds majority. But our core is still very healthy – healthy enough to continue with a traditional authority, which does not take big numbers. I don’t think any of the 49 that exist are based on big numbers. All these groups had to do was to prove they exist and have communal land.I think we have a strong case.
What issue do you have with the ‘one man, one vote’ concept?
Christians believe that the origin of all authority is God. One is thus accountable to God, even for your right to vote. Hence, in a cultural milieu, you cannot have others who vote on your behalf. The strongest group will always dominate – always.
In earlier days, there was a saying that went: “one man, one vote, once” as a result of coups. It is now not because of coups anymore, but as a result of democracy.
With “one man, one vote” is your future secured for always. No one else stands a chance. That is why I say “one man, one vote” should take place within the realm of a community; they should choose their leaders who will engage with others. I was always of the opinion “one man, one vote” means the end of democracy.
Would this not lead to a form of federalism, a form of apartheid?
- I would not say that. One cannot get out of this overnight, but things are developing in that direction, I would say. Decentralisation points to that direction. The only thing that does not happen under decentralisation is that there are no powers given to regions. They are merely given functions. In reality, at regional level there are merely officials; there are no political decision makers.
What will MAG do for the next five years?
- We still have to decide what we will do. Personally, I think the focus will be on cultural aspects, the issue of traditional authorities … Can we play a role there? Will we be accepted as equals with other authorities? That will be our focus. “ http://www.newera.com.na/article.php?articleid=8833
History of the Afrikaners in Namibia:
Wikipedia writes: “Afrikaners or Boer are White Afrikaans speakers who have been established in Southern Africa since the 17th century. They are mainly of northwestern European descent (mostly Dutch, German and French ancestry), but their native tongue is Afrikaans, a close relative of Dutch. The Afrikaner people were established out of the diverse peoples who first settled under the Dutch East India Company.
British South Africans generally were and are considered a separate ethnic group from the Afrikaners, and their first language was English. The semi-nomadic Afrikaans-speakers who developed on the Cape frontier were called Boers. They have also often been considered a separate entity from the Afrikaners.
With the onset of the First World War, the Union of South Africa was asked by the Allied forces to attack the German territory of South West Africa, resulting in the South-West Africa Campaign. Armed forces under the leadership of General Louis Botha defeated the German forces, who were unable to put up much resistance to the overwhelming South African forces.
Afrikaner women and children in British concentration camps.
Many Afrikaners, who had little love or respect for Britain, objected to the use of the “children from the concentration camps” to attack the Afrikaner-friendly Germans, resulting in the Maritz Rebellion of 1914, which was quickly quelled by the government forces.
Some Afrikaners subsequently moved to South West Africa, which was administered by South Africa, until its independence in 1990, after which the country was named Namibia.
There were 133,324 speakers of Afrikaans in Namibia, forming 9.5% of the total national population, according to the 1991 census. Afrikaners are mostly found in Windhoek and in the Southern provinces.
Large migration of skilled white persons from South Africa:
Since 1994 there has been significant emigration of skilled White persons from South Africa. There are thus currently large Boer and English South African communities in the UK and other developed nations. Since 1994, more than one million South Africans have emigrated blaming violent and racially motivated crime as the main reason. See human capital flight in South Africa for details.
The "Vryheidsvlag" (Freedom Flag) erstwhile called the Rebellevlag (Rebels Flag) believed to be used by some Cape Rebels during the second Anglo-Boer War.
Afrikaners join the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) awarded the Afrikaner people membership during its IX General Assembly on 16 – 17 May 2008 in Brussels, Belgium. The UNPO is a democratic, international organization. Its members are indigenous peoples, occupied nations, minorities and independent states or territories which lack representation internationally.
UNPO is dedicated to the five principles enshrined in its Covenant:
- The equal right to self-determination;
- Adherence to the internationally accepted human rights standards as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments;
- Adherence to the principles of democratic pluralism and rejection of totalitarianism and religious intolerance;
- Promotion of non-violence and the rejection of terrorism as an instrument of policy; and
- Protection of the natural environment.
This successful application for membership represents a formal acknowledgment by an international organisation of the fact the Afrikaner people have since 1994 become a stateless nation. The Freedom Front leader, dr. Pieter Mulder accepted membership of UNPO on behalf of the Afrikaner people.
- However not all Afrikaners feel this way. Some see South Africa as their fatherland, and that the democratically elected government appropriately represents them internationally. Some Afrikaners feel the ANC does not value their welfare and that their rights and liberties as described above are always second subject to those of the previously disadvantaged. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrikaner