Affirmative Repositioning – the Start of a New Protest Era? [opinion]

THE LAND revolution is here! But after the submission of the mass land action applications by thousands of youth to the City of Windhoek, then what next for the Affirmative Repositioning movement?

Initially started by the youth trio – Job Amupanda, Dimbulukweni Nauyoma and George Kambala – who occupied Erf 2014 in the posh suburb of Kleine Kuppe, the Affirmative Repositioning fever (or is it Erf 2014 fever?) has become a national phenomenon. The idea has spread like fire among the youth of Namibia.

It has seen more than 2 000 youth marching along the Erf 2014 architects in a land mass action to the City of Windhoek to demand land allocation. The result: About 14 000 applications for plots have been submitted to and received by the City of Windhoek. And, the municipality has promised to give proper attention to every application.

In the regions, the Namibian Sun reports that some youth in Ongwediva have threatened to follow suit. Shhh, from the grapevine, youth in other regions are expressing the same sentiments. Even some elders I encountered in shebeens, hair salons and taxis have invoked the name Job Amupanda as their hero.

However, the enquiring mind wants to know: What is the meaning and the philosophy behind Affirmative Repositioning? What exactly is this youth generation demanding? What effect will the Affirmative Repositioning movement have on the country as a whole and where is it going from here?

I must admit that when news of the Erf 2014 occupation splashed across our TV screens, print and social media, it felt like I was witnessing the start of a new protesting youth generation similar to the one of my time.

That generation included the likes of Paul Kalenga, Ignatius Shixwameni, Sima Luiperd, Phaneul Kaapama, Owen Shamena, Uhuru Dempers, Michael Jimmy, Maureen Hinda, Ruusa Shipiki, Jerry Mwadinohamba, Isaiah Kavendjii, Square Marenga, Elia Irimari, Gellah Katanga, Fabianus Kandjeke, Gonti “Black Power” Kanyinga, Astrid Mavandje Ndumba, Tino Haingura, Bernadino Debwere, David Ndjamba, Martin Kutenda, Berta Nyambe, Emma Haiyambo and many others.

Here I am talking about the Nanso generation who fought for democratically elected student representative councils (SRCs) in schools. They fought against the militarisation in the education system, apartheid, colonialism, injustice and repression.

The impact of this generation on the achievement of independence and democracy consolidation in Namibia is huge although it may be largely overlooked today. I can confidently say that in some regions like the Kavango Swapo would not have won in the 1989 election if it was not to for the Nanso militancy and activism.

What the Affirmative Repositioning movement has in common with the 1980s’ student uprising, under the banner of Nanso, are the young people’s frustrations over injustices. Frustrations that the youth’s hopes, opportunities and future are being dashed. Independence has brought many positive changes but inequality in this country has hit a roof-top level. Unemployment among the youth has seemingly become insurmountable, and the gap between the rich and poor is still growing.

So, like the Nanso generation’s demand for freedom, justice and democracy, the demand for land equality, income equality, youth employment and transparency is this generation’s revolutionary drive. Therefore, Affirmative Repositioning is a consciousness-raising tool and laboratory for participatory democracy to get people involved in issues affecting their daily lives. In a sense it is a bottom-up approach that empowers real people because demand is actually giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about income inequality, poverty, corruption, greed and cronyism in the country.

However, which land are we talking about? Is it only urban land? Is it commercial or communal land? Or is it ancestral land? But more importantly, is it land grabbing similar to what happened in Zimbabwe?

From one generation to another, the land issue is not racial or generational but a class issue. Let’s also face it that even if the City of Windhoek gives plots to all the 14 000 applicants in the mass action, this will not solve the land issue. This will also not solve the informal settlement crisis in Windhoek or Namibia. That in itself suggests that we need a thorough and deliberative process to solve the issue of land in this country.

Revolutions come in many forms, but I think that the Affirmative Repositioning movement needs to elaborate specific tactics, strategies and policies in achieving their demands. That is to say that the Affirmative Repositioning movement has a story to tell but they need to ask themselves the fundamental question of what they actually want to achieve, and more importantly, how they want to achieve their goal?

– Ndumba J Kamwanyah is a lecturer at Unam’s department of human sciences. The views expressed here are entirely his.

Source : The Namibian