Diescho’s Dictum – So Much to Be Grateful for and Upon Which to Build [column]

WE are in the second week into the new year, the Two Thousand and Fifteen year of our Lord – as per our Christian calendar. We are about to celebrate our twenty-fifth birthday as a nation, let me hasten to add the most peaceful and most stable country on our great but not altogether happy Continent. Some of us are still recovering from the endless celebrations of Christmas combined with the new year blues! There is a meaning to this most celebrated holiday period in the world, in line with the meaning of Christmas – love and peace amongst the people of goodwill.

Je suis Charlie! Here in Namibia, in Afrika, we hold in our hearts the members of the editorial board of the French publication Charlie Hebdo whose lives were brought to an abrupt end by the bullets of callous and cold-blooded assassins last week in Paris, as well as those who perished in terror violence elsewhere in France. When this sort of violence is inflicted upon any of the peace-loving members of the human family, it affects us all, regardless of how geographically separated we are from the scene of the crime. Peace is a fundamental value for Namibia. We hurt all the same. Today, this week, we are all French!

We also remember all the fellow citizens who passed on in road accidents and other circumstances and left us with a few citizens short to accomplish our goals of growing this country into what it is ordained to be. While lamenting the painful stories that we were hearing through this period, we need to turn our faces towards the meaning of all these and the good which is for us to build. We ought to be grateful for the expressions of goodwill and love amongst families and friends. The past holidays are truly a magnificent time of celebrating life in its bounties. Watching the expressions of joy especially on small children as they opened their Christmas presents made me feel humble, and for those of us who never received such wrapped presents from our parents, uncles and nieces at times when these things were not common in ordinary black families, we would also not fail to recollect the peace and love and security we received from our families even though they were not bearing gifts. And we must continue to show grace as we move on especially towards those who made it possible for us to be where we are today.

There is some good around us. Starting with the things that appear small but which are big in the scheme of evil, we ought to be grateful for those signs that remind us and reframe us that we can also be good. I went to collect my clothes from Windhoek Dry Cleaners in December. I handed my slip to the lady who brought the plastic bag with my clothes. I noticed that an item was stapled outside of the plastic bag for easy notice. It was a bunch of money notes amounting to more than N$200. It was money I left in my suit pocket, which I did not even notice as missing. I left and unable to drive away, I returned to speak with the lady who served me. She could see that I was a happily worried man. I asked her if she was aware that the money I left in my clothes was returned. In a most assuring manner, she said yes, and that it happened quite often in her shop. She even gave me the name of the lady inside who is in charge of clearing pockets, and I asked to see the lady and just shake her hand to say thank you for being such a good person, such a good Namibian. Imagine if we had just one of those in every business or government outlet in our land.

Some of us can proudly say that that is how our people lived before, until the migrant labour system and the war came and disrupted that flow of life and families were torn apart. The colonial economic system and later the war conscripted young men and took them away and to fight their brothers and sisters who were committed to liberating our country. Those who were harbingers of national independence and by extension the peace, security and stability that we all enjoy today, were turned into invaders of their own Motherland. Many of us went to church during Christmas. Listening to Father Lucas Ikanyeng Mosemedi of the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral articulate over and over that Christmas was a moment to celebrate love and goodwill and the many gifts life gave us thus far as families and friends, I was left propelled to internalize the message on the following fronts:

Just about all the Christmases in the past 20 years, I was in South Africa where midnight masses were only in name. Churches had their services way before midnight for fear of crime on church premises. There I was, truly attending midnight mass, peacefully in the capital of my small country, with small beautiful children asleep during the mass. This may seem small to many. I was humbled, left with a sense of great exhilaration that we, in this country, could hold such sacred occasions without fear. We owe this to the builders of our democracy, who do not hear this very often.

Before and during the Christmas period, I was privileged to interact with a good number of non-Namibian nationals, professional men and women and especially from the Afrikan Continent who are working and raising their children in Namibia. It was both humbling and affirming to hear how they cherish the g foundations this small nation has lain in the last 25 years. I heard them say how much they wish to make Namibia their permanent home and a country wherein they wish their children’s children to call their country. Some of them went on to describe how Namibia affirms them as Afrikans unlike where they were born or lived before. This is not a small accomplishment for the political leadership that had been hard at work to build this atmosphere where we can all sleep in peace knowing that tomorrow is fine. Two such professionals even said they were astonished to see that even garbage was collected by the municipality during the festive season! That is Windhoek for you!

It is true we have done exceptionally well thus far. On 28 November 2014 the country held its sixth national elections. These elections were free and fair, with no murders and assassinations as it is common cause on our Continent. All of us, winners and losers alike, have accepted the outcome of the elections as the binding will of the people, and like the President-Elect said, the Government will be for all the Namibian people. The Constitution and the law regulating our electoral processes are respected by all – such that the handover of instruments of power from the second to the third President of the Republic will take place only on the 21st of March 2015. In other countries such inaugurations happen hurriedly over a weekend, even before all the votes are tallied

Once again, a very distinguished Afrikan professional working in Namibia shared with me how much he appreciated that he encountered a foreign businessman who came to Windhoek with intent to invest in what this foreign businessman thought would be a very lucrative enterprise – a private security company to recruit, train and provide bodyguards to politicians and high placed business people. His salesmanship and marketing of his services fell on deaf ears as our leaders in the public and private sectors did not understand his excitement as we are not in a country where high profile personages live lives where they believe they need private mindless muscular and mean men to hover over them wherever they go.

A friend of mine, a white Afrikaans-speaking Namibian born and bred in the deep south, and who is as rural as most of the black Namibians, shares what he experienced on the day of our last elections. He and his wife went to vote in Pionierspark. Upon their arrival, they noticed a very long queue of folks waiting to cast their votes. As the queue was not moving fast enough, they overheard how other white Namibians in the queue were growing in impatience. They started to complain about this, that and the other going wrong in the country. They threatened to leave and return five years later when the queue was shorter. Then my friend noticed that a black couple ahead of them in the queue left hurriedly without voting. A few moments later, the black couple returned with a “bakkie” full of camping chairs for people, including the complaining whites to sit as they waited. The atmosphere changed. Even the complainers’ tone changed. What people then began to talk about was a new spirit of Namibia that brought tears to my friend’s eyes. This was truly serving our nation, whoever you are, without getting official recognition.

I recall a heart-wrenching experience I had in October last year as I was returning from my village in Kavango where we buried one of the most remarkable primary school teachers we had. Between Grootfontein and Kombat there was a horrific car accident between a taxi and a car carrying young service men and women. The accident was terrible. The first time I saw the Jaws of Life. The paramedics who rushed to the scene were under the command of a white Afrikaans speaking Namibian who could hardly speak English. Standing in the grass amongst the bodies strewn all over the green grass, I watched this white man work to save lives. I have never seen any one person so totally dedicated to his job. I was ever worried that with the force he was yanking the rope of the mobile generator to get it started his arm was going to fall off any time. I was so moved by this man who was wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his hands that I quickly said a couple of Hail Mary’s just to be some sort of support to him and his team before they cleared us off the scene. That is truly what is expected of us to serve fellow human beings without regard to race, gender or class. Imagine just a few thousand of us with that type of commitment to serve and help other Namibians in need, not to be noticed, appointed or promoted, but because it is the right thing to do as we are one all our brothers and sisters’ keepers.

As we mature with the year, part of our psyche must be about how much we have going for us. This year should truly usher in a New Beginning, such that we leave behind us the things we should not repeat in our treatment of others, but that we take the best in us and with us into 2015 – to assist our leaders where we can and serve where we must this nation and Afrika! This year ought to be a year of giving credit where credit is due, and in line with the Christian spirit. Instead of seeking faults in others and blaming everybody else but ourselves, let us bring our bit to make the move towards Vision 2030 and a better Afrika.

It is with this spirit of goodwill, love and service that that the Leadership of the Christian Churches is urged to convene a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer before the inauguration to express our collective gratefulness for peace and stability over the last 25 years, and to usher in the new Parliament, the New Administration and commend our President-Elect and those who are entrusted with the stewardship of the nation’s affairs and resources with him to the counsel and wisdom of God and His providence.

Source : New Era