By Denga Ndaitwah
THIS second last article, of the series I have been writing over the past weeks, is meant to deliberately provoke some political and academic debate.
Consequently, this article will be the shortest, but it will usher me into territory that may be politically and academically controversial. It shall be exposing different views and opinions.
I must be very quick to confess that the territory I am going to venture into has been occupying my mind for some time now.
The departure point is: How do we interpret and understand the word marginalisation in a democratic setting like Namibia? Do we still have marginalised people in Namibia, after 27 years of independence? If yes, what does marginalisation mean?
Historically, all black Namibians were all marginalised, and that was done based on the segregation laws of apartheid.
The bottom line is that all blacks in Namibia were categorised as inferior.
However, one of the underlying principles of Namibia’s democracy, particularly Chapter 3, as enshrined in our Constitution, is Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms.
It is my understanding that Chapter 3 of our Constitution has done away with segregation laws, and also brought about an end to the concept of marginalisation.
Hence, all blacks in Namibia can now be classified and referred to as formerly marginalised/disadvantaged people.
If that is the case, why then 27 years after independence, do we still refer to some of our people as marginalised communities?
I have been scratching my head trying to interpret the meaning of the word ‘marginal’, to find a common solution, but I have failed. What I found is that the word marginal simply means, bordering/ borderline, peripheral, on the edge, negligible and minimal, among others. Based on those words, I shall now attempt to proffer some definitions, according to my understanding. Marginalisation, in my view, is a systematic and structural setup, and not the level of one’s social development.
Marginalisation is a deliberate system and structure, specifically created to marginalise a certain group of people. Meaning, marginalisation has a connotation of deliberate exclusion. Again, marginalisation is a process of discrimination, by deliberately pushing someone to the edge, to the extent that a person must be classified as an inferior. In this regard, I know well that there is no exclusive policy in an independent Namibia that is marginalising people.
Should that be the case, then there is something amiss with our democracy, and our political leadership owes this nation an explanation.
There is what is known as social exclusion. Social exclusion is a multidimensional process of progressive social rupture, detaching groups and individuals from social relations and institutions, and preventing some people from full participation in the normal, normatively prescribed activities of the society in which they live.
Is that what is happening in Namibia? Are there people in this country who are deliberately excluded from other activities of the community, because of the colour of their skin or historical background? I do not think that there is something of that kind in an independent Namibia.
I know very well that there might be some exclusion in Namibia, based on race, geographic location, class structure, social issues, personal habits and appearance. But that must not be viewed as a systematic and structural issue.
This is just natural, and the self-exclusion of preference, which might be caused by circumstances.
Simply put, a brother walks with a brother/sister -black hanging with black or vice versa -and cannot be classified as exclusion, tribalism, racism or marginalisation.
In an independent Namibia, we have affirmative action laws. Affirmation action laws are an instrument specifically enacted to address the plight of formerly disadvantaged/ marginalised people in Namibia. Affirmative action laws can, therefore, be understood as a social inclusion, designed to change the circumstances of the past, and habits that may have led to social exclusion.
Affirmative action laws may, therefore, be defined as social inclusion, aimed at improving the abilities, opportunities and dignity of all formerly marginalised peoples.
Let us go the extra mile. Education in this country is all-inclusive. But still there are some children who do not attend school. That is caused by circumstances, and not because the government made it systematic and structural, that some communities must not attend school.
The social grants in this country are disbursed across the board, and without any discrimination, in terms of age, vulnerability and how much recipients get. Where does marginalisation feature in this country?
Finally, I am in full support of Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) and President Hage Geingob’s clarion call for inclusiveness, which says nobody must feel left out.
That means that those who are lagging behind, must be pulled up, to get where the rest of the people are.
I am even in full support of the appointment of the deputy minister, tasked with the responsibility of addressing the needs of communities, which were disadvantaged and marginalised, to the extreme. But to refer to them as marginalised communities, requires both political and academic scrutiny and interrogation. I shall leave it in the hands of those who are qualified to chew this cud.
*Retired Lieutenant-General Denga Ndaitwah is a former Chief of the Defence Force, part-time lecturer at Unam and head of department and senior lecturer at IUM. He is a holder of MA in Strategic Studies
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