Sam Nujoma speaks

For Sam Nujoma, home is also a place of work. For the moment, at least, the president-designate of Namibia is preparing for power from his ·eight-roomed house, perched on a hillock above Windhoek’s Katutura township. To get there I had been led through the main road that divides the sprawling township of Katutura by the official Audi 500 of Swapo secretary-general, Andirnba Toivo ja Toivo with whom I had spent time on Robben Island prison. Katutura, for many a symbol of resistance against colonial domination and imposed South African rule, comprises a cluster of a dozen smaller townships grouped along ethnic lines about 5km from Windhoek. 

The area where Nujoma lives is called Wanaheda, the name a testament to apartheid’s ethnic obsessions -l ike Soshanguve near Pretoria, it is a composite name reflecting that Owambo, Nama, Herero and Damara people were meant to live there. As we pulled up a dozen people were standing in the yard in front of the house and several others on the pavement outside. There were more people at the back of the house- in all quite a hive of activity around the future president.

Inside I followed Ja Toivo – Namibia’s shadow minister of mines and energy -and the three staunch Swapo supporters who had acted as my guides down a passage and into the lounge. After a brief wait, punctuated by the arrival of a trolley bearing cooldrinks and beer, Nujoma stepped into the room with a smile. ”Welcome to Namibia,” he said, hugging me and each of my guides. 

The bearded Swapo president and commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia was clad in sandals and a striped powder-blue safari suit. A medal given to him by the Organisation of African Unity was clipped on to his left lapel. Ihad taken a chair near the fireplace. Nujoma gestured towards the more comfortable sofa. His wife, Kovambo, came in to greet us. Taking my hand with both of hers, she bowed slightly and smiled, remained seated for a while and left without saying a word. 

After helping ourselves from the trolley, I took out my notebook, the president stretched his legs and our interview about his future plans for a free Namibia began. Our talk ranged over many issues – the direction Namibia’s economy would take, what presence the African National Congress would have in the country and the importance of improvements in agriculture, education, health and housing. ”We cannot talk of development,” he said, ”without healthy people.” There will be no wholesale nationalisation of business, nor will there be wholesale redistribution of land in an independent Namibia, Nujoma said. ”Our economic development will be based on existing conditions in the country. An independent Namibia will not copy the economies of other countries. We shall, however, initiate a policy of a mixed economy,” he said. 

He said a free Namibia will encourage foreign investment and that his government would buy shares in existing companies at a price to be negotiated ”for the benefit of the Namibian people”. He said agreements would be entered into with such companies that would be beneficial to all parties. ”But if the Namibian government feels a certain enterprise should be nationalised, the government will not hesitate to do so, but not without compensation. The government will appoint its own evaluators in the interest of all the parties, more so the people of Namibia,” he said. 

On the question of the redistribution of land, Nujoma referred to Swapo’s election manifesto which said ”the objective of the new policy will be to transfer some of the land from the few with too much of it to the landless majority”. Presently some 65 percent of Namibia’s land is owned by whites. ”Basically, Namibia is an agricultural country. We have got to produce our own food and be self-sufficient. We have to increase the production of beef and mutton and rehabilitate the fishing grounds along the Namibian coast.” Education, he said, was the second priority, followed by health and housing. ”We cannot talk about development without a sound education, nor can we talk about development without healthy people.” 

Nujoma said Namibian whites had been ”misled by successive governments of the South African regime about their future in a Swapo-led government. ”They were told there would be chaos, hunger and disease and a lowering of the standard of living. The national liberation will instead offer peace and stability.” He said it was regrettable that some white victims of these swart gevaar tactics had sold their business before the elections. ”I am delighted, however, to learn that these very whites have decided to buy new businesses when they realised there was nothing to fear.” He said he hoped this example would help allay white fears of a free South Africa. 

Nujoma said an independent Namibia would allow the ANC to open offices in his country. Would this not risk an armed confrontation with South Africa as happened in Mozambique and other southern African countries? ”I don’t think there is anything wrong with opening an office with no military bases,” he said. ”Many people have asked me if we would allow ANC military bases. My reply is that the ANC has long been waging an effective armed struggle in South Africa; it does not need any bases in Namibia.”

The struggle, Nujoma said, had never depended on military confrontation or the supply of arms alone. Worker strikes had been an equally effective method of struggle, he said, ”noting that the Boers are lazy people who would not be able to sustain a protracted labour strike. ”Besides, the ANC has not approached us about the possibility of bases in Namibia. If they do ask we shall cross the bridge when we come to it”

Asked what new strategies he would prescribe for the anti-apartheid struggle and the role of the international community in this struggle, Nujoma said: ”It is for the indigenous people of South Africa to struggle for freedom. The success of the international community’s efforts is dependent on the success of the internal struggle.” Nujoma agreed with Walter Sisulu who warned his organisation would not renounce violence unless the government met certain conditions. ”The oppressed people of South Africa have never been responsible for the violence in South Africa. It is therefore the oppressor who must renounce violence and negotiate with the genuine leaders of the people and not with puppets.”

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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