Pohamba extends olive branch to white Afrikaners

Newly elected Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Sunday extended the olive branch to the country’s white Afrikaners, but warned that an unwillingness to share land in the arid country “could spark a revolution”.

Pohamba became the first head of state since Namibian independence in 1990 to attend a church service of the Dutch Reformed Church, once closely associated with apartheid South Africa.

“Given the difficult history of the Dutch Reformed Church and its past association with the ideology of apartheid, we are here once again witnessing the success of our policy of national reconciliation,” Pohamba told white worshippers in a packed church in one of Windhoek’s a predominantly white suburbs.

“It is a source of great joy today that the Dutch Reformed Church [in Namibia] has re-reformed and rejected that doomed ideology of racism and apartheid and has now embraced their fellow black countrymen and women,” said Namibia’s second president.

Pohamba urged all churches to support the government’s development efforts, including land reform.

“The land issue can easily spark a revolution in this country,” he told the congregation. “We don’t want to see this happen.”

Pohamba urged white farmers who possessed more that two farms to sell one to the government to resettle emerging black farmers.

“By that we prevent a revolution—we want to rather see an evolution”, he said adding that “land should not be kept for the sake of owning it. If some land is unproductive and a farmer does not have resources to produce economic wealth, then he should sell so that others can work productively on that land.”

Namibia’s 4 000 white farmers own most of the arable land in Southern Africa’s driest country with a population of 1,82-million people, an imbalance the government has vowed to redress.

The president received a special Bible and an antique ostrich egg from the Dutch Reformed reverends to seal the reconciliatory spirit between the Namibian government and the white Afrikaner church.

“Today was the first time for me to worship together with you,” a smiling Pohamba told about 600 churchgoers, “but from time to time I will come back again”, earning strong applause and a standing ovation in the large brick church.

Sworn in on March 21 this year as the successor to longtime Namibian leader Sam Nujoma, Pohamba is a devout Christian and belongs to the Anglican Church.

The Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia is the only such synod outside of South Africa and the main place of worship for Namibia’s roughly 40 000-strong white Afrikaner community, mostly descendants of frontiersmen and women who left South Africa to escape British colonial rule.

The church, together with its South African counterpart, apologised in the late 1990s over its support for apartheid in South Africa, which also administered Namibia from the end of World War I until independence.
- Sapa-AFP

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