(This is a post from the Sunday Scholarship series, where I summarise academic articles into something a bit more easy to read. Overview here, other posts here.)

Title: China and SWAPO: the Role of the People’s Republic in Namibia’s Liberation and Post-Independence Relations

Author: Ian Taylor

One-sentence summary: China was not a prominent ally of Swapo, because Swapo already had links with Russia, and Russia was in a conflict of China. But China kept supporting Swapo (mostly verbally), and maintained a good relationship until the Russia conflict fell away and they could deepen their ties to SWAPO.

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I used to read Garfield a lot when I was a kid, but as I grew older realised the obvious: it became terribly bland after a while, recycling jokes and never straying from its basic plot. Turns out there’s a great fan/conspiracy theory explaining this: check out this amazing post which proposes that Garfield died in 1989, and every strip since is just a hallucination in the last moments of his life.

the fourth of six strips in this story

Check out the blog for the whole series of strips; it’s astounding

The conspiracy part of this is that a ghostwriter took over at this juncture. Jim Davis, the creator, denies it, and someone in the comments offers what is perhaps a more plausible explanation:

I think in a ham-fisted way, Jim Davis was saying in that closing panel that you can imagine a pretty vivid and screwed up future, so the “alone in the house” scenes were Garfield doing just that, then he snaps out of it.

 

Anyway, it reminded me of this xkcd strip, which dared Jim Davis to “go out in a blaze of dadaist glory.”

credit: xkcd.com

 

Maybe he already did.

Once the elections are over, the educated elites retreat into state institutions where they proceed to govern through a system the vast majority of their people do not understand. The proceedings in parliaments are in a colonial language, the laws are framed in the same foreign language and the various organs of state conduct their affairs in a language understood by a minority that was fortunate to receive colonially designed education. This means that for the most part the masses do not understand what is being said and done in their name.

While the principles of democracy are universal, it appears African societies are hugely disadvantaged in their application, to the extent that they are rendered meaningless. For instance, if democratic governance refers to “the capacity of a society to define and establish legal order — which requires institutions based on the principles of equity, freedom, participation in decision making, accountability, and promoting the inclusion of the most vulnerable sectors of society”, how would we see this happening if the majority of the people have no idea of what is going on in the governance of their country?

Mosibundi Mangena, “Introduction.” In: Political Parties in Africa, edited by Ebrahim Fakir and Tom Lodge. 2015. More info.

  • This is definitely a problem in Namibia. It’s arguably becomingd less of a problem, because English-first education means an increasing number of people do speak the language of government. (Though education is not nearly doing as well as it should, and too many folks come through the system with an inadequate ability to write and read english)
  • I still think SWAPO made the right decision when they opted to go for English as the official language. I don’t think the state could cope with the translation and interpretation required to translate in a truly multilingual society. Instead, what would have likely happened is that people who speak minority languages would be marginalised in the name of saving resources.
  • In other words, I think one language represents a better shot at giving everyone access than several languages.

 

  • More Broadly we have to wonder what the current state of affairs means for democracy. Can we claim that Namibia is a democracy when most people arguably can’t follow what politicians are doing?
  • Or is it enough that people vote based on whatever incomplete information they do have? (and let’s face it, in no country do voters have all the information — government is complicated, that’s partly why we outsource it to politicians in the first place!)
  • For now, government has to do a lot better at communicating what’s going on. Bills debated in parliament should be summarised in easy-to read language. State-owned media should talk about policy in a neutral manner rather than simply parroting what government is saying. Opposition parties need to work to explain policies to voters, and give details on what they would do differently.

update: an example from yesterday

I’ll be reading and posting a lot about China in Namibia soon, because it’s an issue that has come up in the news a lot lately. Xenophobia seems to be on the rise, while the newspapers and some politicians seem to be quite happy to encourage it. So this week I’ll cheat and write a few words about a book that is technically non-academic, but should still be on the top of anyone’s reading list on the topic.

Title: China’s Second Continent: how a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa.

Author: Howard W. French

One-sentence summary: French travels across the continent and speaks to ordinary Chinese migrants on the ground – farmers, traders, businesspeople. This contrast to the many other books on the topic of China in Africa, which focus on the state, allows for a lot of insight and a fresh perspective. Book info here.

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be a winner

All images in this post are from the article linked below. These players were identified as ‘Tambo’ (Ocean Spurs) and Justice Basson (Rickets). I wonder whether/how much they were paid.

(This is a post from the Sunday Scholarship series, where I summarise academic articles into something a bit more easy to read. Overview here, other posts here.)

Title: Visualizing African football in apartheid Namibia: photography, posters and constructions of consumers and nationalism.

Author: Giorgio Miescher, Dag Henrichsen

One-sentence summary: Posters and photographs of football can reflect changes in Namibian society. First, ads reflected a “separate but equal” ideology; around independence they promoted multiracial images to sell their products to a new and growing black business class. I really recommend reading the full article here, if you can get your hands on it.

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(This is a post from the Sunday Scholarship series, where I summarise academic articles into something a bit more easy to read. Overview here, other posts here.)

Title: Political Homophobia in Postcolonial Namibia.

Author: Ashley Currier

One-sentence summary: The attacks on gays and lesbians by Swapo politicians in the 1990s had several political purposes: they were supposed to intimidate opposition, remind Namibians of Swapo’s power, and aimed at promoting one specific view of history. Full article here.

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When I tweet about what’s happening in Parliament, I usually get few reactions. But when the NA started discussing a bill to end our practice of winter time, people were very interested. Media houses tweeted about it too, and a vocal subsection of Namibian twitter sounded off — mostly in the negative — about this decision:


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from the Mattia Fumanti chapter discussed here.

from the Mattia Fumanti chapter discussed here.

This is a post from the Sunday Scholarship series, where I summarise academic articles into something a bit more easy to read. Overview here, other posts here.

Title: “I Like My Windhoek Lager”: Beer Consumption and the Making of Men in Namibia. Chapter in this book, which is entirely dedicated to discussing beer in Africa.

Author: Mattia Fumanti

One-sentence summary: This article follows a group of young men as they party in Rundu, and look as how their identity as men is related to the way they drink and talk about drinking.

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This is a post from the Sunday Scholarship series, where I summarise academic articles into something a bit more easy to read. I explain why here.

Title: Apartheid’s Transnational Soldiers: The Case of Black Namibian Soldiers in South Africa’s Former Security Forces (article here)

Author: Lennart Bolliger

Field: History

One-sentence summary: In the most common version of Namibian history (which is also the official SWAPO version), SWATF and Koevoet soldiers are seen as traitors and perhaps enemies, and we often view the conflict as centred around Namibia. But these soldiers’ version of history tells a different story.– and also reminds us of the complex, international nature of the war.

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From tomorrow, I’m starting a new series where each Sunday morning I will post a summary of an academic article about Namibia.

These articles will be from across the social sciences – I’ve got history and sociology lined up, and have anthropology and political science next.

Most people won’t read an academic article in their life. The academic world is seen as elitist, which it is true both in terms of the escalating costs of higher education but also because of the language which we use. Most people would struggle wading through the jargon to get to the meaning of your average academic article. Some complexity is necessary when talking in-depth about issues, but the truth is that many academics are simply poor writers.

A lot of people think so: there was a “bad writing” award for academic writing for a while, and many essays have discussed the various causes and solutions for this problem (or contested the conventional wisdom).

I’m doing this because people are doing some really interesting research on our country, and I think it’s a shame that most of it doesn’t reach (m)any Namibians. I have no illusions that my blog will change that on a grand scale, but through this and twitter I might get an interesting paper or two into the hands of a person or two who might appreciate it.

This exercise will also help me: it’s an excuse (and structure!) to read more widely. And I’ll practice writing clearly. Hopefully it’s interesting to folks out there.