(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.

 

 

update: The Namibian has a story on this bill, entitled ‘”Supreme Court might become irrelevant”‘

In the space of three days last week, government passed the “Namibia Citizenship Amendment Bill” — a document which could render some Namibians stateless, all while undermining the separation of powers in our government.

What?

Well, basically there was a Supreme Court ruling recently that government didn’t like, and they passed a law to ovverrule the court. The case in question concerned a foreign couple who’d had two kids here. One got a Namibian birth certificate, the other one didn’t, and they sued that both should get Namibian citizenship while the government said neither should. It’s not a clear decision, because the constitution says if you have a child in Namibia, it will get citizenship if you are “ordinarily resident”. Home affairs said that means permanent residence only, the court said it wasn’t that clear – and so these kids should get their passports. Mind you this doesn’t just concern this family. There are a bunch of people who have had Namibian passports for a long time, sometimes over two decades, who have recently been told that they are no longer citizens and their passports won’t be renewed.

So government didn’t like the ruling from the court, and set out to “correct” it. They were clearly in a great rush: the first draft was so full of typos (what is a “zitizen”?) that they withdrew it and came back the next day with a  fixed version. And then they passed it on Friday.

 

Why does this matter?

1. This bill could take away the citizenship of Namibians

If parliament just wanted to clarify that from now on, only permanent residents get citizenship for their kids, and all of you on work permits or student visas don’t get them even if you’ve lived here for decades, have built a house, etc — that would be one thing. But the bill makes explicit reference to the recent ruling, saying “no rights may arise” from it. It appears to me this could mean that people who have already been Namibian citizens their entire life — whether that life has spanned six months, or 25 years — can be told “nevermind, you’re no longer a Namibian”.

The motivational speech seems to indicate as much. Pendukeni Iivula Ithana said that:

I am aware that the Constitution prohibits our deprivation of citizenship to the extent that we render people to be stateless. I do however hasten to add that, in many cases these children would not be otherwise stateless as they ought to follow the non-Namibian citizenship/s of their parents.

in MANY cases people won’t be stateless. So are we fine with some people — Namibian citizens — becoming stateless because the Ministry couldn’t sort out its definitions in time and doesn’t want to follow the court?

Which brings me to my second objection

2. This bill could undermine the system of checks and balances in our country.

The Supreme Court has that name for a reason.It’s supposed to make the ultimate decision as to what is lawful and what is not. If they interpret the constitution in a certain way, that should be the end of the discussion for the vast majority of cases. The fact that the National Assembly was so quick to dismiss this court ruling, simply because they didn’t like the outcome, is very worrying indeed.

Last Friday, two lawers from the Legal Assistance Centre wrote an article in the Namibian called “A Constitutional Crisis?”. They write:

The memorandum accompanying the bill asserts that the bill is clarifying the ambiguities created by differing opinions from the attorney general, the High Court and the Supreme Court. But the ‘opinion’ of the Supreme Court on the meaning of the Constitution is not just one of many interpretations. The Supreme Court has the Constitutional responsibility, under Article 79, to interpret the Constitution. And, as the highest court of appeal in Namibia, its decisions on the Constitution’s meaning take precedence over those of lower courts and government officials

There is no doubt in this case. The bill currently before the National Assembly directly contradicts the Supreme Court’s ruling. If it is passed, it would subvert the separation of powers, which is the essence of Namibia’s Constitutional framework.

The subject matter of the bill before parliament will not affect many people in Namibia. But undermining the role of the courts and the supremacy of the Constitution would affect us all.

I’m going to emphasise their next two paragraphs because they matter so much.

If parliament can overrule any interpretation of the Constitution which it does not like, then the Constitution is no longer the supreme law of Namibia. If this bill is allowed to pass, it means that parliament is supreme, and the Constitution and the courts have become irrelevant. This would change the very nature of Namibian democracy.

Passing this law would take us back to the system which prevailed in pre-independence times when there was no check on the legislature. Even a democratically-elected parliament should not be all-powerful.

Doesn’t sound too much to ask for.

It’s always interesting to see how our different papers decide to report on an issue, as their takes usually vary. Here’s how some of them reacted to Minister Schlettwein’s asset declaration on Wednesday.headlines

 

 

 

Of Note:

  • Most papers led with the top line figure, the overall amount the Minister is worth
  • The Sun strayed on the side of tastelessness, imo, by printing a picture of the Minister’s house on the front page. Unnecessary.
  • The Patriot immediately asked the central question: will other ministers also declare? Like other papers, it then moved on to the juicy info about the dollar amount the Minister is worth.

 

 

Foreign policy seldom makes headlines in Namibia, but our dealings with North Korea have been making the front pages a lot. No surprise: the revelation that they built us an ammunition factory is a big deal, and the government having to change its public stance (without ever really admitting it) is a juicy story. Anyways, the whole story is a little bit complicated at times, so I wrote an overview for African Arguments:

Pyongyang will be taking heart from the fact that after explaining Mansudae would have to leave the country, the Namibian government later added that they would in fact stay on for few more months. Renovations at the State House had recently begun and, as a minister explained, “we do not want them to leave the renovations hanging just like that”.

You don’t leave old friends hanging just like that either

The full piece is here.

I’ve been doing a bunch of writing for Insight in recent months, here is some of it:

  1. An argument for why Namibia should house Syrian refugees
  2. An assessment of the Harambee Prosperity Plan’s performance early on
  3. A piece asking why political parties get so much control over the regulations governing them
  4. A review of Richard Poplak and Kevin Bloom’s Continental Shift

I understand the magazine is still trying to fix the website, so apologies for the wonky formatting.

 

I’ve got a piece in this month’s Insight Magazine where I talk about how I think we’re focusing too much on Vocational Training.

I think vocational training has its uses, of course. But we’re not funding much of it, and there are doubts that the money we spend is very effective (Why do we have to send students to South Africa to learn boilermaking and welding?). In a more broad sense, I’m concerned with the way we talk about vocational training as a solution for our education problems.

the role VT occupies in the national discourse has long outgrown its current scale or future potential. Looking at the way it is name-checked in every speech with even remote links to education, it is hard to shake off the impression that VT is viewed as a panacea for Namibia’s educational and economic woes. It is striking that, at the same time as the graduation rates of high schools kept declining, there has been more and more talk about vocational training. This juxtaposition leads to the impression that VT is supposed to make up for the dismal performance in secondary education.

The thinking seems to be: The kids aren’t reading and can’t do maths? Let’s teach them something to do with their hands. The prevailing attitude is expressed by the NPC when it frames vocational training as an alternative for “poorly performing learners in Grade 10 and 12”. However, this is no solution. VT needs to complement tertiary education, not replace it. In a functional education system, students pursue the paths that best fit their skills, making sure that their talents are maximised. Vocational training should be a specialised career path, reserved for those with particular aptitudes and interests in such professions and careers. Those with the talent for and interest in sciences, engineering, and so on, should pursue an education in those fields. Instead, vocational training is mooted as a last alternative for students doomed by a sub-par primary and secondary education, students who might have talents in other areas, which they cannot fulfill because the system has failed them.

The full article is on the website here.