Amid a growing concern over availability of land in most African countries including Namibia Dr Sam Nujoma one of the continent’s respected former President and an astounding liberation fighter gave his insights on the land issue and other pressing issues including the need for industrialisation of the continent to Sunday Mail’s Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni. Below The Villager reproduces the interview with Zimbabwean state run newspaper, The Sunday Mail.
MH: Your Excellency I was at the Independence Stadium (21 March) when your country recently held its Silver Jubilee celebrations that coincided with the inauguration of Namibia’s third President since independence, Dr Hage Geingob. When you entered into the stadium, there were wild cheers from the crowd, a clear sign that Namibians still love you so much. What do you attribute this to?
SN: (short laughter) You see, I was born here and I grew up here. I am now part of the population, an ordinary citizen.
MH: As the Founding Father of Namibia, how would you describe the relationship between Zimbabwe and Namibia?
SN: The relationship between Zimbabwe and Namibia is excellent. We fought for our freedom and independence and we made decisions on our own. We don’t receive orders from any other forces. We were born like that. We have to ensure that the future generation of our two countries follows what we have been doing.
MH: What are some of your memorable times with President Mugabe?
SN: Well, it was at a time when some of our leaders in the region tried to accommodate the interests of the minority white settlers here in Namibia.
They even tried to do it in Zimbabwe too. We fought this together and said these settlers have to go away with their culture or they stay home with their culture. With President Mugabe we are brothers. When you are in Namibia or Zimbabwe you can be rest assured that you are at home.
MH: Your Excellency, there are concerns that there is a new breed of African leaders that is not principled and not really ideologically grounded. Do you share these concerns?
SN: Well, of course, definitely there is a lot of confusion now on the continent. The imperialists are at it again. You saw what happened in the Middle East and also in North Africa. I think we should revive the Non-Aligned Movement so that we have that unity. You see, when we were fighting, we were supported by countries like India, China and others but now there is a gap between us now. This gap divides us. It’s all the work of the imperialists’ aggression against others. They are after the oil and other resources. So we have to be prepared to fight.
When I say fighting, we now have to fight scientifically. It’s no longer about guns. We should ensure that whatever step they take and whichever direction they go, we will counter them effectively. Even you journalists too. You should not just write news just to make headlines. News that is poisonous to our children.
MH: You spoke about countries like China and India that supported the liberation struggle in Africa. Do you think these countries are still behind Africa or they have become the new imperialists?
SN: Yes, some of these countries still support us but now that we are sovereign states, we don’t need to be commandeered by others. They support us in areas where we agree that we should either trade with them or not. We say we don’t want interference from other countries.
MH: What do you think is the greatest threat to Africa at the moment and how can Africa deal with this threat?
SN: Africa should continue with the policy of self-reliance in every field, but mainly on the economic front. We should invest in education and training of our youths. We should have our own engineers who are able to produce what we need. For example, we have plenty of copper here in Namibia and we are still exporting it in raw form to other countries.
MH: You are talking about self-reliance your Excellency, but there are concerns that Africa does not really go all out to fund its policies and the institutions that should implement and oversee its programmes. Do you share these concerns?
SN: It really depends on the national policy. This is key in directing governments on what to do. But yes, I hear you there are those concerns, which Africa has to attend to.
MH: During the liberation struggle, liberation movements fought as a united force. Do you think it’s still the same as Africa fights for economic independence?
SN: Not exactly but I think unity should be expanded all the time. We should even extend it to our children. But that strong unity is no longer there among liberation movements that’s why I earlier on spoke about the revival of the Non-Aligned Movement.
MH: As Africa fights for economic independence, what do you think should be its main focus?
SN: Manufacturing. Manufacturing what we have and exporting finished products. We should move away from exporting raw materials. This is the key to self-reliance which will create genuine independence.
We should focus on resource nationalism anchored on self-reliance. This self-reliance will only be possible if we also focus on education and training so as to utilize the resources we have. Its like in Namibia we have beef. We should not export this beef in raw form. Africa should concentrate on exporting finished products. This is the only way out of our economic problems.
Africa should push for self-reliance. This is the only way we will be truly free. This is one of the reasons we fought the liberation struggle and the reason why we shed a lot of blood. Thousands of comrades sacrificed their lives at different battles for this. Its time for Africa to wake up.
MH: Your Excellency, the international media and some western governments have devised a strategy to demonise African heroes once they implement policies that threaten white interests. What is your comment?
SN: The West are our enemy and I know whatever they say is meant for you to feel inferior. We don’t accept that and that’s why we fought them and continue the fight up to this day. We have to keep fighting the imperialists in the West otherwise we will betray the comrades who fought for the liberation of our respective countries. We fought for the total emancipation of the African continent and Africa at home and those in diaspora should always bear this in mind.
MH: Can we really say Africa is free when its resources are still being plundered by the imperialists?
SN: I would say Africa is politically free but not quite economically free. Only after economic independence can you say Africa is really free.
MH: Coming to the land issue. Your Excellency do you think Africa is doing enough to address the land issue, which was the main reason for fighting the liberation struggle?
SN: In Namibia just like in all countries in Africa, we went to war because of the land. The land should belong to the indigenous people. We should not be ashamed and we should not share it with anybody. We don’t agree with some African countries whose policies are still not addressing the land issue. We don’t accept that at all.
MH: As one of the Founding Fathers in Africa, do you think enough is being done to recognise the role that Founding Fathers played in their respective countries?
SN: It really depends on the country and how you achieved your independence but I think a lot could be done to recognise the Founding Fathers. I think a strong foundation has to be formed on which the future generations in Africa will rely on.
MH Can you explain what you mean by a strong foundation?:
SN: I am talking about education and training alongside our true culture. Future generations should have this foundation if Africa is to be totally free.
MH: You keep referring to maintaining our culture, but how is this possible in this age of the social media,which bombard the youths with all sorts of content?
SN: Africa must adopt a policy of self-respect. We should empower the youths through educating them so that they can distinguish between right and wrong. The African child should attend kindergarten, primary school, secondary school up to university. An informed youth cannot be overpowered by the new media. It’s unfortunate that poverty is still affecting Africa. We should fight against poverty and once again this boils down to education. Education is the key to power. I can’t over-emphasise this but we should concentrate more on education. Africa has a lot to do.
MH: Your Excellency, we have opposition movements in Africa that are being formed and funded by the former colonisers but led by black brothers and sisters. How should Africa respond to these foreign funded formations?
SN: Here they tried it. When we had the last general election, there were 16 parties we did not know where they emerged from. Just created by the forces of imperialism to create divisions in the country.
Fortunately they were all defeated by Swapo in all the regions. This means our people are following the policies of our party Swapo. We had many [Morgan] Tsvangirais here during our elections. You see, all such parties die a natural death. They are just a waste of time and as you know these imperialists have lots of time to waste.
They come and start talking about democracy and human rights as if the people of Africa feed on these concepts. The people of Africa know democracy better than these imperialists. They fought for it.
MH: What is your message to Africa?
SN: Unity, peace and stability.
MH: Your Excellency, when you pass on, how would you want the people of Namibia and Africa to remember you?
SN: We remember all the freedom fighters. It was not, it is not and it shall never be about me alone. There are many comrades who fought for the liberation of Africa. There are also those who came and developed our countries after independence. We should never forget these comrades. All of them. We should never forget where we can from, where we are and who we are. I repeat lets maintain our culture as a people.