Namibia: Even the “Swart Bobbejane” (Black Baboons) Sometimes Know Their Rights.

Police in Namibia have warned against racist behaviour, which they insist is a serious offence in the country. The warning came after a fracas last weekend between a White Namibian, Willem de Klerk and security guards, at Windpomp 14 Bar and Bistro, a recreational resort between Swakopmund and Henties Bay.

According to the report, the ugly brouhaha started, when apparently intoxicated patron Willem de Klerk wanted to urinate outside the bar in the presence of others, including kids. He was approached by one of the security guards of the premise, who advised him not to do so. Rather than heeding the advice, Mr. de Klerk allegedly started insulting the guards, using derogatory language, including calling him in Afrikaans, “swart bobbejane” (black baboons). The security guards were taken aback and one of them responded to Klerk’s degrading and insult remarks with three slaps. The row, which was captured on a video camera went viral on the social network.

Reacting to the irresponsible behaviour, the police spokesperson, deputy commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi warned seriously that racial discrimination is not tolerated in Namibia and the culprits of the crime will face the full wrath of the law if caught. On the other hand, Bertus Struwig  of Windpomp 14, apologised for the incident:

“I’m totally amazed that we still have such human elements in this great country. Whilst we cannot wish you away, our doors will always be closed to you. The sign ‘not welcome’ should have your name on.”

Namibia Rock and Surf Angling Association, equally showed their condemnation of the feud:

“The NRSAA, on the highest level, would like to clearly state that it does not condone this type of behaviour. Should this individual or member club be found guilty of these alleged offences, necessary disciplinary steps will be implemented,”

But what was the reaction of the major character in the conflict, Willem de Klerk? Initially, de Klerk refused to comment on the incident. However, he later responded:

“Some of the things said on Facebook are not true but I take full responsibility for my actions but I am not the only one to blame. One thing I can say is that I am not a racist,” he defended.

Obviously, Willem de Klerk wants the world to believe he is not a racist. Who wouldn’t, after all, it is not nice to be caught with one’s pant down? One thing is clear: just like other ideologies, racism is a long-held ideology, which hardly disappears easily. If you believe you are superior to someone else because you have set your own judgemental standards, which you believe your subordinate lacks, would you easily agree to accept instructions from this subordinate? Hardly not. This is the real situation and psychological state de Klerk most obviously found himself.

As of the time of going to the press, Mr de Klerk has not been charged with racial discrimination. A charge must first be made before the police can start their investigations. According to Erongo crime investigations coordinator deputy commissioner Erastus Iikuyu, a thorough investigation would have taken place if a charge were filed.

Clearly, Namibia is a very decent country, where the rule of law prevails. Even though de Klerk’s racist remark is against the law, the police can only commence investigations after a charge has been lodged in. The question is: would the affected security guards take necessary action against de Klerk, which will serve as a detriment to others? Perhaps not. My personal experience in Namibia is that an average Namibian is so cool- headed and peaceful. Looking back during the apartheid or colonial era in Namibia, Namibians were forced to learn Afrikaans, the language of the colonial master from South Africa (Originally, Dutch. Although in the Netherlands, it has become a taboo to mention that the White Boers of South Africa originally came from the Netherlands. Not even this reality finds itself into the Dutch academic curriculum). Unlike South Africans, who refused to accept the language of their colonial master and in fact, revolted against it, Namibians, on the other hand, adopted and accepted Afrikaans as their official language over their various native languages. Even after the independence, and indeed till today, the White minority group still controls almost the economic nucleus of the country’s economy. Furthermore, unlike in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe confiscated lands from the White farmers, Namibians adopted a peaceful approach and co-existence with the whites. The government of Namibia would rather buy the land from the White farmers and redistribute to original owners, the native Namibians. This approach is praised in many quarters. However, this peaceful coexistence must not be mistaken as a sign of cowardice.

It is a common sight to experience White Namibians behaving like lords over the black Namibians. Jumping a queue because “I am busy” or “I have an urgent appointment” – as if those blacks standing patient, responsible and obediently in the queue were idiots who did not have other pressing assignments to attend to – are not uncommon typical “I – am – the superior” attitude amongst some White Namibians. Nor is it strange to see black Namibians treating their white brothers and sisters as if they were from another planet. Clearly, accepting inferior position encourages a slavish mentality and an inferiority complex. Both discriminatory and subordinate behaviours must be strongly discouraged by the government of Namibia.

Respect is reciprocal; being polite or showing respect does not mean weakness either. Moreover, taking up a leadership or superior position means showing good examples. However, one becomes a failure and social misfit if they deem themselves superior yet they cannot live by a good example or up to the social norms and conditions.

How best can one explain the level of “intelligence” (if we can agree on what “ intelligence” really is!!) behind the  “black baboons“ discourse – and that of its author for that matter?