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Re-examining Liberation in Namibia: Political Cultures Since Independence] (By: Henning Melber) [published: February, ] [Henning Melber] on.
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It sets the parameters and social constraints for societies in Southern Africa with a history of armed resistance against settler colonialism. Transformation and conservation of political rule. Governments were formed by the anti-colonial liberation movements, which had been far from non-violent. They took control of the state machinery and reorganised themselves as political parties. Their legitimacy to rule stemmed from their emergence from the decolonisation process as representatives acting on behalf of the majority of the people. The social transformation of Southern African societies shaped by a settler colonial brand can at best be characterised as a transition from controlled change to changed control.

The result is a new ruling political elite operating from commanding heights, whose foundations are further strengthened by selective narratives and memories related to the war s of liberation. These create new to some extent invented traditions to establish an exclusive post-colonial legitimacy under the sole authority of one particular agency of social forces see Kriger and Werbner b for Zimbabwe; Melber c, and for Namibia. The mystification of the liberators plays an essential role in this fabrication. Both were constructed by a North Korean company and are of striking similarity in their display of unashamedly heroic narrative and symbolism.

The symbolic language of such enactment is one of male chauvinism and militarism — hardly any different from the machismo of the colonial monuments. The situational application of militant rhetoric as a tool for inclusion or exclusion in terms of post-colonial national identity is common practice. Politically correct identity is instead defined by those in power along narrow lines of self- definition and self- understanding.

As observed in the case of Zimbabwe:. The layers of understanding regarding power relations, framed by socialisation and memory, continue[d] to operate … [Although] actors had changed Yap ; original emphasis. The goal of the struggle was national liberation defined as political independence in a sovereign state under a government representing the majority of the previously colonised people, who were excluded from full participation in society through the imposition of the apartheid system.


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The power of definition in the post-colonial system of political governance was exercised mainly by the national liberation movement in interaction with the international system represented by a variety of competing actors under the polarised conditions of superpower rivalry during the s and s. This implies that the struggle was influenced by exile politics and international diplomacy. The independence processes in Zimbabwe and Namibia resulted first and foremost in an internationally monitored and legitimated transfer of political power.

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That the political power exercised by and large met the definitions and expectations of a democratic political system was a desired result, but not the main goal. The liberation struggle was understood and primarily perceived as the right to self-determination of the population on the basis of free and fair general elections. Decolonisation, not democratisation, was therefore the priority.

Both independence and a democratic system were achieved to some extent in a parallel process at the same time. But it is important to note that these goals are neither identical nor necessarily congruent. One might argue that the principles agreed upon by the parties prior to the elections in the cases of Zimbabwe , Namibia and South Africa were a prerequisite for the implementation of a joint resolution of conflict and served as an agreed framework and point of departure for the foundations of the newly established state. They were in all three cases characterised by a notion of plural democracy.

Others might counter, however, that the democratic component was designed to maintain a status quo under a controlled change in terms of securing the existing property relations and former privileges by those who benefited from colonial minority rule. Decolonisation as unfinished business of democratisation. The post-colonial politics of the ruling parties often show a blatant lack of democratic awareness and forms of neo-patrimonial systems. A lack of consolidation, if not a trend of erosion of democratic values and norms -- despite the existence of institutions and a canon of virtues as enshrined by the c onstitution -- is also visible in other Southern African countries see the contributions to Melber a and b.

Elections in Angola were postponed time and again, denying the citizens the right to vote for an alternative, with the ruling party using the delays to manufacture control over the electoral process to guarantee itself victory. In such circumstances constitutionalism and the rule of law are absent from the political system in place cf.

Instead, those in government and state take over civil society Messiant and turn the country into a corporate business of those in control over the party Marques de Morais Tendencies to autocratic rule and towards the subordination of the state under the party, as well as politically motivated social and material favours as a reward system for loyalty or disadvantages as a form of coercion in cases of dissent, are common techniques.

Such selective mechanisms of the exercise and retention of power have little or nothing to do with democratic principles, but have much in common with the commando structures that emerged during the days of the liberation struggle, especially in exile. A South African political activist summarises her experiences as follows:. Many of my former comrades have become loyal to a party rather than to principles of justice.

There are recurring patterns in the behaviour of liberation parties — when they come to power they uphold t he most undemocratic practices. Kadalie In view of such frustrating realities, which followed the initial euphoria of attaining sovereignty under international law, there is a growing tendency to critically analyse the processes through which victims former liberation fighters become perpetrators cf. Lamb The much-celebrated attainment of formal independence is no longer being equated with liberation, and certainly not with the creation of lasting democracy.

Instead, there are increasing attempts to investigate the structural legacies, which in most cases set far too narrow limits on realising societal alternatives in the post-colonial countries. There is a growing insight that the armed liberation struggles were not a suitable breeding ground for establishing democratic systems of government following independence. The methods of resistance against totalitarian regimes were organised on strictly hierarchical and authoritarian lines. If not, they would hardly have had any prospect of success.

In this sense, the new societies carried within them essential elements of the old system, which they had fought. Aspects of the colonial system reproduced themselves in the struggle for its abolition and subsequently in the concepts of governance that were applied in post-colonial conditions. The result is that the new system has little transparency.

As a new elite in the making, those in power are at best prepared to be accountable only to themselves and care little about the notion of popular democracy Good There is a lack of self- critical awareness and extremely limited willingness to accept divergent opinions, particularly if they are expressed in public. Non-conformist thinking is interpreted as disloyalty, if not equated with treason. A culture of fear, intimidation and silence inhibits the possibilities of durable renewal at the cost of the public good.

In the long term, the rulers are themselves undermining their credibility and legitimacy. More than forty years ago, the Martinique- born psychiatrist and political revolutionary, Frantz Fanon, who had joined the Algerian liberation struggle, prescient ly described in his manifesto, The Wretched of the Earth , the internal contradictions and limits to emancipation in anti-colonial resistance and organised liberation movements. Writing at a time when the Algerian war of liberation had not even ended, Fanon presaged the abuse of government power after attainment of independence in the wake of establishing a one-party state.

He continues by criticising the abuse of power exercised by the party, which. Fanon and The growing blending of party, government and state among the liberation movements in power indicates a very similar development in the post-apartheid era of Southern Africa.

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A constellation based on the use of force to gain liberation from the undemocratic and repressive conditions that prevailed in the colonial societies of Southern Africa was hardly favourable for the durable strengthening of humanitarian values and norms. In the course of abolishing anachronistic and degrading systems of rule, these constellations created new challenges on the difficult path to establishing sound and robust egalitarian structures and institutions, particularly in relation to the promotion of democratic societies. At the end of the day independence without democracy is still far from being liberation.

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Zimbabwe and beyond: Liberation movements in power. Between early and late , an estimated 20, people lost their lives through horrific acts of barbarism carried out by the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army, trained by North Korean military advisors. Although known and reported at the time, the massacres were largely ignored, even by the former colonial power.

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Phimister , the organised mass violence constituted a defining moment for his regime. The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe was a lonely voice revealing the scale of atrocities. Notably, however, it only became a concern for the international community as represented by the Western countries when the so-called fast-track land reform dispossessed the majority of the commercial farmers and portrayed the conflict misleadingly so as one between a remaining white settler minority and the government.

This suggests a moral selectivity in Western perceptions, which the populist rhetoric of the despotic regime managed to exploit. Ndlovu , questions the degree of seriousness of African states in applying the notions articulated within the credo of their constitutions and the normative frameworks they subscribe to. O n behalf of the leadership and the entire membership … our elation over the resounding victory scored.

It is victory over neo-colonialism, imperialism and foreign sponsored puppetry. We in SWAPO Party knew quite well that despite imperialist intransigence and all round attempts by enemies of peace, democracy and the rule of law to influence the outcome of the elections in favour of neck-chained political stooges, people of Zimbabwe would not succumb an inch to external pressure. They spoke with one overwhelming voice to reject recolonization.

Their verdict should, therefore, be respected unconditionally by both the external perpetrators of division and their hired local stooges, who have been parading themselves as democrats. In the same vein, we call for unity of purpose among the African people as the only viable weapon to ward off outside influence. While the selective view he expressed seems unrealistic to the degree of being almost irrational, its dis- qualification would ignore the inner logic of the attitudes and policies displayed not only by SWAPO cadres, but to an extent also by other political office bearers of other liberation movements.

From this understanding follows that a liberation movement should stay in power forever after succeeding in its anti-colonial struggle:. The NLMs [national liberation movements], share what can only be termed a common theology.

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National liberation is both the just and historically necessary conclusion of the struggle between the people and the forces of racism and colonialism. This has two implications. First, the NLMs — whatever venial sins they may commit — are the righteous. They not merely represent the masses but in a sense they are the masses, and as such they cannot really be wrong.

Secondly, according to the theology, their coming to power represents the end of a process. No further group can succeed them for that would mean that the masses, the forces of righteousness, had been overthrown. That, in turn, could only mean that the forces of racism and colonialism, after sulking in defeat and biding their time, had regrouped and launched a counter-attack. Johnson ZANU-PF insults by its present politics the moral and ethical claims that motivated the local and international support for armed struggle in order to realise political self-determination.

It is exactly this notion of self-determination, so dearly fought for at the costs of many lives, which is now so utterly disrespected by the new political rulers. They are not prepared to abandon political power and instead act against the will of the people. Through their totalitarian mindset they betray the values of democracy and popular participation they were in the past claiming to represent and which were assumed to be among the reasons for at least some of the international support by a solidarity movement.

In return for continued despotic rule, at the cost of the ordinary people, they discredit their earlier legitimacy in liberating a country and its people. Victims turn into perpetrators.

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The rights of all are sacrificed for the privileges of a few. This is hardly progress compared with the situation under settler colonialism for those who continue to suffer. It is evidence of the unfinished bu siness called decolonisation. Not so in the view of those who hold the power today. It was noted that there is a recurring reactionary debate around the need to reduce the dominance of former libration [sic!

In this regard the emergence of counter revolutionary forces to reverse the social, political and economical gains that have been made under the leadership of our liberation movements was discussed. Ruling parties often go through certain challenges after the first decade, when the interests of different strands within the broad liberation movement begin to diverge. People begin to explore other avenues, especially when they feel they are losing control and influence within the movement.