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Constitution Day

FOR Namibians – a unique moment to stop, take a breath and reflect, has arrived with the approaching commemoration of Constitution Day on 9 February.

It is one of the most important signposts of Namibian genesis and never ending quest to freedom, justice and dignity.

While the constitution is softly closing the door of an unjust and violent history, it fleetingly opens the window of opportunity to place Namibia on the forefront of nationhood in a region beset by challenges and a world struggling with conflict and dissent.

Opportunities in a troubled region and world becoming – used at war among its own citizens – are rare and even the smallest cannot be missed.

Namibia as leader of the SADC-region and internationally respected for punching well over its diplomatic weight can and should again lead the way as universal example of what a constitutional compact should mean.

Additionally, no matter the circumstances and demands of the future, the Constitution will remain the light that must guide generations towards a brotherhood of nationhood and every citizen’s right to pursue happiness.

Even more significant is that this year — thirty years ago — on 8 December 1989, 21 of the 72 elected delegates of the different political parties in the first constituent assembly dug the foundation of what would become the youngest of free nations that became citizens and seized to be subjects of some sorts.

The first meeting was not a gathering of friends and comrades, but of representatives that were mortal enemies a few months before where fires of war burned in their eyes and revenge killed any reason and wiped out compassion. The representatives were elected during one of the most bitter election campaigns ever conducted.

No reputation was spared and no dirty trick was dirty enough in the battle for support.

It was a miracle in itself that leaders and representatives could share a country, much less a city and least of all a room in a building that resembled so much of past oppression and injustice that it must have been impossible for some to even enter the Tintenpalast.

Even the release of the 1989 election results was an aftershock of mistrust and suspicion.

The political battlefield of 1989 left Namibians not with democratic winners and democratic losers, but with a fragile nation of suspects and prosecutors.

The meeting on 8 December was of seismic proportions. The chairman, Dr Hage Geingob, was also the Swapo director of elections. His achievement was to succeed to establish trust amongst arch enemies, having the impossible task to be objective and impartial, something that in hindsight nobody else would have succeeded in.

Only 80 days later, the constituent assembly presented the world and Namibians with a constitution that was truly the envy of the world and a wish of a Namibian nation. It still is.

The proposal by the then DTA-leader, and today one of the dignified elder statesmen of Namibia enjoying the peace that he helped crafted, Dirk Mudge, to use the Swapo constitution as working document and the subsequent proposal by the late Theo-Ben Gurirab and the unanimous acceptance of the 1982-principles, were a collusion of fate.

The democratic field of 1989 was a minefield and was navigated by a spirit of give and take.

The Constitutional writing process softly closed the door on a bitter history and slowly opened the door to a new future built on relationships and a change of attitude.

History and political scientists will still write many books and comments on the Namibian Constitution.

However, Namibians and leaders of today must give the Constitution the place of honour amongst Namibia’s everlasting achievements that it deserves.

The past weeks saw the funerals of great heroes and also the commemoration for the rare hero of two nations, King Mandume Ndemufayo, who uniquely is a national hero in Angola and Namibia and died fighting for freedom and justice.

At every occasion, Namibians are implored to honour heroes while they are living and the time has come for honouring the living Constitution because heroes are living in peace and stability and attained most of the dignity they fought for and their comrades died for.

Namibia has come a long way – from monuments of soldiers with guns and uniforms, and the most significant of changes on the Namibian horizon is the statue of the Founding Father with the Constitution in his hand standing guard over the capital, City of Windhoek.

When those that must protect and uphold the constitution next week with the resumption of parliament, they can honour the founding father and 72 members of the first parliament by adopting an unopposed motion for the acknowledgement of Constitution Day.

There is no better time in a region of democratic turmoil to show where Namibia stands.

More importantly, there will be no kinder deed to those that keep the country free, by religiously voting and conforming to the democratic spirit of a nation of the March.

There will also be no better guarantee and commitment to uphold and protect the constitution.

It should not take much from legislators, but will add immensely to the efforts of Namibians to be free, democratic and independent.

After thirty years, the constitution deserves the hero status that was earned by the vote of the citizens who do their duty.

They deserve acknowledgement, because after three decades, they have earned it, least of all for their struggle to secure democracy, peace and reconciliation for all.

The unwavering constitutional democracy with most of the founding fathers still amongst their people, not only serves Namibia well, but should inspire SADC-, Africa and the world that needs peace amongst themselves and should not be refugees from somewhere to nowhere.

It is Namibia’s gift to the world.

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