The shots fired by a member of the joint Police/NDF-patrol, killing a taxi-driver, have the Namibian nation reeling, in shock, disgust and anger and rightfully so, but society and stereotyping should also shoulder some blame.
What is astonishing is the deafening silence and lack of accountability from the Namibian Defence Force. It now seems they are a power on their own.
For weeks the hooliganism of soldiers in the patrols are the subject of citizens’ dissatisfaction and complaints, but the Chief of the Defence Force, Lt-genl. General John Mutwa, is silent. The question is if genl. Mutwa don’t know or don’t care or both.
It seems the latter is the case. If Namibians didn’t know better it seems as if the army told the police they can use soldiers at their “own and Namibia’s risk”.
Everybody else, except the military leadership takes responsibility or even apologizes to traumatized communities. Namibians should thank all the gods that with such military leadership they are not involved in a war.
This is not the Namibia Namibians want and much less worth dying for.
Every Namibian must shoulder their share in this sad state of affairs, because of a reckless culture of stereotyping and insults pitting the security forces and society against each other. If stereotyping was a crime, most Namibians would have been serial offenders and only the hypocrisy of the raging debate amongst the usual social media suspects is worse.
Namibians must be brave and honest and accept collective responsibility.
Seconds before the fatal shot and even now Namibians, stereotype every taxi-driver in the country as armed and dangerous with no respect for the law or fellow citizens. They are accused on Whatsapp and other platforms as criminal masterminds, accessories to armed robbery, murderers and rapists, driving with fake numbers and in the service of ministers or other high ranking officials and politicians who get transport permits corruptly.
Women in Namibia do not get into taxis alone and especially not after dark and they are hardly ever portrayed as hardworking citizens – which most of them are. They are also victims of unruly, drunk and criminal passengers and are even abducted in their own taxis, but rarely receive sympathy or protection.
That is a fact of Namibian life and to deny it is dishonesty and selective morality.
This is not the first tragic incident involving stupidity from the uniformed forces, but hopefully the last, so that Namibians can concentrate on the safety of its citizens who has been the hostages of crime for the past years now.
Policemen and soldiers kill their lovers and spouses and then are stereotyped as reckless murderers with itchy fingers on triggers of guns and machine guns. The shooting incident in Babwata National Park where a little girl escaped death miraculously after being shot in the head had the same stereotyping result.
This week a tragedy, which created the perfect storm where a precious life was lost of a father, a breadwinner and friend, another father, friend and breadwinner sits in a jail cell with the mark of Cain as a stereotype of a cold- blooded killer that could not wait to shoot at anything that moves.
This stereotype of a criminal taxi drivers who was a suspect, because it was late at night, and a soldier who was badly trained without judgement, is perpetuated by Namibians of all walks of life, while location gangs that rob and rape and hunt in packs like hyenas from holding cells rip through communities while Namibians are at each other’s throats.
The biggest tragedy is that Namibians ignore their own share in creating stereotypes where people are guilty by appearance of what they do in life.
From the vestiges of tragedy, Namibians should rise like the phoenix from the ashes as a permanent memory to all victims of stereotyping and abuse of power, whether by gun or by standing. That is why a taxi making a U-turn late at night becomes a fleeing criminal in the eyes of the untrained and irresponsible.
Not all the youth is out of control ego-maniacs, radical substance abusers, and not all the older people are senile burdens on society and not all the wealthy are corrupt. This stereotyping also rears its head in badly camouflaged tribalism, which is racism by another name.
The language of stereotyping is a matter of personal conscience.
As senseless as the killing is, the victim’s death should not be in vain, but an inspiration to a nation to take responsibility and not fake concern, without sharing blame.
What is worse, is had the soldier and the taxi driver met without the etiquettes that Namibians hang around each other’s necks, they might have been great friends.
Now we will never know, because the nation is robbed of an opportunity where the recognition of individual dignity would have had a different outcome.
Namibians should not wait for another tragedy to prove that that stereotyping is deadlier than a gun.
They should count their word and not the victims of perceptions.