21 March is Human Rights day in South Africa, but few South Africans know that this day is also the celebration of Namibian independence.
“Honestly, I’ve met very few South Africans who know anything about 21 March or what it means to us as Namibians.” Kula Mutuanga, the Chairperson of the Namibian Society of Stellenbosch University, said.
“It truly is shocking, because we learnt all about the Sharpeville massacre in our high school history classes, the apartheid regime, the Shaka Zulu war tactics and more, but when you mention Namibian Independence Day, South Africans stare at you with blank expressions on their faces,” Nicoleen Fouche, a third year psychology student added.
21 March 1990 signifies the end of the South African government’s rule over then South West Africa. FW de Klerk, South African President, and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the UN Secretary General, were present as Sam Nujoma was inaugurated as the first President of the newly named Republic of Namibia.
“I cannot even count the number of times that I’ve had to tell South Africans that we also had apartheid. What’s worse is that they assume that I am coloured because I can speak Afrikaans, which is not the case,” Veneruru Martin, Deputy Chairperson of the Namibian Society of Stellenbosch University, said.
“All we truly want is for students to educate themselves, as their history is a large part of ours. It is because of our history together that both countries have so much in common,” she added.
According to the International Office there are over 600 registered Namibian students at Stellenbosch University. This of course does not include Namibians with dual citizenship who are registered with their South African ID numbers. They do this to avoid paying international fees and to avoid the process of applying for a study visa.
The Namibian Society of Stellenbosch will celebrate the 27th Independence Day together with the societies of UCT and UWC on 21 March 2017. – Andeline Wieland