Academic journal article African Studies Review

Namibia Liberata

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Namibia Liberata

Article excerpt

NAMIBIA LIBERATA Brian O'Linn. Namibia: The Sacred Trust of Civilization: Ideal and Reality. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 2003. xxii + 392 pp. N$356.90. Paper.

Cedric Thornberry. A Nation Is Bom: The Inside Story of Namibia's Independence. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 2004. xiii + 412 pp. Appendixes. Bibliography. Index. N$203.50. Paper.

CoMn Leys and Susan Brown, eds. Histories of Namibia: Living through the Liberation Struggle: Life Histories. London: The Merlin Press Ltd., 2005. viii + 165 pp. Notes. £14.99. Paper.

Barbara Becker, ed. Speaking Out: Namibians Share Their Perspectives on Independence. Windhoek: Out of Africa Publishers, 2005. xii + 203 pp. Maps. Chronology. Notes. Bibliography. N$95.00. Paper.

THESE FOUR BOOKS, cast primarily but not exclusively in the format of memoirs, provide remarkable and fresh insights into the demise of South African rule in Namibia. They will appeal to a variety of readers, some of whom may already have wearied of partisan accounts characterized more by political correctness/incorrectness than by demonstrable scholarly probity and imagination. Here we have different players with different, although usually convergent, outlooks exploring similar or complementary topics. Consequently, one sees a range of Namibians and non-Namibians addressing a series of implicit questions about the nature of political ideas and ideals, racism, authoritarianism, and civic integrity and responsibilities in colonial and postcolonial Namibia. Occasionally one finds more spontaneity than the logical rigor or long-range thinking characteristic of older polities, yet these books do underscore the idea that armed decolonization is painful, confusing, exciting, and infused with human suffering and trauma.

ACCORDING TO THE introductory biography contributed by Christo Lombard of the University of Namibia to Namibia: The Sacred Trust of Civilization, Brian O'Linn was a judge appointed to the High Court of Namibia after independence and thereafter became an acting judge of the Namibian Supreme Court. Before that he had chaired a commission dealing with allegations of electoral malpractice, fraud, and intimidation during the runup to the 1989 elections for the Namibian Constituent Assembly that drafted the independence constitution. He began his career in the Namibian civil service in 1945 and then went on to serve with the Criminal Investigation Department of the South African Police in Johannesburg from 1948 until 1952. After returning to Namibia, like so many others, he took his B.A. degree through the University of South Africa (which, as a correspondence university, caters to those who are working full-time) and subsequently went to the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg in 1959, earning his LL.B. degree in 1960. As a barrister (or advocate, in South African parlance) he reached the distinguished rank of Senior Counsel (comparable to taking silk, as the saying goes, as a queen's counsel in the United Kingdom) in 1981. In addition to his legal, police, and civil service career, he has served as a journalist and the managing director of a publishing house. This volume is to be the first of a two-volume study, with the second volume covering the postindependence era and including an evaluation of the new legal and judicial systems, land reform, corruption, affirmative action, the fate of those detained by the South West Africa People's Party (SWAPO) of Namibia, and the reintegration of liberation war veterans into the evolving society.

Three features of O'Linn's memoir are of considerable significance for a nuanced understanding of Namibian political structures and processes. First, he provides an intriguing reevaluation of the work of the Hall Commission, which was charged with investigating the police shootings and deaths that occurred outside Windhoek in 1959 and served as a catalyst for black African political mobilization and subsequently as a symbol in the nationalist struggle. …

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