A Special Tribute to Phillip Shiimi – A True Champion of our Time

Ndangi Katoma

I first met him at the yellow benches, in the present day NUST campus in Windhoek, while we were both queuing up for registration to commence our tertiary education at the University of Namibia, two years after Namibia’s independence.

We immediately connected and bonded well, in a journey of solid friendship and camaraderie that lasted for a good solid twenty three years, when he departed from this earth, on that fateful day, 12 September 2015, in a tragic car accident, about 68 kilometres from Otjiwarongo to Otavi.

Born on 21 November 1972 at Ondangwa in Oshikoto Region, the late Phillip Ndayooloka Shiimi was one polished human gem. He attended his secondary education at Oshigambo High School where he passed Matric with Exemption in 1991. Already at high school, Phillip enjoyed intellectual pursuits, acquired leadership skills for which his school mates and friends popularly called him Pro, short for Professor.

He shared many life stories and experiences of his formative years with me, from playing soccer at the village to debating at high school. This often happened over several pool table sessions and angling recreational activities we had, his favourite hobbies.

Having started our professional training at the University of Namibia, we both graduated in 1994. Down memory lane, I still recall vividly how we spent long hours studying Statistics for Economics among others, at the University of Namibia, brainstorming and working through some solutions. That helped me, in particular, to grasp the subject matter in a unique manner that spread immense joy.

We enjoyed great friendship and intellectual discourse which characterised our best years at the University of Namibia. The fond memories of the 2 years (1992-1993) we spend at Makalani Campus with friends like Asser Sheuyange (aka Fox), Vitalis Ndalikokule (aka Doctor), John Kakonda (aka Kaana), Peter Ndjulu, Lasarus Shatipamba and Peya Mushelenga amongst others, comes to mind. Phillip’s sense of humour, which came through endless intelligent inferences has always added value to our great interactions.

Armed with his first degree, a Bachelor in Economics, he went to study further at the University of Cape Town in 1995 and graduated with Bachelor of Commerce Honours in Economics. In 1999, we both obtained our Masters of Financial Economics from the University of London, together with many other fellow students who undertook this study. We pursued different other trainings but remained fully connected all the ways. I recall that in 2009, I felt challenged in choosing my MBA research topic at the Stellenbosch Business school.

We systematically brainstormed ideas around this with him and by doing that, helped me to clarify my thinking. The rest is history and I graduated in 2010. We dealt with many other life challenges this way and use trying times as an opportunity to grow. He attended several professional training including University of South Africa’s Program in Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management in 2001 focusing on Investment Background, Investment Analysis, Portfolio Management and Ethics. He was passionate about financial markets development.

We started our career at the same time, with Phillip started in 1996 as an Economist in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. He moved up through professional ranks (Research Officer, Market Analyst, Senior Market Analyst and Manager before holding senior positions at the Bank of Namibia as Director of Financial Markets and at the First National Bank as Head of Treasury and Specialized Banking Services. He was later appointed to head NAMFISA as the Chief Executive Officer from 1 April 2010 until his death in 2015.

As a student of Robin Sharma’s teaching in his modern fable on real success in business and in life, I take to heart the caution that, “titles, prestige and University Degrees don’t matter much at the end. All that counts is whether you grew into all you could have been and whether you showed leadership by using your potential to positively contribute to the lives of other human beings”. On this score, my verdict is that Phillip’s absolute best did shine in his life time and beyond. For one, he never allowed himself to be defined by a title, position or material possession until his death.

Phillip communicated politely, critically but respectfully, encouraged pluralism in the manner he handled different view points. He had a way of balancing the tone of his voice even in a heated argument which had a stabilizing effects to those around him. Equally, Phillip donated his best years of service to doing deeds that truly last beyond his death, both in his professional and personal capacity and played a significant role in personal lives of many. When he left the Bank of Namibia in 2006 to join the private sector, one of his many colleagues at the Bank, Mike Mukete, on the occasion of bidding farewell to Phillip, he summed it up this way “Phillip’s appeal, apart from his glorious leadership talent, lies in his ordinariness”.

His pioneering work were acknowledged by many including his colleagues at NAMFISA, who attributed the 2015 Pension Award as a recognition by the African continent of the collective efforts to grow the Namibian economy and create jobs opportunities through investment of pension assets, highlighting that “the award recognizes and validates our collective efforts to deepen the financial system, improve the economy and create a better future for Namibians” and that “ we dedicate this award to all the people of Namibia, the Namibian government and most especially to our late CEO, Phillip Shiimi, who worked tirelessly towards the implementation of Regulation 28 and 29 which create the regulatory environment for the local investment of pension assets”.

My experience of late Phillip, shared and collaborated by many, is that of a humble servant of the people, a great father to his children and God father to mine, a responsible husband, friend and leader of note. His character as a man of high ethical standard remain core and exemplary. On this day, 5 years after his death, I remember and celebrate his life together with all those who knew and cherished his life.

In 2018 the City of Windhoek honoured him with a street name in Windhoek. The Phillip Shiimi Street, intersecting two streets named after Pan-African giant Dr. Markus Garvey and Joseph Mukwayu Ithana in Ludwigsdorf, is a befitting recognition of this accomplished technocrat and dedicated son of Namibia, whose professional qualities represent a unique signature many of us shall cherish forever, till we meet again. Salute.

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