The Observer Tribute: Footsteps of a Giant

Of all the places a nation’s destiny would be fashioned by the hand of God, one would never think to find its future under a tree.

But as fate would have it, for Namibia, the story of one of its greatest political leaders and in many ways, her own story of becoming a nation, of defying odds and overcoming them, starts there. In the district of Otavi, at farm Sawes, Namibia became a hero richer on 3rd August 1941.

President Hage Gottfried Geingob who was born under a tree at this farm, had himself become one, under whose shade the country’s many feats manifested. And where her roots now lie, intertwined forever with his legacy.

Late DTA president, Katuutire Kaura, whom Geingob as unifier, embraced and invited into the Swapo fold once remarked, that no achievement of the country’s government could be told without mentioning Geingob.

In Geingob’s passing, Kaura’s views would be validated as nations, solacing the Namibian house with words of encouragement and solidarity, punctuated their condolences with what Geingob meant to this country, how he relentlessly fought for her rightful place in the world.

Paying homage, they spoke unequivocally of the arduous roads he travelled in both his personal life and his time as freedom fighter, of his convictions, the conditions which shaped his views and cemented his principles, the setbacks and obstacles which never dampened him and of his triumphs which highlight the tenacity of his spirit.

Rooted perhaps in his humble beginnings, president Geingob fluently understood the human condition. He knew adversity first hand and yet never allowed it to define him, nor allow it to determine the worth of others. Born into both personal and political struggle, Geingob launched an unwavering and life long campaign against discrimination, injustice, economic regression and inequality.

But even in difficult times, especially in difficult times, Geingob never lost his compass and often demonstrated not only courage but an excelling human spirit that made him endearing to those with whom he would patrol the trenches of all his struggles. His life, dotted with nuances of his sacrifice and selflessness, highlights his commitment to serving mankind.

(Mzee) Ananias Angula, with whom Geingob, Dimo Hamaambo and Natangwe Kalambi travelled to Botswana, en route to Zambia and Tanzania respectively, narrated Geingob’s blossoming protagonism, in an incident that spoke to his nationalism and love of others. While in Botswana, Geingob upon learning of a group of 36 fellow freedom fighters and the predicament they were in, refused to proceed to Zambia and opted to raise money and return to Francistown to help the starving fellow countrymen. Angula, with whom Geingob remained in a brotherhood until his demise, described him as the country came to know him, extremely intelligent, confident, happy, selfless and above all, a supreme nationalist. His true nature never waned.

These testimonies speak of the qualities Geingob used to navigate the world and with which he cemented his place in the echelons of history.

The people’s President as Geingob is known to many today, shaped Namibia in far reaching ways which lovingly touch, both the country’s future and her past. His mind, the factory in which the settings of her political culture were honed, and out of which the blueprints of the country’s governance systems emanate.

Geingob, despite being the first in many endeavors, seemed to know the way and so he led. From Swapo camps, to the United Nations, to UNIN, to becoming the director of the country’s first democratically held elections, and to becoming the chair of the Constituent Assembly which penned the country’s code of conduct, Geingob led.

Having been granted an opportunity to represent Swapo Party at the United Nation’s, Geingob honed, if not mastered his ability to lead negotiations.

While debates ensued about the overarching value of the armed struggle, Geingob waged a very different and yet equally crucial battle in pursuit of the country’s independence. One in which words, not guns, determined the outcome. It was there that Geingob’s lifelong dance with the art of negotiation took off. The Machiavelli of Namibian politics was born.

He employed this skill masterfully to outplay his countless political opponents, always moving several steps ahead of those who considered themselves worthy adversaries. Leaving them blood nosed in the ring.

His mastery of negotiation also led him to many tables were Namibia’s fortunes were decided, often walking away with the best possible deal a developing country could hope for. In truth, Geingob had always put the country’s interests in prime position, incidentally becoming its chief marketing officer.

It is thus no surprise that by the 2014 elections, Geingob, the country’s greatest political comeback kid, the people’s champion, treaded the furthest into the nation’s psyche. Resulting in a historic 87 percent approval rating and delivering him a victory that remains to be matched in Namibian politics.

But these laurels only meant more commitment toward serious reforms around centers of enterprise meant to usher in different fiscal realities. He understood from the onset that his would be a presidency at war with the economic liberation of the country. Dr Micheal Humavindu who served under the president at the then Trade Ministry notes Geingob signaled the frontloading of productive capacity development as the forte of the future. His work, launching a ripple effect in the SADC region which followed duly by introducing a SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap-2015-2063. The Industrial Upgrading and Modernisation Programme (IUMP) championed robustly during his tenure as Trade Minister also became a mandatory scheme to be adopted by all Member States in the same SADC Strategy. His policy innovations, ultimately benefiting those beyond Namibia’s borders.

Geingob, whose tactical leadership, stellar administration skills and understanding of the transformational capacity of nationalism, also led Namibia in some of the country’s most trying times, Covid 19 being at the heart wrenching confrontation with the times.

Political analyst and author of Geingob’s contributions to the country’s political history, Dr Hoze Riruako highlighted this period as one in which Geingob shined the brightest. Having inherited a stressed economy, mitigating domestic politics, constantly battling impacts of global geopolitical changes and overcoming the pandemic, the Geingob administration not only survived but thrived.

It was under his stewardship that public discourse blossomed, encouraging Namibians to responsibly engage around issues of national importance. Social welfare programs took center stage and enjoyed priority attention, where Geingob as an ally of the most vulnerable saw to its reforms to meet growing needs of persons finding themselves on the margins of economic prosperity. It was also under his seasoned guidance that the country’s youth were ushered into the chambers of decision making and trusted to lead. Geingob also ensured the country’s gripe with corruption would, for the first time see realistic intervention with the arresting and trying of accused politicians. He was the bridge between peoples, always advocating peaceful resolution to disputes arising from ethnic, cultural or social disputes. Taking further steps to advance accountability and transparency, Geingob introduced lifestyle audits for politicians.

Riruako affirms that any other, could have folded under the strain of managing inherited challenges and meeting new needs but Geingob, whose ability to face the nation directly and allow it to confront him in his famed town-hall meetings, never allowed the Namibian ship to veer of course.

As the nation now readies to lay their most formidable administrator and their beloved president to rest, the question now arises, where shall Namibia rest from scorching heat of the challenges that lie ahead? Because the tree under whose shade we were all one has fallen.

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