60 years of friendship

10 May 2019 | Politics

Namibia's envoy on genocide and reparations, Dr Zed Ngavirue, has shared 60 years of friendship with Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma.

He describes his friend as someone with tremendous courage, who is rarely fazed by obstacles and has to be reminded sometimes that some things are not possible.

Ngavirue recalls how he met Nujoma during the early days of the liberation struggle, in the 1950s. This was when Nujoma was attending evening classes at St Barnabas Primary School in Windhoek.

“We were interested in common things, in politics and the other person with whom we shared interests was the late Clemence Kapuuo. In those days we used to read things like Kwame Nkrumah's autobiography,” he recalls.

By the time Ngavirue returned from South Africa, where he went to do a teacher's diploma, both of them were married.

Ngavirue, who left Namibia in 1961 to go into exile, recalls how Nujoma, a steadfast fighter, fought viciously for Namibians persecuted and deported during the apartheid rule.

“We were really sort of comrades/friends and when (South African apartheid prime minister) Hendrik Verwoerd appointed a commission of inquiry, there were few of us myself, Nujoma and the late Willie Kaukwetu, who volunteered to give evidence before the whole commission of inquiry. Of course there was curfew and patrols and people were scared.”

Ngavirue remembers fondly how Nujoma saw potential in everyone and how he rode on his bicycle to give moral support to a group of women who started a demonstration in the Damara section of the Old Location.

“He was that kind of person; he improved his own education, which demonstrates his strong determination and confidence in himself and his people,” said Ngavirue.

He said he was inspired by Nujoma's faith in people, even when the same people doubted themselves.

“There is for instance something I was told by the late Dr (Mosé) Tjitendero, who was a well-educated guy.

“When Nujoma called him to appoint him as the first speaker of the National Assembly, he said, 'comrade president I have always been a teacher, how can I be a speaker?' and Nujoma responded, 'comrade be serious, where was I president of a country before',” Ngavirue recalls.

Ngavirue is the Namibian government's special envoy for the 1904-08 Herero and Nama genocide and was head of the National Planning Commission (NPC) during Nujoma's tenure as head of state.

Ngavirue established The South West News, a newspaper printed in English, Afrikaans, Otjiherero and Oshiwambo.

Ngavirue and the late Emil Appolus were the first editors of the publication and later played a prominent role in the South West African National Union (Swanu).

Ngavirue was previously Namibia's ambassador to the European Union, as well as to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

JEMIMA BEUKES