Loathed in life, loved in death
The late APP leader is drowning in tributes and praise, after two decades of being a forgotten man.
18 November 2021 | People
The political journey of the late Ignatius Shixwameni is a mixed bag, and many who knew him continue to describe him as an enigma who was not swayed easily.
Up until 10 October 1999, Iggy, as he was affectionately known in his close circles, was a rising star in the ruling Swapo Party who commanded respect even from those serving in the top ranks of the party.
Shixwameni, according to relatives, was a man who had a vast network of friends since his student politics days.
In October 1999 he denounced his Swapo credentials and subsequently his position as deputy minister after plans to accord founding president Sam Nujoma a third term as the country’s president.
Together with other party members, he went on to become a founding member of the Congress of Democrats (CoD).
He later ditched CoD to form the All People’s Party (APP) following internal power struggles.
Many saw this as a turning point in his political life, with many friends and associates distancing themselves from him, even those he served with during his Nanso days.
A family source who spoke to Namibian Sun this week said Shixwameni “was isolated by his close friends”.
“Even some of his close relatives suffered and were denied opportunities in the system because of the position he took. He always urged us to work hard to ensure that we are not dependent on government for our livelihood,” the relative said.
The relative added: “It is only now that he passed on that some of his old friends are coming forth to claim they were close friends with him.”
One of Shixwameni’s political associates, who chose to remain anonymous, said Shixwameni was loathed when he left the ruling party more than two decades ago.
“Many of them wanted nothing to do with him as they feared they might be victimised, so it comes as a surprise that many of them from the vice president, prime minister and ministers flocked to his house when the news of his death surfaced,” the associate said.
The associate added: “One thing about Shixwameni is that he never cared about being worshipped or glorified, he always held the view that he made his contribution, hence the public must judge themselves.”
His popularity was mainly also bolstered by his formative years in student politics where he played a key role in the student uprisings of 1988.
As chief administrator of Nanso at the time, Shixwameni was responsible to execute the student and political programmes of the organisation and make sure that students were well-versed with the role of the student community in the liberation of their motherland.
While Paul Kalenga was the president of the student movement at the time, Shixwameni was the one keeping the movement afloat while Kalenga was pursuing his studies in South Africa.
Kalenga this week, at a memorial service held in Shixwameni’s honour on Monday, described his then lieutenant as a “trusted confidant”.
According to Kalenga, most of the Nanso activities including the student uprisings would not have succeeded without the planning and plotting of Shixwameni.
Beyond the public life, Shixwameni valued the ideals of selflessness and he would always encourage those around him to fight for a classless society in which all people are the same.
Many ascribe his zeal to fight for an equal society on his socialist beliefs which he adopted during his time studying in Cuba just after independence.
One of his contemporaries at Nanso, Rosa Shipiki, said Shixwameni believed that education was the greatest equalizer.
“He was a powerful disruptor who was committed to transform youth politics in Namibia. He always advocated for a classless society and he shunned opulence and luxury” she said.
Shipiki further said Shixwameni always remained “brave and courageous even if he was a lone voice most of the times”.
Another Nanso member during Shixwameni’s tenure as secretary general Nambata Ulenga, said Shixwameni did not receive the honour due to him because of his political affiliation.
“We are honoured to know about the role he played in the liberation of the country. I want to believe he was excluded because on opposite side of political spectrum,” she said.
She added: “I wish he had an opportunity to tell his story, his life offers many lessons on endurance, courage and devotion.”