Tribute to late Silvanus Vatuva

16 October 2020 | Opinion

“Man's dearest possession is life, it is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past, so live that, dying he might say: All my life, all my strength was given to the finest cause in the world – the fight for the liberation of mankind.” – Nikolai Ostrovsky

These famous words by Russian writer Ostrovsky are a befitting description of the late Silvanus Vatuva, the founding governor of the Oshana Region, who passed away on 1 September at Ongwediva Medi Park.

He was a well-known personality in the north as an educationist, businessman and politician since the 1960s.

The late Vatuva was born to Stephanus Vatuva and Paulina Nghipumbwa, and grew up at Onawa. He attended school at Ongenga and later at Engela (1950s), and obtained a teaching certificate in the late 50s at Ongwediva.

Vatuva taught at Oniimwandi, Uukwambi, Ovamboland in 1958/59 and got married to Helena Hango, also a teacher by profession. He was known as a good husband, caring but strict in raising his children and a good guardian and foster parent to many – a man who held good neighborhood relations in his village.

Fighting illiteracy and ignorance

Since the 1960s to 1989, Vatuva and, of course, his colleagues in education of that time played a remarkable role in educating and mentoring young boys and girls.

Today, we have a remarkable number of renowned personalities whose status in life is thanks to Vatuva's relentless efforts to fight illiteracy and ignorance.

He contributed remarkably to the furtherance of the Christian faith in his area as well as to the functioning of the Ongenga Congregation and later Omungwelume, by supporting them either financially or in kind.

We remember Vatuva as an ardent supporter of the student cause, welfare and progress, and in this relation, his role in defusing tension between the Ongwediva High School and Teachers Training Centre's authorities and the students during the 1970 food ration boycott as well as their expression of their political view vis-a-vis the International Court of Justice's verdict over the illegal occupation of South Africa in Namibia, at Ondangwa on 8 August 1971, were cases in point.

All-season man

Vatuva was an all-season man, a jack of few selected trades. In serving his community at Omungwelume as a sole trader or together with his sibling Shikondjeleni, he proved to be a good businessman from the mid-1960s.

During the course of the liberation struggle and especially from 1966 to 1989, Vatuva had seen, heard and felt hardship as they tried their level best to cope with the South African Defence Force (SADF), Koevoet, the South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) and soldiers of fortune's provocations of the civilian population.

He endured hardship with his fellow Namibians at Osire captivity. He witnessed SADF and its ilk brutalities where innocent people young and old were subject to torture, beating, kidnapping, rape and killing by either gunshot, bayonets, landmine explosion or combat vehicles.

His name was reported amongst the 'List of People to Be Eliminated' as the South African counter intelligence operatives knew he was involved in military combat work for the People's Liberation Army of Namibia.

But despite his courage and unwavering nerve, it is normal to speculate that sadness and sorrow was part and parcel of his endurance and he might have cried too at the sight of horror and human cost during the protracted liberation struggle.

Freedom, finally

Eventually, freedom did come, as Namibia attained her independence on 21 March 1990.

Founding president Sam Nujoma appointed Vatuva as the first regional commissioner for Ondangwa West in 1990. The Oshana regional council was established by the Regional Councils Act of 1992 [Act 22 of 1992] on 4 December 1992.

Vatuva was then elected by the full council members as the first regional governor.

Under his leadership, the Oshana regional council identified, selected, prioritised and planned a remarkable number of projects.

The council compiled project proposals for the establishment of clinics and police stations, the construction of classrooms, roads and earth dams, electrification of specified locations and the desilting of Etaka Canal.

Vatuva's management committee (1993 to 1998) is credited with the identification, declarisation, proclamation and subsequent establishment of Eheke and Uukwangula settlement areas.

To Meme Helena Vatuva, please accept what must be and may the grace of our mighty Lord be with you and your family, now and always. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

*Boas S. Munalye is the founding regional officer of the Oshana regional council.

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