Geingob’s Covid leadership hailed

Home National Geingob’s Covid leadership hailed
Geingob’s Covid leadership hailed

Lahja Nashuuta


Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula said late president Hage Geingob will go down in history as a Covid-19 champion, whose country’s containment and responses to the pandemic stood out in the region and beyond.

In an interview with New Era this week, he praised Geingob for his hands-on leadership approach and taking ownership of the situation towards keeping the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic under control. 

“As Minister of Health and Social Services, I have worked closely with the late president. I admire his leadership and support to the health sector, especially during the Covid-19 outbreak”, he said.

Shangula added that together with the late president, the health ministry managed to conduct a host of public meetings on Covid- 19. The pandemic devastated Namibia with over 4 000 deaths. “Sitting beside me every day, the late president’s assignment was to make short political statements on the government’s political will to contain the virus, whereas my role was to update on the status of the pandemic, and remind the public about the prevention measures. It was a pleasure to know that our ministry had such great support from him.  I will dearly miss him”, Shangula said.

Highlighting some of the late president’s achievements in terms of Covid -19 prevention and treatment, he pointed out the closure of all international borders, schools, universities and businesses, and the initial lockdown of all 14 regions, as well as the launch of prevention campaigns which encouraged social distancing mechanisms and the wearing of masks in public spaces.  Shangula said under the late president’s leadership, resources were made available towards capacity development and infrastructure development.

“He took leadership and ownership of the situation by activating a National Health Emergency Coordination Committee under the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS).  The introduction of the incident management system (IMS) and strengthening the functionality of the National Public Health Emergency Operation Centre (NPHEOC), which was the central base from where all Covid-19 responders operated at the national level, are some of the achievements. 

“The late Geingob’s directives were always clearly understood by all government sectors, development partners, the private sector and civil society. All ministries were involved in the development of the Multi-sectoral National Response Plan for Covid-19,
which resulted into a whole-of-government, whole-of-society response campaign”. Sharing similar sentiments was the deputy minister of  information and communication technology, Emma Theofelus. 

She described the late Geingob as an effective communicator, who spoke frankly about progress and challenges ahead.

Theofelus said the late Geingob spearheaded the country’s information dissemination at the beginning of the pandemic by communicating every Covid-19 regulation that popped up, and instilling public hope and safety. 

“Of course, there were difficult decisions that he had to make as the Covid-19 cases rose, such as the banning of alcohol, lockdowns and the compulsory wearing of masks. But all those efforts were in the public interest”, the politician said. 

She further acknowledged the late president’s involvement in the establishment of a communications centre, which aimed at providing a platform for all sectors to engage the public on key issues affecting their respective sectors in relation to the Covid-19 lockdown guidelines. 

“The communications centre was set for press conferences and making sure that the communication is highly-interactive, and journalists were given the opportunity to ask questions during the daily press conferences and through a dedicated email address. This was also an opportunity for the authorities to debunk rumours and misinformation”, she reminisced. “No one better could have steered Namibia’s myriad of socio-economic challenges, including a global pandemic, better than our late president Geingob,” Theofelus said.  Reflecting on the late president’s involvement in Covid-19 information dissemination, She said “after appointing me, he explained the role he wanted me to play in the information and communications technology space. When Covid-19 hit Namibian shores, he was very supportive of our communication efforts”.  “He was a man who consulted extensively, and listened to the advice of experts. I took every opportunity to observe his leadership and interpersonal skills and approach, so that I may one day be half the man he was. I am grateful to have known him before I became an MP and deputy minister, and I am even more grateful that I have walked and learned in the school of Hage”, she added.

On the international stage, Namibia was praised for its response to the deadly pandemic, even when Geingob severely criticised Western nations for hoarding vaccines and letting poorer nations lose many people to the pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commended Namibia for its commitment to universal health coverage. 

He said during the difficult times of Covid-19, Namibia showed the world, specifically Africa, how the world can be unfair.  “I would like to thank you for your commitment to universal health coverage for all Namibians. There are many challenges in the world, but you have shown that it is possible – and building systems, processes and institutions is possible. It means democracy is possible, and that ownership of problems is possible, and when you do that, progress is also possible,” Ghebreyesus said in a meeting with Geingob during a two-day visit to Namibia in August 2023.