Opinion – Go well, Mr Systems, Processes and Institutions

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Opinion –  Go well, Mr Systems,  Processes and Institutions

As I pen this, the time is around 02h00 [Monday], engulfed with pain and like most people, trying to reconcile with the new reality: A Namibia without president Hage Geingob.

Have we ever wondered what president Geingob meant by or why he championed and advocated for strong democratic processes, systems and institutions?

On the day of his death (4 February 2024), Namibia’s strong and well-oiled processes, systems and institutions were on full display, as if to say they were sending president Geingob off. 

While many may see or think of icons like the late president Geingob as idols and demigods, they are mortal, just as human as the rest of us. Indeed, when death comes knocking on their door, they do answer, for by then, they are an empty tank and like a boxer, have left it all in the ring, like a footballer, all on the pitch, an athlete, all on the track or like a musician, all on the stage.



When the Ovaherero are visited by death, especially of the great among them, they rhetorically ponder, “hapo naingo noho uta?” It loosely translates into: “Does this great person also die?”.

Today, I am inclined to ask the question, “hapo na Hage nangwari uta?”

Sunday, 4 February 2024 will go down in our history as one of the most excruciating, proud, but crucial moment. Only 21 March 1990 could possibly beat it.  

On 4 February, a head of state died. The commander-in-chief of the armed forces was silenced, forever.

The Executive branch’s head had taken his final breath. He would never speak again. His eyes would never blink again. And his gentle smile, touch and tease, never to be seen in action again.

The country, gripped by grief, lost like sheep whose shepherd had just vanished, needed leadership and direction. The world looked at Namibia with sympathy and empathy, for we were orphaned.

But the three-pronged branches of State, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary were there to ensure that this African giant, who took a heavy fall while battling a deadly disease, landed softly.

And the Fourth Estate, the robust, free and pluralistic highly-rated Namibian press, which he advocated for, was there to record the day, etch it in gold, and place it in the annals of history.


Textbook transition

We need to pause and reflect to think of Namibia again handing over power without a glitch, or a shot being fired. It was just mature men and women, who, while hurting deeply after having lost one of their own, followed established processes, systems and institutions, just like Geingob would have liked.

I hope wherever he is, he is looking down at the Land of the Brave, the Namibian House and its people with a smile, nodding, patting himself on the back and taking pride in having contributed in different ways to shape what today is Namibia.



Unlike an ex who only appreciates the value of their partner when confronted with the reality that they are no longer part of their lives, I find solace in the fact that most Namibians, from all walks of life, in their own ways, gigantic and minuscule, appreciated and acknowledged Geingob’s contributions.

First, during the liberation struggle which helped unchain Namibia from the yoke of the repugnant apartheid regime to set up and lay the bedrock for Namibia’s much-celebrated governance architecture, to consolidating these gains through nation- building, a Namibian house wherein “no one feels left out”. 

Chief among them, President Geingob chaired the Constituent Assembly and its negotiations committee, through which our national Constitution was midwifed. 



As a young scribe, I have had several encounters with the late president, whose presidential reign coincided with the genesis of my journalism career.

After almost a decade in the trade, it is difficult to point to a single incident. But for this tribute, I will point out two. 

In 2019, Alberto Baillères’, the late Mexican billionaire, was in Namibia. 

High on his State House visit agenda was to discuss his potential purchase of the contested Erindi Game Reserve.

But three years earlier, President Geingob promised not to entertain business talks at State House. 

He said those willing to invest in Namibia should engage relevant government ministries, offices and agencies. 

With a billionaire in State House to discuss business, I felt compelled to ask President Geingob shortly after their engagement, “What was so special about this billionaire to meet our President at State House?”. A colleague of mine, one Sakeus Iikela, followed up with the question, “Why was the meeting held behind closed doors?” Two questions which did not impress President Geingob. But work had to be done, and accountability requires us to remind our leaders when they renege on their commitments. 

Ironically, the question would land me in hot water with a former Cabinet minister, who took it upon himself to hurl an avalanche of insults in my direction, and degrade and attack my persona. Worse, the ex-minister insulted my mother. 

This incident took place outside the National Assembly chambers at Parliament, the heart of Namibia’s lawmaking process, in full view of ministers and lawmakers, at least two hours after the Geingob-Baillères meeting. The ex-minister accused me of chasing an investor away with my questions, and making our country “look corrupt”. 

Perplexed, I simply stood there as the barrage of insults rained on me. 

Information later surfaced
that some in the corridors of power had a personal, vested interest in the sale of the game reserve, as they were promised massive kickbacks if it went through. Less than three months later, the ex-Cabinet minister in question, alongside his co-accused, were arrested in connection with the Fishrot corruption scheme,
wherein Namibia’s fisheries resources were allegedly stolen at an industrial scale. 

Another encounter with the late Geingob was
perhaps in 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 

pandemic, when I posed three unrelated questions to the President during a televised media briefing on 31 July 2020. Although journalists did not need
permission to pose questions to those holding public office, that day, I felt duty-bound to request for permission, considering the gravity of the questions.  

The questions directed to Geingob related to the Fishrot scandal, the appointment of Tylvas Shilongo as ACC executive director, and the transfer of senior police investigator Nelius Becker to the police’s forensic unit, which raised eyebrows at the time. The rest, as they say, is history. But so was the late Geingob that as journalists, we could always execute our responsibilities without fear, favour and prejudice. Other than that, when we would meet in the corridors of State House, at political rallies, it could be anywhere, Geingob would subtly say to me or even if it was a group of journalists, “One day, you will miss this old man”, referring to himself before waking away, with a chuckle.

Kaende nawa, President Hage Gottfried Geingob. You came, you served, and you left.

Your name is now embedded in gold, for you left it all here. It would be disingenuous for anyone to ask for more from you. Before you were our president, prime minister, or any other senior position you held in society, political or otherwise, you were a father, uncle, friend, brother, grandfather, mentor, spiritual leader and husband.

One can only pray for strength and courage for those whose lives you touched in different ways to cope with the new reality, and a world where they are now forced to refer to you in the past tense.

Like the rest of us, you were not perfect. But you were organic. Original. That is perfect.

Sail on, son of the soil.


*Edward Mumbuu is an investigative journalist and broadcaster. He writes in his personal capacity.