President Hage Geingob has described the death of one of the country’s finest diplomats, Zed Ngavirue, as “having left a huge void which can never be filled”.
“Ngavirue lived an admirable life. He lived a life of purpose and prestige. He lived a life dedicated to the pursuit of peace and dignity. For that, we salute him, now and forever,” said Geingob.
“It says much about you when after you are gone, you leave behind a void which can never be filled. Ngavirue has left a huge void, which can never be filled. The only comfort we can take is in appreciating the fact that Namibia was blessed with the presence of a human being of his character and intellectual magnitude.”
He said this in a statement delivered on his behalf by Vice President Nangolo Mbumba during the memorial service on Monday.
Ngavirue, a career diplomat, died a fortnight ago in a Windhoek hospital at the age of 88. Ngavirue, who received the highest honour of national hero, was buried yesterday at Okakarara next to his first wife Bertha, as per his own wish.
Geingob has paid a moving tribute to the late Ngavirue praising him for his patriotism and principle throughout his illustrious life.
“These characteristics formed the foundation for his participation in the resistance against apartheid colonialism at a young age,” Geingob said.
Founding President Sam Nujoma said in Ngavirue, the country lost not only a great patriot but also a diplomat of note.
“His departure is not only a huge loss to the Ngavirue family and the Herero community but to the nation at large as he certainly left fond memories,” Nujoma said in a speech delivered on his behalf by Khomas governor, Laura McLeod-Katjirua.
“So let us draw guidance and inspiration from the life of ambassador Ngavirue and honour his courage and sacrifices by striving together to build the glorious future to which he dedicated his life,” he added.
Ngavirue left Namibia in 1960, serving as a lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea between 1972 and 1978 before returning to his native country in 1981. He worked in various managerial positions at the Rössing uranium mine from 1983-1989.
He was previously the director general of the National Planning Commission (NPC), and later on Namibia’s ambassador to the European Union (EU) and Belgium. He was the first black Namibian social worker to graduate from a South African institution in the 1950s, where he was in the same class as the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who would become the wife of South Africa’s first democratically elected black president, Nelson Mandela, and a struggle icon in her own right.
In the 1960s Ngavirue honed his diplomatic skills, first as a petitioner before United Nations Trusteeship Committee in 1966 and 1967, followed by lobbying at the United Nations in 1969 and 1976.
In 2014, Geingob appointed Ngavirue as Namibia’s special envoy for the negotiations with Germany concerning the 1904-08 genocide and Namibia’s call for an apology and reparations from Germany. Geingob said Namibia owes a debt of gratitude to Ngavirue and his team of negotiators who amidst the most difficult challenges surrounding the genocide negotiations with Germany.
“Ngavirue and his team stood their ground, showed unwavering commitment and insisted that Germany acknowledge that genocide was perpetrated against the Namas and the Hereros, and based on that acknowledgement, to render an unconditional apology to the people of Namibia for the wrongs committed against them,” Geingob said.
“Not only did he succeed in this regard but also in the quest for Germany to pay reparations for the wrongs which they have confessed and apologised for, so that the Nama and Herero descendants can be financially, psychologically, and socially compensated for the inhumane and brutal atrocities committed against their forefathers,” he added.