Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna
I have penned many tributes over the years, but none of those has moved me close to tears like this one. The legendary revolutionary and internationalist Ernesto Che Guevara once said: “Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our gun.” German philosopher Nietzsche was to remark: “Many die too late, and a few die too early…how could those who never live at the right time die at the right time?”
On Tuesday (17th August 2021), Namibians woke up to shocking news about the passing on of former Minister of Youth and Sport, Kazenambo Kazenambo, due to Covid-related complications – he was 58 years old.
Both the quotations from Che Guevara and Nietzsche are relevant to Kazenambo’s life. Amongst the many footprints he has left behind was that he was a vocal activist of the Ovaherero/Nama reparations from Germany. As such, it is only proper to hope that ‘…his battle cry has reached another receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up his gun….’ According to Nietzsche, “…many die too late and a few die too early…” As an unapologetic and vocal advocate for the reparations of our people by Germany, Kazenambo has died too early, because the cause he so firmly stood for is not yet accomplished. Nietzsche further asks:” …how could those who never live at the right time die at the right time?” Kazenambo lived at the right time, but he certainly did not die at the right time because there was much more he could have done.
Kazenambo was born in Maun, Botswana to parents whose grandparents had fled Namibia in the face of the extermination order issued by the notorious German General Lothar von Trotha against Ovaherero people.
As a descendant of our thousand-times heroic people, he did not have to learn from textbooks what the Germans had done against our people; I am sure, like many of us, he learnt about that history at the feet of his parents around a typical African fireplace where that narrative has been passed from generation to generation.
And obviously, it was that urge and urgency for the liberation of his motherland that propelled him to join Swapo at the tender age of 16. He then went to Angola, where he received military training, after which he joined Swapo’s military wing PLAN. He was following in the footprints of other Batswana (citizens of Botswana) of Ovaherero ancestry like the legendary Kavezeri aka Katjipuka and Maendo, who made a name for themselves as gallant PLAN combatants. The activists who joined Swapo from Botswana had a choice either to remain in the comfort of Botswana as citizens of an independent country, or to join Swapo in exile. A few of them like Katjipuka, Maendo and Kazenambo chose the “…road less travelled...” of freedom fighting that was marked by tears, sweat and blood – a road that was not for the faint-hearted. Not only did they join the struggle as activists, but as PLAN combatants too; and that history still needs to be told in its fullest.
I had the honour to work with Kazenambo in the Office of the Prime Minister in the 90s before he moved up the political ladder. He was always straight- forward, vibrant, outspoken and maverick. You love him or hate him, KK would always speak his mind without pulling any punches, and in the process he stepped on the toes of many people.
He is deeply being mourned in accordance with the rich traditions of our people. As a young boy, I was always curious to know what the Ovaherero mourning ceremony was all about. I later discovered that here the heroic exploits of the deceased are called to remembrance in rich and expressive tones or laments, which tones cannot be rendered effectively in any European language. European languages are too tame and too distant to be able to capture those deep emotions.
Kazenambo was very vocal and many a time unorthodox and controversial in his utterances, but you cannot take this one thing away from him, he loved Namibia deeply and unconditionally. He said the things he said because of the deep love he had for his country. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, a famous American Revolutionary who defended the Free Press, much to the offence of the King of England, I might not have agreed with everything Kazenambo had to say, but I defend his right to say it, to the death.
Many die too late and a few die too early; Kazenambo, you have died too early. Rest in peace, gallant fighter, you have run your race and done your part.