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Geingob unites Namibia in death

2024-02-27  Edward Mumbuu

Geingob unites Namibia in death

After 21 excruciating days, Namibia bade a final farewell to Hage Geingob on Sunday, burying the man credited with laying the country’s governance bedrock, a freedom fighter and Pan-Africanist of note.  

In death, Geingob united the nation, as could be seen from every corner of the land, as mourners held their own memorial services, even under trees in villages, to pay their last respect to a Namibian great.

Geingob died on 4 February 2024, aged 82.

Since then, Namibia had been gripped by grief, struggling to come to terms with the new reality, a Namibia without president Hage Geingob, who for the last 64 years dedicated his life to public service.

Over the past two weeks, family members, political leaders, friends, the business community, tribal elders and clergy offered eulogies for Geingob, whose mortal remains were interred into the Heroes’ Acre on Sunday.

For the first time, Namibia mourned the death of a president, a sitting president.

Confronted with this new reality, government officials and the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), worked shoulder to shoulder to ensure Geingob received a befitting send-off.

On Friday, the procession of Hage Geingob’s remains began their final journey at State House - his last workstation - before touring the streets of the capital city, Windhoek, to give Namibians an opportunity to say their final goodbyes.

Military pallbearers then brought the coffin, draped in a Namibian flag, in front of State House.

Albeit brief, the State House ceremony saw the chief of the Namibian Defence Force (CDF), Martin Pinehas report to President Nangolo Mbumba on the death of the commander-in -chief of the armed forces before the procession commenced, accompanied by soldiers, artillery salutes and music.

Off it took to the streets of Windhoek, as children in the late president Geingob’s proverbial ‘Namibian House’ stood along the demarcated routes along waiting for the procession of his remains, waving goodbye, with the Namibian flag while some had white roses or white balloons, symolising their respect to their departed leader.

Soon after the procession in Windhoek, Geingob’s remains were taken to his private residence, Casa Rosalia, on the outskirts of Windhoek, where widow, Monica Geingos and their children waited.

There, neighbours and mourners stood outside as the gun carriage with the late commander-in-chief’s remains entered the residence.  The mood was sombre.

Soon after the brief ceremony at the private residence which lasted for about two hours, Geingob’s remains were then taken to the Parliament Gardens, where it lay in state for the first night.

The casket was open to the public for viewing.




Some mourners stayed overnight in an impromptu wake, singing their final songs before the remains of the late statesman were taken to the Independence Stadium before the official memorial service on Saturday.

Saturday saw mourners from all walks of life throng the Independence Stadium to pay their last respects. Young and old, they filled the main pavilion and gigantic white marquee tents erected on the field before the program could kick off.

On the day, a common theme prevailed, that indeed, Geingob occupied a pristine position in the history of Namibia, SADC, Africa and the global stage.

Geingob’s remains lay in state, this time at the Independence Stadium, allowing members of the public to view the body throughout the night. 



Professor Peter Katjavivi, Speaker of the National Assembly and a close friend of Geingob, went down memory lane.

Born Hage Gottfried Geingob on 3 August 1941 at a place called Sabis in the Grootfontein district, he rose to the highest office in the land from humble beginnings. He rose from being a son of peasant farm workers to the highest office in the land.

Geingob grew up at a farm called //Kharases, Otjikururume, which is 30km out of Otavi. It is in Otavi that Geingob received his early education. “In 1958, he attended Augustineum College where the first seeds of political consciousness were planted. As a student at Augustineum College, Hage actively engaged in student activism, this led to his involvement in the strike against the unfair treatment of students,” Katjavivi said.

Two years later, he was expelled from Augustineum for having participated in a march in protest at the poor quality of education and food. 

In 1961, he started teaching at Tsumeb. It was here where he started partaking in Swapo activities and officially joined the party in 1962.



On 3 April 1962, Geingob left Namibia into exile, transiting through Botswana joining other freedom fighters in pursuit of the independence of Namibia.

Geingob left Botswana for Léopoldville [now, Kinshasa] in the DRC and was offered a scholarship to go to the United States of America, where he enrolled at Temple University, in Philadelphia. He obtained a BA degree from Fordham University in New York City in 1970, and an MA degree in International Relations from the Graduate Faculty of The New School, New York in 1974.

While in the U.S, Geingob was appointed as Swapo representative to the Americas and the United Nations. Katjavivi narrated. Geingob in this role criss-crossed the United States, taking Namibia’s struggle for self-determination to a global audience. His tireless efforts and those of his colleagues ultimately forced the United Nations General Assembly to recognise Swapo as the sole and authentic representative of the people of Namibia. Namibia’s diplomatic struggle in the international arena for an armed struggle which was launched in 1966, eventually led to the independence of Namibia in 1990.

Katjavivi described Geingob as a fervent defender of the unity of the Namibian people.

“His themes are: ‘Inclusivity spells harmony, exclusivity spells conflict; ‘one Namibia, one nation’ and that “no one should feel left out in the Namibian house’. A proponent of partnership in government and enhanced transparency and accountability in the public service. President Geingob led the creation of the Anti-Corruption Commission as Prime Minister in the 1990s,” he said, laying the foundation for other speakers.



Soon after the late Geingob’s children paid tribute to their father, McHenry Venaani, the leader of the official opposition, paid his last respects to Geingob. It was evident that beyond political theatrics and public galleries, Venaani and Geingob shared more than just cordial relations. “President Geingob’s legacy not only as a head of State, but also as a deft negotiator on the international stage is a testament to his enduring impact on our nation. His skilful diplomacy and adept negotiation strategies were instrumental in navigating some of the complexities of our nation’s history. Generations yet unborn shall inquire about the man who was a fierce debator and master negotiator and more so loved his country with a great fervour,” he stated.

Venaani said he is proud of having opposed Geingob as Popular Democratic Movement leader for the last nine years.

“Today, we gather to bid farewell to a statesman, a leader, and a unifying force in the history of our beloved nation – the late president Hage Geingob. In this moment of grief, let us reflect on the profound impact he had on our nation and the monumental legacy he leaves behind. Eulogising any person is a formidable task, particularly when it pertains to an individual of president Geingob’s stature, whose influence inspired a nation with hope,” Venaani said.


Comrade Hage

Vice President for both country and Swapo, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah arrived at the podium to pay tribute to a dedicated comrade of the liberation struggle, Geingob.

She said Geingob dedicated over 60 years of his life to Namibia’s social progression, inclusivity and unity whose name will be etched in the annals of Namibian history.

“The Swapo party and our country has lost a revolutionary, visionary and towering hero. He was a divine gift bestowed upon Namibia and its people,” she said.

Nandi-Ndaitwah continued: “He championed unity of purpose and action among all Namibians. He strived for inclusive economic prosperity for all our people. His name will remain engraved in the annals of our history. “As Prime Minister, he championed the unification, modernisation and the cultivation of a higher performance culture in the Namibian public service. His commitment and dedication to good governance is reflected in both the political and administrative architecture of our nation today.”

She was not done. “The direct access to his office by all the citizens of our country through open and transparent engagements was immensely promoted, while the political and administrative interface between the political principals and administrators was reinforced during his tenure of office. He was indeed a peoples’ president,” the politician and diplomat said.



On the day, Geingob’s predecessor, the soft spoken Hifikepunye Pohamba, also paid a moving tribute to Geingob. From his chair, the 88-year-old statesman was sandwiched by his assistants who aided his walk to the podium.

He described Geingob as a freedom fighter who served with passion “during the dark days of the liberation struggle”.

Geingob’s death, Pohamba said, must remind Namibians that the freedom they cherish today was achieved through “bloodshed”. Geingob, “has run a good race and his legacy should continue inspiring those left behind”. On his part, Founding President Sam Nujoma, who over the years assigned Geingob to several key assignments, remembered the departed leader as a skilful negotiator who was not afraid to seek compromises for the sake of bigger goals.

“Because of this, he was highly praised for his skillful handling of debates, which proved instrumental in ensuring that our country’s supreme law was drafted in record time of only three months and unanimously adopted on 9 February 1990,” Nujoma recalled.

“We will miss his towering presence in the corridors of the United Nations, the African Union and the SADC headquarters and summits as well as at State House, but let me say the young people of our country and Africa at large that they too can make his life’s work their own,” Nujoma said in a tribute read on his behalf by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.


Larger than life

After almost 10 hours of speeches, hymns, tributes and benedictions, it was President Nangolo Mbumba’s time to pay homage to his immediate predecessor, a close ally, confidant and best friend. He said in Geingob, Namibia and the world were celebrating a remarkable life of a beloved father and president whose personality and aura encapsulated the essence of a “larger than life” personage.

He likened Geingob’s demise to an African baobab tree that had been uprooted and fallen.

He said Geingob was a peerless intellectual giant, whose life was driven by destiny and purpose.

Geingob, Mbumba said, was the embodiment of the spirit of hope and aspirations of the Namibia people.

 “It is often said that, ‘true greatness is shown through one’s works and actions, the way in which you impact the lives of others.’ This is true of our departed president Geingob. It is in this sense that we have all gathered here today to celebrate the life of an extraordinary leader and citizen whose lifetime commitment, devotion and sacrifices have left an enduring mark on the lives of millions of people,” Mbumba said.


Final resting place

On Sunday, Namibians from all ethnic extractions, social status, race and gender converged at the Heroes’ Acre in Windhoek to pay their last respect to Geingob.

At least 20 heads of state also joined the thousands of local mourners to share the deep sorrow Namibians had dealt with for the better part of February 2024.

From the crowd, many female attendees donned black Damara traditional dresses, the horokhoes which was designed and made for Damaradi [Damara women] who reside in |Ae||gams, present day Windhoek.

Many others also showed up in the Damara men’s attire, comprising shirts, with a combination of Springbok hide and black fabric. Many in the large crowd were waving the small Namibian flag, uniting a nation that was grieving one of its greats.

As the remains of the late Geingob were making their way to the acre, through congested traffic, dignitaries after another arrived and settled in the VIP tent erected at the acre. As they waited, they were treated to musical items by the army’s brass band and military drills, befitting a send-off of an individual of Geingob’s stature.

When the military procession with Geingob’s remains finally arrived, the mood of the crowd dropped to sombre, as reality once again sunk in that the towering Geingob, who was fondly known for his gentle smile, roaring voice, touch and tease, will never to be seen in action again.

General outpour could be seen as many consoled each other in the crowd with hugs and handshakes.

Sheer pain could also be seen from the faces of those closest to Geingob, his widow Monica Geingos and the children.

Mbumba would deliver the only speech of the day. He reassured Geingob that those left behind would take care of his Namibian house.

Looking at the casket while simultaneously reading his prepared statement, addressing the late Geingob directly, Mbumba emotionally said: “May you no longer be weary and may you no longer be burdened. Leave the worries of this world and the worries of Namibia to the present and future generations and go in peace. We will take care of your Namibian house and the needs of its citizens, the sovereigns. 

“In our governance, we will continue to uphold the constitution of the land as the supreme law, we will strive to be transparent, accountable and inclusive. Yes, we will continue to pursue the second struggle for economic freedom of Namibians with the required urgency, efficiency and effectiveness, until shared prosperity and social justice are achieved for the citizens.”


Grave site

The casket was then taken to the grave site, close to the acre’s summit, where one of the four mausoleums was prepared for Geingob’s remains to be interred.

Then, the bearers removed the Namibian flag, which was followed by the casket lowering concurrently with 21-gun salute and fly past. As this was happening, Geingos, the children, Mbumba, Pohamba and Nujoma all looked on from the grave site as the final process unfolded.

As the casket lowered, Mbumba and his wife, Sustjie Mbumba, comforted Geingos as they’ve done throughout the mourning period.

2024-02-27  Edward Mumbuu

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