President Hage Geingob said the war memorial, the Heroes Acre on the outskirts of Windhoek, was not only for politicians but an ultimate location of burial for the country’s national heroes from all walks of life.
Geingob made these remarks on Friday at the Parliament Gardens when speaking at the memorial service of the late educationalist Martin Shipanga, whom he conferred the status of national hero last week.
Shipanga died last week Sunday at the age of 88 and was laid to rest at the Heroes Acre on Saturday.
“The Heroes Acre is a place of collective memory and a celebration of all those who have left a lasting impression and a profound impact across the width and breadth of our land in different fields of human endeavour,” Geingob said at the memorial.
Geingob, who was also Shipanga’s student at Augustineum in Okahandja during the apartheid era, described the late Shipanga as an educationalist who dedicated his life to improve the lives of others through education during difficult times and against all odds.
“There are those who may question this decision, saying that the late Meester Shipanga was not a political leader, nor did he partake in the armed struggle. However, one thing we should understand and emphasise is that the Heroes’ Acre, the ultimate location of burial for our national heroes, is meant for Namibians from all walks of life,” he said.
Geingob said the Heroes’ Acre was a place for men and women, politicians, diplomats, soldiers, academics, athletes, scientists, artists, preachers, teachers and all who have done extraordinary things, in the advancement of a greater national purpose.
Geingob describes the late Shipanga as a big tree that has fallen, saying they are left as orphans, mourning one of the greatest unifiers, one who allowed then to sit under the shade of his craft and teachings.
“It was under this inspiring shade that many of us discovered a sense of belonging, unity and nationhood, for this great patriot claimed no particular tribe or region as his own. In our diversity, he saw parts of who he was as a Namibian,” Geingob said.
“It, therefore, comes as no surprise that under his masterful guidance, Augustineum became the cradle and home to students from all corners of the country, thereby turning this institution, that was intended to maintain the architecture of apartheid, latently into a melting pot of nationalistic fervour, consciousness and an indispensable passage towards the liberation struggle.”
Shipanga was a teacher and school principal at the former Augustineum in Okahandja during the 1960s before he was promoted to inspector and later became an education director.
Geingob, National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi, Reverend Andreas Biwa, Dr Libertina Amathila and sport minister Agnes Tjongarero are among those who went through Shipanga’s hands at Augustineum.
Geingob said his interactions with the late Meester Shipanga, an outstanding human being and great teacher, have left an eternal footprint on his life.
“I vividly recall his lessons in Geography where he would say in Afrikaans, ‘As jy van Frankryk praat, dan dink jy van die Edik van Nantes, Franse Hugenote en Franse wyn’,” he said.
“Who can forget that? Even today, when I think of France, I recall the teachings of Meester. His teachings permeated every aspect of our lives beyond the classroom. For example, he instructed us in the area of etiquette and attire, ensuring that we had impeccable table manners and a decent dress code.”
He said this should come as no surprise because those who know Meester Shipanga recall the fact that he was disciplined, cultured, well-dressed, patient and exuded utmost civility at all times.
Late politicians such as Hidipo Hamutenya, Theo-Ben Gurirab and Moses Tjitendero also went through his classroom.
The late Shipanga also engineered the construction of Katutura state hospital after he put a motivation together around 1973 to get funding from the German government, which ultimately materialised.
Shipanga was recognised as a war veteran for his contribution towards the liberation movement, especially among student movements.