An academic par excellence, mentor, educator, my friend William Karamata, your shocking departure has left many of us with great memories to keep and help comfort us for the rest of our lives, as we mourn, cherish and celebrate the great moments you shared with us during your tenure as a young vibrant educator, fresh from the University of Zululand in South Africa.
And of course, your bravery, determination, and undying commitment on the rugby field, strutting your stuff for uncompromising Katutura outfit Jaguars Rugby XV, which kept enthusiastic fans on the edge of their seats for the better part of the 80 minutes of blood, sweat and tears, anxiously watching your trademark sidesteps and never-say-die attitude.
Admittedly, I’ve never had the appropriate opportunity to tell you to your face but I’m grateful to have been one of your learners. You certainly made your presence felt in the community you so dearly served unselfishly without seeking recognition.
You are gone way too soon and your ever-present genuine warmness, broad smile, kindness, simplicity, humbleness, intellectual generosity, and above all - respect towards your subjects - were beyond imagination. Eish…May your gentle soul rest easy William, until our paths cross again in heaven.
Back in the day, especially during the height of racial segregation which resulted from the skewed apartheid laws and oppression imposed by the illegal South African regime, the game of rugby was a sacred pastime reserved for the traditional short-fused white Afrikaners, while indigenous Namibians were systematically confined to kicking the pigskin (football).
Nonetheless, these unwritten but brutally applied laws of apartheid did not discourage a group of young prospective academics to invade what was considered uncharted territory.
Students from the revered St Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra) teamed up with their counterparts from Augustineum High School to form a rugby team, ultimately leading to the unavoidable birth of Jaguars Rugby XV.
Fresh from the University of Zululand, energetic flanker Williams Karamata, whose striking appearance in looks could be easily mistaken for that of a pop star, alongside fellow intellectuals cleverly used the game of rugby to advance their political agenda, carefully plotting their moves without the fear of being apprehended by the trigger-happy Bowker Boys (cops).
Some of his celebrated teammates in the Jaguars squad were the late multi-talented Ovaherero Paramount Chief (PC) Advocate Reinhardt Vekuii Rukoro, who equally excelled in the boxing, long-distance running and the football disciplines; Germanus Mate, Victor Hamburumana Kangootui, Koos Kauta, Frank Karetu Murangi, Michael ‘Ou Pine’ Pienaar, Chris Muukua, Hendrik Christian, Engelhard Kaitjindi, Gert Willemse, Packy Uaaka, Gerson Katjimune, and Agrippa Kapapu, amongst a horde of highly-gifted oval ball chasers.
However, it was not a smooth sailing journey for the new kid on the block being the only representative of Katutura, a residential area housing Bantus (blacks), a race considered very dangerous to the safety and overall well-being of the minority whites, and needed to be kept at arm-length, far away from the close proximity of the more affluent suburbs, unless they were housemaids or gardeners.
On the playing field, the silently chosen black sheep of the flock, Jaguars were always subjected to all sorts of unkind intimidating racial prejudices and unprovoked biased decisions going against the Katutura outfit at the slightest provocation.
Nevertheless, the resolute streetwise and scholastic young men stood their ground and decided to roll with the punches whenever the situation demanded. A significant chunk of their highly-charged encounters against the coloured, baster and white opponents always ended in bloodied fistfights.
Regrettably, the team folded unexpectedly after the core of its playing personnel left their motherland, going into exile to further their unfulfilled academic aspirations in various professional fields abroad.
A qualified schoolteacher by trade, the afro-haired Karamata started his teaching career at the Herero Higher Primary School (nowadays St Barnabas) holed up in the heart of Namibia’s largest residential area Katutura in the early 70s, under the stewardship of salted veteran school principal Gabriel Mbuende (Kaire’s old man).
His proficiency in the Queen’s tongue (English), persuaded the education authorities to assign him with the task of primarily taking learners through the ropes about the finer points of the English subject. Karamata taught as a schoolteacher at the Ritquelle Primary School in the Aminuis reserve before he was transferred to Okakarara Secondary School.
The calculated and well-spoken flanker skipped the country in 1975 going into exile alongside his brother Ben Karamata. Upon their arrival in Botswana, the Namibian refugees were imprisoned without trial. After their release, Karamata left for Germany to further his academic aspirations until his return to his native land in the mid-80s.
He was appointed to represent his motherland beyond the borders, occupying high-profile diplomatic portfolios as First Secretary in Nigeria and Russia. Karamata formed part of a strong delegation, dispatched to Papua New Guinea for diplomatic negotiations at the dawn of Namibia’s democracy.
And as they say, the rest is history. Karamata will widely be remembered for his unmatched contribution to Namibia’s overall growth in the areas of education and politics.