I met Alexander Jarimbovandu Kaputu in 1981, through my late mother, Justine Kamukuenjandje, who also worked as broadcasting journalist for the then South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, Otjiherero Service, the forerunner of the present Namibian Broadcasting Corporation. Before that I only heard about him through my two siblings as a teacher to them at Otjinene Lower Primary School (now C. Ngatjizeko Primary School).
My first encounter with Kaputu was a joyous one, as I could immediately sense that his philosophy of life was that life is a challenge and it must be enjoyed. I also experienced him as somebody who was always willing to learn and listen, assets to my observation that matured with time.
He could, without much effort, build a rapport with anyone from all walks of life, and he never let a moment pass without letting you feel worthwhile, if you met at whatever occasion.
It is through these numerous encounters with him that I met Kaputu the human being.
There was never a dull moment when Kaputu was around. He could crack jokes, show empathy, be respectful, without losing the aura and presence of character that defined him as a human being. Mention the name Alexander Kaputu and young and old will immediately know who you are talking about. His presence and humanitarian side as well as his humility are well recorded and was very much felt, not only in his beloved Otjiherero community, but the wider Namibian society as well. You have to live in his time to fully understand the value and extent of his contribution to humanity.
The broadcasting giant
Kaputu cut his broadcasting skills at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, until he developed an almost religious passion for broadcasting. He simply elevated broadcasting to the highest of heights. Through his broadcasting at the Otjiherero Service, he informed, entertained and taught on a wide range of topics. His rise to become manager of the Otjiherero Service was not meteoric, but after many years of hard work and dedication to radio broadcasting journalism. There was no way he could be ignored as Ella Wheeler Wilcox remarked: ‘’There is no chance, no destiny, no fate that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”
He put his feet firmly on the ground and put in honest shifts of principled work ethics, until his recognition and being rewarded to be promoted as manager.
The Otjiherero traditionalist, historian and linguist
Perhaps his greatest legacy will be his deep knowledge of the Otjiherero history, tradition, culture, customs and rituals. I was amazed by his knowledge of the Otjiherero history, tradition and their cultural protocols/ practices. He remained a steadfast disciple and advocate of the advancement of Otjiherero history and culture. As a brilliant student of the university of life, he kept on with comparative studies of other traditions, benchmarking them carefully against his own, in order to ensure that his tradition and beliefs remained relevant and defendable, a task he succeeded in greatly.
I would think his linguistic and oratory skills are up there with the very best. His acumen in these disciplines is legendary. Many of us who are exponents of language development never missed out on his well-crafted language programmes, as they were only not good deliveries, but also well-researched programmes, with solid terms of reference.
As always, his unselfish and human side always came through, as he always left room for others to criticise and correct him, because he believed that if you say something in public, you must be prepared to be criticised in public, a great skill possessed by a selected few, especially in today’s competitive world where everyone wants to claim personal glory. Rarely was Kaputu lost in translation, neither did he use the wrong semantics in his pursuit of the purity of the Otjiherero language, using the recognized standard orthography to substantiate his line of argument in terms of grammatical preciseness and accuracy.
Great was my delight thus last year when Kaputu was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Namibia. I think I was one of the Namibians who phoned to congratulate him on this honour bestowed upon a brilliant linguistic and literary giant.
Despite his well-documented love and unapologetic allegiance to the Otjiherero culture and all it embodies, he also remained a steadfast nationalist and was never out of place, living this all-important part of his decorated life, a great paradox of a life well lived.
Go well big man!