Humanity is a precious virtue that gives an individual a noble character, making him a celebrated personality. This virtue personifies Matheus Kristof Shikongo, popularly known as Mathew Shikongo, the son of the soil who touched many lives during his lifetime. On 13 May, death robbed the Shikongo family a husband and father, the Namibian nation a minder of the society and mother nature a gentle soul.
I first heard about Matheus Shikongo in the mid-1980s, through his business enterprise ABC. This was not just a typical retail business like that of many of his contemporaries. It signified bringing development to northern Namibia. The ABC business at Ondangwa had among others, the only dry cleaner in Ondangwa, one of the only two disco clubs in Ondangwa and it housed one of the only two photo studios in northern Namibia by then. Therefore, these business infrastructure and facilities that Matheus Shikongo put up were much needed investments because northern Namibia was underdeveloped. Believe me, it was only after I have already started school that I first had a photo of me taken, thanks to church missionaries and only at high school that I first made use of dry clean services, thanks to Matheus Shikongo.
Matheus Shikongo was not restricted to doing business only in the north. He opened the famous Club Thriller in Windhoek, which has been a popular entertainment centre for many years. He was a businessman of note who mentored many of his peers and young upcoming entrepreneurs in various trade sectors. He understood the business environment and was revered in the business fraternity. For these reasons, he was elected president of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) in 1998, a position in which he served until 2000. As a businessman, he embraced social responsibility with an open heart and contributed to many development programmes in various parts of the country. He believed in community development and support and provided employment to Namibians from different walks of life.
Matheus Shikongo was a distinguished resident of Windhoek city, that following the first local authority elections in Namibia, he was elected as mayor of the City of Windhoek, becoming the first black mayor of Namibia’s capital city in 1993. No better choice could have been made than this versatile man. Councillor Matheus Shikongo transformed the city from a colonial to a post-independent local authority. This earned him admiration and respect among the residents and his colleagues, resulting in successive re-election for many years. I remember the late Theo-Ben Gurirab introducing him at the local authority elections campaign in 1998 as a “man of all seasons”. Following my appointment as minister of urban and rural development, he shared with me some ideas regarding development programmes in local authorities, putting his experience to good use.
Matheus Shikongo was multi-skilled, making him a much sought-after personality by a number of corporate world chiefs to serve in their respective boards. I worked closely with him when he served as board member and later chairman of NamPower, particularly during my tenure as deputy company secretary, because our respective positions required constant communication. Despite his longstanding vast experience in corporate governance, chairman Shikongo consulted me and sought my advice and inputs on strategic corporate issues. Further, at a personal level, he provided me with guidance and moral support whenever the occasion demanded. During that time, ours became a relationship of a father and son that I shall forever cherish.
What is in a name? Matheus is a Hebrew name, meaning “gift of God”. He was indeed a gift that God gave to Namibia, a gift that extended gifts to God’s people. Kristof is a Greek name meaning “bearing Christ”. He made financial contributions to the church in furthering the cause and mission of Christ. It is no coincidence that he departed to eternity on Ascension Day. He truly lived to the full realisation of his names. He embodied the personalities of a dignified, humble and easy-going, albeit eminent person, the qualities that Meekulu Emilia Iipinge and Tatekulu Petrus Shikongo, his beloved parents imparted in him.
Over many years, the late Matheus Shikongo and I had a custom of meeting at the beginning of the year over lunch or dinner to discuss political and socio-economic matters in general. Covid-19 pandemic interfered with our long-held tradition and two weeks ago, I realised that we did not meet this year. Every day I would fall short of calling him as something would come up and by the time I remember, it would be late. Little did I know that he was at the final phase of his journey on earth. May his soul rest in eternal peace!