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Media will miss zinger king

2021-08-20  Johnathan Beukes

Media will miss zinger king

Johnathan Beukes 

Kazenambo Kazenambo was not a media darling. The relationship had way too much needle to get mushy over it, but Namibian journalism will miss him. A colleague this week suggested a book of memorable quotes by KK would be quite thick. I agree. He was not just box office and a premier league level soundbite generator, he was brutally honest and straightforward. KK was the king of the zinger.The media will miss his eloquent rants. If he had an opinion on anything, those within earshot would hear it. 

He was not one for quiet diplomacy and pussyfooting; a quality that both set him apart and agitated his more conformist peers. It is a pity that the colourful politicians often find themselves washed out on the periphery, while the cookiecutter dime a dozen hordes with the repetitive party-approved lines find themselves front and centre. No journalist worth the title could ever walk away from an encounter with KK without a good story, a fire quote or without your jaw on the floor. 

I was once treated to an evisceration of the Cabinet (that he was part of) with a dexterity that left me speechless. It was a Thursday afternoon in April 2011 when The Namibian’s salesman Willem Gariseb dragged me along to take notes for the sports minister’s message in the pre-newspaper cup supplement that we were producing. I was reluctant, but Willem had the pesky perseverance of a spoiled puppy with a questionable pedigree. So, off we went. Of course, he was glowing in his assessment of the paper’s flagship social responsibility project and its importance for youth development, the positive energy and investment it would bring to the hosting town over Easter, and the unpolished gems discovered at the tournament.

And completely out of the blue! “It is unfair! This ban on The Namibian is...”Before I could confirm permission, KK, a former journalist, slapped his palm on his desk and shouted in his famous wheezing voice, “you can quote me on this! ”What followed was at least 30 minutes of artery-straining fuming at the unfairness of the then decade-long advertising and purchase ban that then-President Sam Nujoma instituted against the daily for being too critical in December 2000. 

“It is illegal, challengeable and against fair competition. It is injustice at its best. It should be lifted,” he shouted. Kazenambo was not comfortable with using the considerable reach of the paper, when he needed to inform the nation about his ministry’s programmes and activities, while not allowed to buy the paper or use the ministry’s budget to advertise in it. 

I was happy. I had a story for the fat Friday paper! It provoked a strong public reaction. The ban had flopped, and government departments like sport and education were working with the Namibia Football Association (NFA) and The Namibian to deliver yet another memorable football-filled Easter weekend while those very departments were not allowed to advertise in the paper. Even as a Cabinet member, he would not be silenced and would shout his opinion out to the world, whether the world liked it or not.

KK and others, like Theo-Ben Gurirab, Nangolo Mbumba and Hage Geingob had spoken out against an increasingly mindless ban that had resoundingly flopped. By August 2011, the ban was lifted. Kazenambo had a year earlier in parliament also said about the ban on the paper, “When it suits us, it is good, and when it doesn’t, it is not [good].”He remonstrated because it was unfair. Just like he confronted the manager at Hochland Spar when he thought they discriminated against black customers, or Swapo when he thought they treated stalwart Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo poorly. 

The very undiplomatic former German ambassador to Namibia, Christian Schlaga, would endure a continuous lashing from KK. He even once called for the immediate removal of Schlaga, saying the diplomat is on the verge of causing instability in the country. He said if Schlaga’s attitude towards the genocide was displayed in Germany – where Nazi support is criminal – he would be jailed.

Schlaga wouldn’t call the genocide a genocide. It did not sit well with KK, who called him a Neo-Nazi and warned, “Mr Schlaga is radicalising the genocide-affected communities with daily insults and his insensitivity on the issue of the genocide.”

He was a newsmaker like no other. Who could forget the instant viral video of him tearing the Namibian Sun to shreds and calling the late Jan Poolman’s reporting “buffoonery of the highest order.” 

He “captured” my friend Tileni Mongudhi’s audio recorder as a weapon of an enemy combatant, and had the most incriminating of all his soundbites professionally deleted. KK would speak from the heart, and could give an honest assessment of the politics of the day and the developments in his beloved party. He didn’t write a 31-page manifesto to announce his commitment to free speech, he lived it, and would battle anyone who’d take away that right from his biggest enemy. A champion of some sort. 

He didn’t boastfully call himself verbose, he was the garrulous embodiment of verbosity. Instead, I’d remember him as a prominent figure who espoused our unbridled honesty and our penchant to tell it like it is. But, while KK flew face-first into an interview or a journalist’s request for comment on whatever, with scant regard for his own political survival or wellbeing, we, the media were less than kind to Kazenambo. 

We often hinted at his sanity, poked fun at how easy it was to get him to go off, and plastered pictures of the man in animated suspense all over front pages for days. Fare thee well KK.

2021-08-20  Johnathan Beukes

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