• September 22nd, 2018
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Meme Nghidinwa: Honouring the memory of ELCIN’s loyal servant


Paulus Homateni Nakawa Meme Rosalia Annette Ndilinasho Nghidinwa was a revered politician, a doting mother and grandmother, a committed community leader of all seasons, but most of all, a distinguished Christian and ELCIN’s celebrated loyal servant. Tomorrow, her mortal remains will be laid to rest, marking the end of official mourning of her sudden departure from this earth. Throngs of people from all walks of life have taken time to pause and remember the life and times of her great contribution to humanity. Many came to know her as the ‘Honourable Nghidinwa’ after she was appointed to serve in the government through her ministerial portfolios. I will leave that part to those of that fraternity who are fit to eulogise her in that sphere. Here I will join those who particularly wish to pay homage to Meme Nghidinwa as a nurse, matron, a church elder in her congregation, a member of ELCIN council and a community leader, who through ELCIN, served the people of Kavango West for many years reporting to the headquarters in Oniipa. During the pre-independence era, ELCIN and the Anglican and Catholic churches had gone beyond their mandates in preaching the message of independence and freedom of their people from the yoke of colonialism. ELOK, at that time under the watch of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM), established crèches, schools and medical centres to provide much-needed services to our people. These churches needed trusted and tested people to run and administer the different centres for them. Meme Nghidinwa, as she was affectionately known at Oniipa, was appointed as matron of the Lutheran Medical Mission in Kavango and was responsible for many clinics, such as Nkurenkuru, Mpungu, Mupini, and Rupara. At that time the late Matron Fiina Ndamono Shanghala headed the former Owambo section, and Matron Aletta Ngaikukwete headed the Onandjokwe Lutheran Medical Mission. Together these three have carried Florence Nightingale’s lamp, in trials and tribulations, pledging themselves before God and in the presence of his assembly, to pass their lives in purity and to practise their profession faithfully. Meme Nghidinwa was ELCIN’s voice in Kavango and a bridge that connected former Owambo and Kavango, as well as linking these areas to the rest of the country. Her ability was also to converse in numerous languages, especially Afrikaans (which she spoke ‘soos die Boer van die Kaap’). It is through the ELCIN’s newspaper “Omukwetu”, mouthpiece of ELCIN, widely renowned during the toughest times before our independence, that I came to know Meme Rosalia Nghidinwa. My late mother would always address her by her maiden surname and would say, “We hold meme Rosalia Shekupakela in the highest esteem as our capable nurse trained in Onandjokwe; I know her very well.” Finnish missionaries who worked with the late Meme Nghidinwa, such as Maila Mustonen, now retired Finnish missionary living in Finland, met Meme Nghidinwa in 1962 and they worked together in Mpungu and Nkurenkuru and she is the godmother of Meme Nghidinua’s son Maxwell Nghidinwa. This is how she remembers Meme Nghidinwa: “Meme Rosalia was such a joy to work with as she had an innate people’s management skills. She understood cultural diversities and was good in sociology. She could analyse critical things for the comfort, benefit and convenience of all and sundry. She was very skilful in performing her nursing duties with utmost care and diligence. She developed and uplifted the health standard in the Kavango West with love, as she was meticulous and visionary. For me and many of the Finnish missionaries at the time, we knew she was destined to go far in life. Her appointments to government portfolios after independence was not a surprise to many of us, as we knew well in our hearts Meme Rosalia was prepared for these. I thank my God for having given me such an exemplary colleague and friend. Therefore, I am honouring her memory.” Pirkko Lattunen who worked with her at the Onandjokwe Lutheran Medical Mission and currently in retirement in Finland says: “Rosalia was a born leader. I remember when I worked with her at Onandjokwe, she could relate to all people at all levels. One thing that she was also good at was managing finances of the hospital. We trusted her with accounting duties and she utilised money cautiously. She was trustworthy and as Finnish missionary we trusted her and respected her. She was so humble that she never played a blame game when anything went wrong. Rosalia, my dear colleague, was always prepared to look for solutions. There was no odd moment with her, as her inter-cultural communication was also one of the best traits she had. I feel very honoured to have met and worked with her.” Seija Hyvarinen was short and concise in her fond remembrance. “Rosalia embraced us all, and even us foreigners she made sure we felt at home. She never forgot where she came from, thus when we visited Namibia after independence, she invited us to her home for reception, although she had a busy schedule. Thank you meme Rosalia for allowing God to use you, rest in peace.” My uncle, retired Bishop Josafat Shanghala, served with Meme Nghidinua on the ELCIN council. He says: “Meme Nghidinwa attended the girls’ school (okagumbo) together with others such as Olivera Neromba as well as Hertha Kalenga. She was trained as a nurse at both Onandjokwe and Oshakati with Ms Johanna Kasheya-Haindongo. Meme Nghidinwa was part of our household as she frequently visited our homes at Okahao, Ongwediva and Outapi. She had time to attend all important church events. In our meetings, Meme Nghidinwa was one of those that read all submissions and understood the acts. She was a thinker and a good listener. She was a gift to ELCIN. She connected the former Owambo to Kavango and made them one big family. The history of our church and of the liberation struggle will never be complete without her name. She was a gift to ELCIN and she served our people and church faithfully, therefore we are indebted to her.” Retired Bishop Dr Kleopas Dumeni had a lot to say about the late Meme Nghidinwa: “Rosalia was one of our girls in our home at Tsandi, when she attended the girls’ school. Rosalia is a geboorde onderwyseres (born teacher/leader). She had an incredible sense of innate strength and perseverance which I can call ‘suomen sisu’. Sisu is a Finnish concept which means stoic, resilience or bravery. Indeed she was fearless and determined – suomen sisu. ELOK/ELCIN entrusted her with a huge responsibility to run our medical mission centres in the Kavango West. She was the first black person to occupy such a position, as the church council at the time had so much trust in her that she would carry her responsibility faithfully and with a sense of duty and devotion, which she did. I can testify that these women were indeed gifts to our church and its leadership.”
2018-01-26 10:19:09 7 months ago
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