Fearless, unflinching, courageous, committed, forthright and empathetic are some of but a few words I could find to describe one of Namibia’s most decorated and gallant journalists Chrispin Inambao, who passed away yesterday at age 50 following a lengthy illness. The late Inambao was until his passing the editor of New Era newspaper.
As I pen this column, my heart is aching and both hands shivering as I and all my colleagues are still struggling to come to terms with the passing of one of the pillars of strength in the New Era newsroom and a man who stood upright for truth and press freedom.
In 2012, as an inexperienced greenhorn coming fresh from the lecture hall and straight into the revered New Era newsroom, which at the time was being manned by some of the finest journalists such as Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, Carlos Kambaekua, Toivo Ndjebela, the late Desie Heita, Catherine Sasman, Irene !Hoaes and many others under the editorship of the legendary Rajah Munamava, it was Chrispin – who as news editor at the time – warmly welcomed me and took immediate interest in my work.
Chrispin would from time to time assign me to cover various handover events and would also assign me to write weather reports and general news stories as they flowed in. He also insisted that I always go out with retired veteran photographer Fifi Rhodes to cover weekend and at times evening events so that I would have an opportunity to learn and gain exposure firsthand from Fifi, who was our chief photographer at the time.
After months of vigorous training and detailed mentorship, Chrispin in consultation with then editor Munamava directed that I be redeployed to the sport desk to assist the legendary Carlos Kambaekua, who had been manning the sport desk alone for some time.
With little knowledge of sport reporting, my arrival at the sport desk was not easy as I was now dealing with Kambaekua – a disciplinarian and perfectionist of note. With Kambaekua, there was no room for errors, no room for substandard writing, no room for coming late to work and he always demanded that I oversee every flow of the sport pages until the very last minute when they left the New Era premises for printing. That’s how much of a perfectionist Kambaekua is.
But as they say, the rest is history and my growth here at New Era is a story for another day. Today, I want to pay tribute to one of my mentors Chrispin, a man whose selflessness, clarity of purpose and undying fortitude helped pave the way for many of us here at New Era.
Chrispin leaves behind a rich legacy of journalism that impacted people across all parts of Namibia. He was a colleague, a dear friend, a father figure and laid the foundation for many and Namibian journalism is poorer without the crafty writing of “Ba Chris” or “Uncle Chris” as we called him in the newsroom.
Chrispin was always pushing us to be better and to always pay attention to the smallest of details when reporting. Here at New Era, Chrispin taught us to always be empathetic but strident when speaking truth to power. He would insist that a reporter must always cut through as many layers as it took to get to the truth.
“Uncle Chris” was a journalist in every sense of the word. There was no substitute, in journalism or in life, for being there. And Chrispin was always there. Whether it was on the banks of the crocodile-infested waters of the Zambezi River, or in the dusty streets of Okakarara, Oshakati, Keetmanshoop or even in the glittering conference halls of Windhoek hotels, Chrispin was always there and everywhere to tell the story and would never shy away from reporting the brutal facts on the ground.
You see, for Chrispin it was all about bringing the people’s stories as close to the ground as possible because he was determined to tell the people’s stories from the point of view of those living them. The Chrispin I know did not “cover” stories; he took ownership of them. He inspired.
In a world that is so messy and often too violent, Chrispin simplified. He reminded us that no matter what we are writing about, our first responsibility is to the people at the heart of the story. The Chrispin I know was a storyteller who stood for nuance, knowledge and grace.
With all the valuable teachings learnt from the life and times of the late “Uncle Chris”, I say his legacy and unmatched writing is well alive in the New Era newsroom and his undying spirit is equally well in our midst. Chrispin Inambao is definitely not dead, he is among us and will continue to be for countless decades to come!