President Hage Geingob yesterday paid tribute to Namibia’s special envoy to the Nama-Ovaherero genocide reparations negotiations, Zed Ngavirue, describing him as a highly distinguished son of the country.
Ngavirue, a career diplomat, died yesterday in a Windhoek hospital at the age of 88.
He left Namibia in 1960, serving as a lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea between 1972 and 1978 before returning to his native country in 1981. He worked in various managerial positions at the Rössing uranium mine from 1983-1989.
He was previously the director general of the National Planning Commission (NPC), and later on Namibia’s ambassador to the European Union (EU) and Belgium. He was the first black Namibian social worker to graduate from a South African institution in the 1950s, where he was in the same class as the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who would become the wife of South Africa’s
first democratically elected black president, Nelson Mandela, and a struggle icon in her own right. In 2014, Geingob appointed Ngavirue as Namibia’s special envoy for the negotiations with Germany concerning the 1904-08 genocide and Namibia’s call for an apology and reparations from Germany. He pursued these negotiations from 2015 to 2021, and presented the draft agreement with Germany last month which is currently under discussion.
“Today, we mourn the loss of a highly distinguished son of our country. Prior to his passing, ambassador Ngavirue carried out as special envoy on genocide one of the most difficult assignments of the past 31 years,” said Geingob.
“He performed this mission with utmost diligence, and our country owes him a debt of gratitude for his years of outstanding service in different capacities.”
Ngavirue’s German counterpart Rupert Polenz described him as an outstanding personality, the likes of which one does not often meet in one’s lifetime. “As a representative of the Ovaherero, to which he himself belonged, and of the Nama, he worked with great passion for the recognition of the immeasurable suffering inflicted on his ancestors by the crimes of German colonial rule, the wounds of which are still visible today,” Polenz said.
He said the title of the joint declaration that they both initialed after almost six years of negotiations on 15 May, a few weeks before Ngavirue’s death, bears his signature.
“United in remembrance of our colonial past, united in our will to reconcile, united in our vision for the future.” I feel committed to this legacy of Zed,” Polenz added.
Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi described him as a highly respected leader, a dignified statesman and diplomat of immense capacity, skills and wisdom.
“He stood tall in all the assignments given to him to perform on behalf of our country. Dr Ngavirue has been a mentor and an inspiration to me,” he added.
Social commentator Uazuva Kaumbi said Ngavirue was his mentor, who always spoke kind words about him every time they met, and he was an avid reader of his column ‘Ondjirio’.
“We differed fundamentally with regards to the genocide negotiations, with him being the Namibian government’s special envoy. However, that has not changed my admiration of him, and it never diminished his worth from where I stand,” he observed.
“Okutja opuuo kaende naua Dr Zed. You have done the best you could according to your convictions.”
Ngavirue is survived by his second wife Marah, his daughter Notemba Tjipueja, and her siblings Veripi Katjiuanjo, Uapakuouje Pazvakavambwa, Mbatjiua Ngavirue and Kauronga Ngavirue, his grandchildren, and the wider family.