DEAR readers, please pardon me but my disturbed fingertips are trembling with pain, grief and disgust as I’m trying my level best to gather few ounces of strength and courage, tickling the keyboard ivories in my pursuit to ink a dignified tribute for a departed media colleague, well known socialite Uapingena Ngava, famously known as Uapi in social circles.
There is an old saying that dynamite comes in small packages, and Bro Uapi certainly fits that particular description perfectly. He was a recognisable figure, who openly and proudly paraded himself as one of the authentic trendsetters representing indigenous Namibian media practitioners during the height of racial segregation in apartheid South West Africa (SWA), nowadays Namibia.
Ngava was one of the first black journalists who started his journalism career as a stringer for the South African Press Association (SAPA) in the old days of South West Africa.
At some stage during the political struggle, he lived in exile in Scotland and on his return, he worked for the information section of CDM, today’s equivalent of the public relations and media section of Namdeb.
An unwavering pioneer of Namibia’s marathon fight for the freedom of press and expression in general, the ever-present socialite took a bow from the game of life aged 73 on 28 March 2023 in a Windhoek health establishment. A seasoned old-fashioned journalist, Ngava lived and breathed journalism - day in and day out.
Whilst abroad, he was extensively taken through the ropes in the area of investigative journalism, law, proficiency in the Queen’s lingo (English), and had a damn sharp eye for an immediate attention-inducing story angle while working in many various local media houses upon his return from exile.
His impressive resume in the dog-eat-dog media industry includes rubbing shoulders with some of the finest and most fearless journalists in the business, such as Rajah Munamava, Ted Ndopu, Lindsay Scott, Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, Oiva Angula, Ferdinand Tjombe and many others. The outspoken scribe was among the first intakes at the now defunct and short-lived Times of Namibia newspaper. He also had stints with state-owned media agencies: Namibian Broadcasting Corporation National Radio, New Era newspaper, and the Namibian Press Agency.
Those close to the departed scribe described Ngava as a formidable writer with a sound command of the English language.
“He was not always in the habit of writing too many articles, but whenever he penned something, it turned out to be a hit because Bro Uapi just had the special knack of pressing the right buttons,” said The Namibian deputy editor Isaac Hamata.
“We are indeed deeply saddened by the death of veteran journalist Uapi Ngava,” said New Era CEO Cristof Maletsky.
He said Ngava was one of the pillars on which the foundation of New Era Publication Corporation was built having worked from 08 July 1996 to 31 January 2006.
“He kept in touch and would often visit our offices to touch base on what we do and share some memories as well as story ideas. It was always a pleasure to sit down for a chat with him as he would remind me of the humble beginnings of the corporation.
I can well remember his trademark saying: ‘Look, I started this paper with Hidipo (Hamutenya)’,” said Maletsky.
“On behalf of the board and employees of NEPC, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the bereaved family.”
Editor of the Namibia Sun, Toivo Ndjebela, also former editor at New Era, said he worked with Ngava briefly in 2013 when he joined Namibian Sun as a proofreader.
“He had a way with words and would always barge into my office to suggest alternative use of the English language in the newspaper. If I disagree, he would often remind me of how he was more experienced in the journalism trade than I was, even though I was his editor, and we would laugh hysterically at it. Socially, he was young at heart. I’ll miss him dearly,” Ndjebela shared.
Former New Era editor Kae Matundu- Tjiparuro said he knew the deceased closely in various capacities.
“To me, he was a friend, senior and colleague in different aspects be it socially, politically, and professionally. I came to work closely with him at the New Era newspaper. He was an unrecognised veteran in the industry,” he noted.
Matundu-Tjiparuro added that Ngava remains a trailblazer as far as journalism is concerned. According to him, the industry should consult these people to acquire much-needed information that drives journalism before they depart.
He was also of the view that recognition in Namibia remains a thorn in the flesh, especially in the journalistic environment.
“The space is not different from neo-colonialism. He remains a hero in the industry. It is sad that people are departing without their much-deserved recognition of having contributed to the liberation struggle,” said Matundu-Tjiparuro.
Former editor of The Namibian Gwen Lister said although they did not always see eye to eye, he was an inveterate journalist of the old school, who stood the test of time over the decades and always remained true to the craft.
Having forwarded his condolences to the bereaved family, former Prime Minister Nahas Angula said he remembers the late Ngava as a true friend, who would always make a turn at his office back in the days. He stated that Ngava was a gentleman and a friendly human being, who carried himself well.
Upon his compulsory retirement, the partly visually impaired Ngava was sadly reduced to a lone ranger, living on his own in the comfort of the old age home in Pionierspark, where he was often heard speaking incoherently and wandering slowly with the assistance of a walking stick around the Baines shopping centre nearby, to while away time.
This is certainly not the most appropriate ending of a journey well-travelled for someone who has done so much for his country, devoting his time and youth to liberate his beloved motherland through his writings.
May his soul rest easy.