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Home / Opinion - A true patriot has died: A tribute to Ignatius Shixwameni

Opinion - A true patriot has died: A tribute to Ignatius Shixwameni

2021-11-19  Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna

Opinion - A true patriot has died: A tribute to Ignatius Shixwameni

Last week Wednesday at around 09H30, I received the sad news about the passing on of Honourable Ignatius Shixwameni. 

I wish I could mourn him in one of the Kavango dialects but, unfortunately, I do not speak any of those. 

I believe he would not mind if I borrow some lyrics from an Otjiherero female traditional song that is sung in reference to the battle of Ohamakari. 

In that song, our female traditional singers sing, in one of the most poetic of verses: “Ohamakari ritjetje kuao.” 

A loose translation of that in English would mean: “On the day of Ohamakari, the sun rose and set as usual”. 

That would imply that the sun rose and set as if nothing of significance had taken place. Last week Wednesday, the sun rose and set as usual, as if nothing of significance had happened.

Shixwameni was a founding member of the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) in 1984, and he served as its founding secretary general and later as president. 

This fearless young activist was at the forefront of the national students’ class boycotts organised by Nanso in the late 1980s. 

To be an activist in Namibia before independence was not a walk in the park. 

The then South African Security Forces were notorious for their brutality, and to be an activist in those difficult years meant that you were putting your life on the line because you were exposing yourself either to arrest and possible torture or even

And according to his former comrade, Uhuru Dempers, Shixwameni, together with others, was arrested after the student uprisings of 1988. 

Just like the Soweto student uprisings of 1976 produced a Tsietsie Mashinini, our student uprisings of the 1980s produced an Ignatius Shixwameni. 

He became the leader of the Swapo Youth League shortly after independence in 1990 and was later elected to Parliament on a Swapo ticket (1995-1999). He served as a deputy minister of information and broadcasting (1997-1999) at a very young age. 

He later resigned from Swapo in 1999 to create the Congress of the Democrats (CoD) under the leadership of Ben Ulenga. 

Subsequent to that, he left CoD to form the All People’s Party (APP) as its founding president in 2008. 

As the leader of APP in Parliament, he was always calm and collected, but yet very articulate and he would always put his argument across in carefully measured tones.

 Whenever he rose to take the floor on an issue, you could tell that he had done thorough research on the issue at hand. 

More often than not, his intervention in the August House was a mature voice of reason, amidst heated debates.

In the early 1990s, he read Philosophy in Cuba and was thus well versed in the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism as a tool of social analysis. 

Yes, Cuba, the country of El Commandant Fidel, and where one of The Time magazine’s “icons of the last century”, the legendary Che Guevara, had also fought. 

Cuba, the country whose gallant soldiers helped to turn the tide of history in Southern Africa during the historic battle of Quito Quanavale in 1987, leading to the independence of Namibia in 1990 and the dismantlement of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994.  

I believe, in selecting to study in Cuba, the then young Shixwameni in a way wanted to emulate Fidel and Che.  

The great “crocodile” has, despite all the odds, reached the banks of the gigantic Kavango River, figuratively speaking.  

The hippos and the crocodiles in that expansive river “bow down” in reverence, as they welcome one of the greatest sons to have hailed from that part of our country. 

The birds in the Nongongo trees are singing the late Jackson Kaujeua’s song: “Ovarumendu mboo tate, oo Maharero, oo Witbooi, oo Mandume, verikondjera na Namibia.” 

Translated into English, the song means: “Our fathers fought for Namibia…” 

Only this time, the birds would add: …Oo Shixwameni…” 

Even nature seems to be “at a loss for words” as it joins in the mourning of this great son of the soil.  

A true patriot par excellence, who knew no ethnicity, a progressive intellectual of note, who was a scholar to his fingertips, has died. 

The two of us always showed mutual respect and strike a chord because of our leftist leanings. 

Death has robbed us of one of the most refined progressive intellectuals of our time and one of the finest patriots this country has ever produced. 

Amilcar Cabral, the revolutionary leader of Guinea-Bissau, once remarked: “I am just a simple Afrikan trying to do my duty for my country in the context of our times”. 

And the author of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe’s biography, Benjamin Pogrund, has titled that biography as follows: “Robert Sobukwe – How Can Man Die Better”. 

Perhaps these two lines, about two great Pan Afrikanists, summarise the life and times of Shixwameni. 

How can man die better? 

Pwizumukapo nombili Nkotongo.

2021-11-19  Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna

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