Last Friday, the Ministry of Finance bade farewell to one of the country’s strongest and most influential administrators since independence, Ms Ericah Shafudah, Executive Director in the Ministry of Finance. Many of us were left tongue-tied upon hearing the sudden announcement of her resignation in a management meeting in June. A surprising move, no one had seen coming.
Ms Shafudah’s early retirement immediately made headlines in two main local newspapers the next morning, giving impetus to how powerful an administrator she is. Powerful in terms of knowledge, wisdom, patriotism and dedication to duty. She is arguably one of the best government leaders that Namibia ever had, and ought to be celebrated by all.
Born at Eendadi daShafudah village in Ohangwena region to Meme Rosalia Vanyenga yaShilola and Tate Shafudah shaHeishi yaNghililewanga, Ericah Paendelenga yaShafudah comes from a big yet humble family. She is one of 56 children born of her father, a grandson of a prominent traditional leader in the history of Oukwanyama, Tatekulu Nghililewanga yaShinangolo.
Her mother died while she was a young girl and as a result, moved to live with her aunt at Onamunama village. She grew up in a Christian family, going to church any other Sunday, and as busy as she is, Ms Shafudah is still one of the active members of the St. Michael Anglican Church in Windhoek, and often times having to jungle between church and government activities.
Like many youths of her age those days, in 1978 she crossed the Namibian border into Angola to join thousands of Namibians who escaped from the country to fight for independence. She is one of the survivors of the Cassinga massacre, which took place on 4 May 1978. She formed part of the Swapo youth that were sent to Cuba for studies shortly after the Cassinga massacre for a period of 12 years where she obtained among her many accolades a Master’s Degree in Education.
Upon her return from exile in 1990, Ericah as a young girl took up a Mathematics teaching post at Haimbili Haufiku Senior Secondary School in Ohangwena region and where she moved to Paresis Secondary School at Otjiwarongo. In 1995, she left the teaching profession to join the National Planning Commission as an economist.
Ms Shafudah not only believes in hard work but in continuous learning as well. Today she boasts several high level qualifications that include a Master’s Degree in Biostatistics and a Master’s Degree in Leadership and Change Management.
She joined government at a time when there was a shortage of skills to drive the Public Sector Investment Programme, a five-year strategic plan in the formulation of the national budget, which reflects public investment against national priority areas of development. Namibia relied more on expatriates at that time. Tate Andrew Ndishishi would often sing her praises when we meet, reflect on the journey of our public service saying: “We needed a strong mathematician in the national budget formulation so that our error of projection would be minimal and Ericah was there, she was one of the very few Namibians with such skills.”
Indeed Mee Ericah is an exemplary product of Swapo’s revolution.
She has been part of the national budget formulation for the last 26 years, which is almost her entire career life in the public service. Her experience is so immense and many in the public service would agree that working with her was indeed a privilege.
Although a student of finance, she is also a seasoned economist and played a big role in the economic modelling of Namibia while at the National Planning Commission. Together with her team, their work assisted government not only with resource mobilisation from donor agencies, but also to attract foreign investors to the country.
She joined the Ministry of Finance in 2002 as the under secretary for treasury (now known as deputy executive director), responsible for the State Account Department under which the formulation of the national budget falls. She thereafter advanced to become the deputy permanent secretary and later on permanent secretary (now referred to as executive director) in the same ministry. She led the ministry through a period of significant changes and many reforms in public financial management and public service in general. Mee Shafudah played a strategic supervisory role in a number of policy development and reforms that culminated in the establishment of new state institutions such as NamibRE, NASRIA, CPBN and NamRA.
Nevertheless, Mee Shafudah is an exceptional civil servant and a great team player. She has imparted knowledge at every tier of her professional trajectory. Under her leadership, many staff members in the two legacy departments of Customs and Excise as well as Inland Revenue in the Ministry of Finance were accorded opportunities to further their educations overseas, and some of whom have acquired Master’s Degrees. She is not the type of leader to throw weight onto subordinates, but she has been a good professional mother and always wants everyone around her to develop. Needless to say, she was also not an easy boss to play with, and a number of colleagues can attest to having being at the receiving end of her warning notices while she still maintains a smile on her face. To her, titles and status do not matter, what matters is uncompromised service delivery in the public sector space.
I had a privilege of serving under her wings for the past two years, as chief public relations officer reporting directly to this amazing woman. As short tenure it was, I have learned a great deal of my professional and public finance acumen from her. Her writing skills and approach to issues are impeccable. She carried out her work with passion and love for the nation. From Monday to Friday, Mee Ericah was in office until late and sometimes until the next morning because of the critical role and the workload in the Ministry of Finance. She understood that the ministry is the heart of the nation, and the work had to be done at all costs.
You will never find Mee Ericah complaining of fatigue but would rather make statements like “Natumbwanguleni vakwe” (Let’s work colleagues). Indeed she was an exceptional civil servant of note, she has raised the bar high, probably difficult to reach.
Thank you Mee Shafidah for your service and best wishes in your new career.
*Tonateni Shidhudhu is the former Chief Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Finance and currently Manager of Strategic Communications, Stakeholders Engagement and Taxpayers Education at the Namibia Revenue Agency. He writes in his personal capacity.