Simon J. Uirab
Like the titans of his time, Reverend Willem Konjore belongs to a generation of Namibians who grew up on the other side of the main road that divided our communities along racial, ethnical and tribal lines. He too played an important role towards the independence of our country and the freedom of our people. Life granted me an opportunity to meet, know and work with Reverend Konjore in my career path. I now bow and pay homage to the man I called ‘Minister’ – even in his retirement.
When President Hifikepunye Lukas Pohamba became our Second elected Head of State on the 21st March 2005, he appointed Reverend Willem Konjore as the minister of Environment and Tourism. Reverend Konjore, approached and informed me that he wants me to join him at the ministry as his personal assistant. I paused for a moment, rekindle my memories to establish whether I had any previous connections with Reverend Konjore that he, from nowhere, will just choose me as his personal assistant. Later, as we move on, I heard him saying, “we, as leaders, are watching you, young people, from the sky – and when opportunities come, we grip the ones we know possess skills, qualities and accords”.
I became his personal assistant – and immediately, we jumped on the wagon and travelled the length and breadth of Namibia, visited tourism establishments, launched newly gazetted conservancies, attending to issues relating to wildlife, biodiversity and also attended the funerals of staff members who contributed immensely to our entrusted work. We would normally drive in one car: me, him and the driver. Besides all protocols, he chose not to have a bodyguard, as he considered Namibia his home and a safe one at that time.
During our endless journeys, he would religiously listen to Damara/Nama gospel and sing as loud as he could with his tremo from his back seat until we reached our intended destination. We also travelled the globe to attend to international issues, again within the ambit of his portfolio. In all our encounters, two occasions stand out in which I will forever appreciate the leadership qualities of Reverend Konjore.
In the early days of our engagements in the new portfolio, we went to Bloemhof (small village, few kilometres outside Khorixas) to attend the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Doro !Nawas Conservancy.
We were informed by the officials at the ministry that this meeting had been called off several times due to infightings amongst the committee members, the community and the traditional leadership.
The meeting started around 08:00 and went into the early night. The tempos were so high at the meeting; heated debates occurred, which almost led to physical confrontation. At that point, Reverend Konjore put on his pastoral hat, combined it with political maturity and experience to talk sense into the community, calm them down and pave the way forward.
His favourite expression was “straight talk never breaks friendship”.
Although the meeting did not provide the desired solution, we needed that day; he was able to pave the way for the community to reconvene in a months’ time to find common ground and bring peace amongst the conservancy leadership, the membership and the traditional leaders.
He would always count on the wisdom and guidance of Reverend Maria Kapere, who was the then deputy permanent secretary in the ministry and possessed detailed knowledge about the portfolio.
At the second occasion, we went to The Hague, Netherlands, for the Elephant dialogue. The debate on how Europe and Western nations prescribed to Africans how they must manage their elephant population became so volatile. The dialogue lasted into the morning hours with no solution at the hand before the adjournment of the conference.
Once again, Reverend Konjore’s wisdom prevailed. The meeting was paused and African delegates convened their own caucus to first and foremost find unity and common ground amongst ourselves and to speak in one voice.
Again, his intervention at that critical juncture paved a way for united Africa Group with one voice. That was Reverend Willem Konjore; he would always strive for a peaceful win-win situation.
He was full of humour too; one day, we were travelling to Rosh Pinah for an official engagement – as usual, in one vehicle. At around 22:00, we were still on road and his driver, Misab, was somewhat tired and was dozing off behind the wheel. Reverend Konjore instructed him to stop the car and told me and the driver to retire to the back seat and he drove us until Rosh Pinah during the evening hours. I was also invited to one of his daughter’s (Lollypop) wedding at Vaalgras. Everyone at the village was informed I am the PA to the minister and I had to be treated as such. Later on, I could hear the villagers asking secretly what is a “PA”.
What I have learned from Reverend Konjore is his no-nonsense attitude towards ill-discipline, lazy, dishonest and irresponsible individuals. If you embodied the principles of respect, hard work, honesty and truthfulness, you will walk a long road with Rev. Konjore.
As we bid farewell to this great man of the South but accommodated the whole world, let us take hands and build on his good deeds. To me, I will forever cherish the good moments and memories we shared.
May the Soul of our beloved Reverend Willem Konjore rest peacefully unto the bosom of His Creator!!!