Although I have known him from a distance as a young boy growing up in a pre-independence Namibia, I first personally met Advocate Vekuii Rukoro in my forming days when I was a student at the University of Namibia. He delivered a lecture on youth activism in our newly formed democracy when he was Namibia’s attorney general. One could not ignore his statesmanship, presence and his ability to capture an audience. Little did I know that I would be working under his guidance in my professional career years later.
Adv. Rukoro was a pioneer in many respects with regard to charting the path of Sanlam and current presence as a dominant player in Namibia’s economy, but my story is more of a personal one.
When Sanlam Investment Management Namibia opened their offices in 1999 Adv. Rukoro then held the role of CEO of Sanlam Namibia as well as the newly formed asset management business which now forms a key component to Sanlam Namibia’s core offering.
He was passionate about the “Namibianisation” and localisation drive of all operations with the focus of lessening dependence on South Africa and empowering the local operations with skills and building talent. He supported my post graduate studies at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Graduate Business School, which gave me the much-needed tools for my current job and also nominated me for the Sanlam Fastracker Programme in 2002. This programme identified “future leaders” within the entire Sanlam Group, of which through a rigorous process selected 14 candidates over a two-year programme, where only seven managed to complete; proudly, I was one of the seven graduates.
With Sanlam’s longstanding strong relationship with the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF), Adv. Rukoro was instrumental in getting Sanlam Investments’ first large mandates with the GIPF in 2001, which we still manage and build on today. He also ensured that Sanlam Investments’ empowerment credentials are entrenched with our current partners in Tutunge Investment Holdings who still hold a stake in our investment business.
Outside of work, Adv. Rukoro tasked me to do his speech writing and taking minutes at his numerous farming association meetings across the country – something he was very passionate about as well. Amongst others, my knowledge of cattle farming, I must attribute to him. More so, his insistence in always speaking to me in Otjiherero, which although at times I found challenging, I now appreciate my relative command of the language and culture.
Although a complex man to read and understand at times, his vision for inclusivity for a prosperous Namibia cannot be questioned. I recall our last recent encounter when he popped by our office for some tea. What was supposed to be a surprise pop-in visit ended up being a two-hour discussion about pretty much everything, starting of course with Namibia and then digressing into global matters.
A true son of the soil has been returned to his ancestors. Suva mohange Mbara Otjitambi.
*Tega Shiimi ya Shiimi is the Chief Executive at Sanlam Investments Namibia