• June 5th, 2020

The Life and Times of Dr Ngaruka: A Tribute

Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna

As fate would have it, my friend of close to fifty years, Kavazeua Ngaruka, passed on, on 28th March 2019 (that happens to be my wife’s birthday) and was laid to rest on 06th April 2019 (one day short of my birthday, which falls on 07th April).
A very interesting coincidence indeed.  As a born again believer Ngaruka went to be with the Lord; and I am at peace with that.

My sorrow is two-fold, in the first place I lost an intellectual “sparring partner” and mentor. Secondly, my deepest regret is that the Namibian youth did not get to benefit from this intellectual giant when he was in full bloom because he had spent some forty years outside the country; mainly in academic circles.

When he came back in 2014, he was very sickly and did not engage much intellectually, apart for a few projects he did for UNAM and IUM on a part-time basis.  In his academic life at Binghamton University (USA) where he had studied and taught, he had rubbed shoulders with scholars of international renown. 

These were the likes of Ali Mazrui (that outstanding son of the African soil who also had a stint at the same university) and Immanuel Wallerstein. The celebrated Wallerstein is the founder of what in social sciences has come to be known as the World System Theory. 

The central thread of that theory is that the capitalist system can only be analysed as a world system composed of developed countries as the centre, the middle income countries as the semi-periphery and the poor countries as the periphery. 

Wallerstein had taught Ngaruka, supervised him for his PhD and later taught with him at the same university where they also co-authored a few publications. Those who appreciate serious scholarship would agree with me that this is, by any stretch of imagination, no mean achievement at all. 

The friendship between Kavazeua and I started in 1971 at the Augustineum High School – that Mecca of student activism in colonial Namibia that produced the likes of Dr Hage Geingob, Professor Peter Katjavivi, the late Dr Mose Tjitendero, the late Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, the late Hidipo Hamutenya etc. Although he was my senior, both in class and in age, we immediately connected through student activism because the 1970s was the heyday of political activism in both Namibia and South Africa.

 Apart from that, both of us seemed to have a natural bent towards social sciences, literature, poetry and religion. Ngaruka was a versatile scholar and you could not peg him to a specific academic discipline because he could move seamlessly across a broad range of disciplines from sociology, history, philosophy, literature, to poetry; and religion. He always showed strong academic presence in any discussion; but without the slightest hint of arrogance.

He left the country in 1975 under the banner of SWANU while I left for exile in 1978 under SWAPO. However, we never allowed political party affiliation to affect that strong bond of friendship between the two of us. After many years of separation – we spent our exile years in different countries - we re-connected again in 2015; and what a re-union it was!
During the last few days of his life he became a little bit despondent and distant as sickness was taking its toll on him. Yet despite the health challenges he was facing, he was still every inch a polished scholar who continued reading and writing until his dying day.

A few of us have vowed to publish his collection of poems titled “Crossing the Kalahari” posthumously as a tribute to him The poems are a deep reflection of our struggle for independence, the sorrows and joys of life in general and a deep search for this immortal and invisible God to whom he was totally committed.

 You need to read these poems to have a feel of the measure and depth of Ngaruka as a person. On 28th March 2019, one of the finest brains Namibia has ever produced, stopped to think and he crossed the great Kalahari. This time, for good. Ngaruka gave the phrase “being in a class of his own” true meaning, because he was in a class of his own, in the true sense of that word. He was a master of metaphor who had a way with words to give both the written and the spoken word deep meaning.  Rest in eternal peace friend and mentor!

Staff Reporter
2019-05-07 09:14:09 | 1 years ago

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