A few days ago, we buried and bade farewell to a man of exceptional qualities. Zedekia Ngavirue was an academic of note, a polished politician, a renowned diplomat, and a person who in all aspects of life, embodied rare, cardinal and noble virtues.
Although by nature he was a quiet and enviously polite person, he has left an indelible mark on everyone as a very resolute, articulate and a result oriented individual, as attested to by the myriad of tasks he diligently discharged during his lifetime and illustrious professional career.
Ngavirue, fondly known as Dr Zed by many of his friends and peers, had a humble upbringing in Okakarara, Otjozondjupa region, where he was born and raised. He was born on 4 March 1933 into the Kambazembi Royal House. It is this Kambazembi Royal House which closely linked Ngavirue and the late Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero Kuaima Riruako on their maternal lineage.
Ngavirue’s maternal great grandfather was Kaetjimuvazere, the son of the late Chief Kambazembi. Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero Kuaima Riruako’s maternal great grandmother was Tjiserandu (wa Nganga), the late Chief Kambazembi’s first cousin. As if that was not enough, on the paternal side, Ngavirue and Paramount Chief Riruako’s fathers were brothers from the “Ovakuendjandje Uondorera” Clan.
Both Ngavirue and the Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako come from the Tjikuirire family of “Ruzinga rwa Kaevarua” (uo tjiruru tjetu ouatjitana tjaembuti). This is also the family that included the late Chief Stephanus Tjikuirire of Vaalgras and the late honourable Reverend Konjore.
Simply put, Ngavirue and Paramount Chief Riruako, based on their birth, were cousins from their mothers’ side and brothers on their fathers’ side. It is these family bonds which kept them in an inseparable friendship until death. Ngavirue though truly of royal blood, never bragged about it, all due to his humble and selfless nature.
Ngavirue’s life journey is epitomised by determination, dedication and commitment. His long time friend Charles Kauraisa summed it up well when delivering the eulogy at the memorial service at the Parliament Gardens. Kauraisa met the late Ngavirue in the late 1950s while Ngavirue was en route to South Africa to pursue his studies. Since then, they forged a friendship that would last a lifetime.
Ngavirue attended Waterberg Primary School, Stofberg Gending School in South Africa and Augustineum Teachers Training College in Windhoek. He obtained a Diploma in Social Work in 1958 from Hofmeyers School of Social Work in Johannesburg, where he met the likes of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and others. Thereafter, he completed a B Phil degree at Uppsala University in Sweden.
That was followed by one of his notable academic achievements, at one of the prestigious universities, when he completed his PhD in History at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Ngavirue’s illustrious career included careers as a teacher, a social worker, journalist/publisher, an academic, a diplomat and a farmer. He launched his professional career in the early 70s when he joined the University of Papua New Guinea, where he taught from 1972-1978.
He returned to Namibia in 1981 and was appointed Chairperson of the Rossing Uranium from 1983-1989. When Namibia attained her independence in 1990, Ngavirue became the founding director general of the National Planning Commission.
Amongst some of the most notable accolades to his professional career was his appointment as Namibia’s Ambassador to the European Union and Brussels from 1995-2003.
His final assignment was when His Excellency Hage Geingob identified and appointed him to serve as the Special Envoy to bring an amicable and lasting solution to the 1904-1908 Herero-Nama genocide and reparation issues.
It took rare and special skills to match the inherent intricacies of the possible multi-dimensional approaches required to negotiate at that level and the knowledge, skills and integrity of the special envoy (lead negotiator) for the Herero-Nama genocide reparation negotiations with the Germans.
President Geingob, who entrusted Ngavirue with what appeared to be a daunting task at the beginning, has had a long, solid and lasting view of him over many decades of dedicated service. In Ngavirue, the President saw a seasoned and accomplished diplomat, a knowledgeable academic and historian of note, an unsung Royal Prince, and an impeccable gentleman who had lived and remained genuine and committed to nation building.
His Excellency Hage Geingob’s pick, for special envoy, Ngavirue, turned out to be Namibia’s David, who effectively humbled Goliath.
Ngavirue succeeded in bringing the Germans to own up to their heinous atrocious deeds and recognised them as acts of genocide, he managed to get the Germans to offer to come to Namibia and give a formal apology and finally, he opened the door for genuine reparations’ debate. The pressure on the German government by the Namibian government through Ngavirue’s efforts, and the earlier efforts of some of the leaders of the affected communities, most notably by Paramount Chief Riruako, did put in motion the Herero / Nama genocide talks with the German government.
While Ngavirue left the last point for further scrutiny, refinement and engagements, - he has led the Germans to a point where they are prepared to admit their guilt, which they have been denying for over a hundred years.
With that, what Ngavirue achieved at this critical stage of our country’s history, and in particular, in the Herero-Nama 1904-1908 genocide and reparation negotiations, is historic, unparalleled and best to none. Go well my cousin, you have superbly delivered on your last national assignment.
May your soul rest in eternal peace.