Paulus Homateni Nakawa
In the early morning hours of 15 November 2020, the sun of her life crept down towards its setting. Our dearly beloved Meekulu Tresia Venondubo Ndinelao Mukwanaifeta Namundjebo returned to the infinite majesty of heaven, to God who loves her so much; a God with an endless abundance of wisdom and grace, who has called our gentle mother, sister and grandmother back to answer to a higher calling. To many in the family, her departure from this world was received with shock, as she had spent the previous day and evening surrounded by the family without complaining of anything. Peacefully she slipped into our ancestry and now we are left with her photo in its frame and many beautiful memories to treasure for many years to come. She lived a full life.
Meekulu Tresia, affectionately known as Mukwanaifeta, was the first-born of nine children (seven of whom are still alive), born to Delefina Nghishiikokomesho Nghuulondo and Shalihaxwe Elia Kapani on 12 December 1937 at the Okahenge village in the Ohangwena region. Her parents were peasant farmers. As the firstborn, at a very young age, she was taught and mastered the skills of caring for the family, looking after the domestic animals, collecting water from the wells, preparing meals for the family and being her mother’s right-hand helper at all times. She cared for her family with distinction. Her upbringing was richly grounded in African culture and values, both of which prepared her for her future role as wife to the revered pioneer business personality and philanthropist, Eliakim Namundjebo. That firm grounding in African culture that she was trained in did not, however, stop her from embracing Christianity. After a brief course of baptism classes conducted by Rev Gabriel Namweya at the Onghala Anglican parish, she was baptised Tresia Ndinelao at the age of 18.
She attended the Onghala Primary School where she learned how to read and write and did some subjects. Although she was academically capable, she, unfortunately, did not continue with schooling because, during those years, schools were few and far between. Many parents put great emphasis on crop production and farming and were opposed to sending children to school. She obeyed her parents’ wishes and stayed at home tending to household chores. Around 1957, she met a very good-looking man who was born not far from her village. He is Eliakim Nghiinomenwa son of David Namundjebo. A few years later, they were united in marriage and 9 children were born in this union, namely, Martha, George, Monika, Fangboy (deceased), Mboshono, Patemoshela, Teopolina, Evelina and Itashipu.
They first built their homestead at Onghala, but due to war and political unrest in that area of the country, they moved to Omafo and later to Olunghono village near Oshikango and the Angolan border. Together they built many shops around Ohangwena and Ongwediva. They brought notable development to the “Oukwanyama” of that time. Their mahangu field attracted crop-producing farmers from near and far, as it used to produce so many products and the harvest was always bountiful. Many farming enthusiasts visited to learn from Meekulu Mukwanaifeta’s rare crop production skills. It was then called, “epya linene mOwambo”, the biggest cultivated area in Ovamboland at that time. Both Meekulu Mukwanaifeta and Tatekulu Namundjebo were generous and selfless. They took in numerous people at their homestead and because of their good deeds, Meekulu Mukwanaifeta won the admiration and affection of so many people in the area and region. They referred to her as “Omunyekadi waUkwanyama”, the Queen of the Kwanyama region, because of her good heart, larger than life.
As devoted Christians, the Namundjebos contributed immeasurably to building churches in Ohangwena, such as the Onghala Anglican Parish, Odibo, Onamutayi and Oshakati, as well as at Ohaihanda in the Oshikoto region. Together with her doting husband, they supported and worked closely with the late Bishop James Kauluma, as well as other religious leaders. They supported the construction of different parishes as they wanted people to listen to the good gospel and receive counsel in contrast to many atrocities perpetrated on them by the South African regime during pre-independent Namibia. Whilst working as a farmer, she also served as the general manager at their shop at Omafo, that used to be called “Ofeema”.
Meekulu Mukwanaifeta and her husband Tatekulu Namundjebo represented a generation of Namibian men and women who, due to their political activities, were subjected to the brutalities and suffering of apartheid. They operated underground by providing material support to members of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) at the different military and battle fields in Angola. Many of the soldiers found shelter at their Olunghono homestead. Mukwanaifeta cooked and fed the soldiers and those who had been shot and maimed in battles. They often arranged for medical treatment and encouraged them to stay at their homestead until they recovered. Once they recuperated the Namundjebos would help to arrange transport for them to be escorted back north of the Namibian-Angolan border. Behind their renowned revolutionary commitment, they made enormous sacrifices, many of which have hitherto remained untold. With her husband’s normal life often interrupted by long spells of incarceration, alternating with arduous and risky missions of the struggle, the burden of raising the family was solely Mukwanaifeta’s.
While she was expecting their last-born, her husband was experiencing a long period of imprisonment. When the baby boy was born, Tatekulu Namundjebo named him “Itashipu shaNamibia”, which is loosely translated as “Namibia’s apartheid anguishes are unceasing, or never-ending”.
Mukwanaifeta fended for the family, ensuring that all the children secured a decent upbringing and education, under all the circumstances. Her strength, tenacity, perseverance and resourcefulness as a mother released her husband from family chores, giving him precious time to focus on the business. Together they built a business empire and contributed greatly to the liberation struggle of Namibia. Their first-born daughter, Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun is her late parents’ proxy, and together with her siblings, will ensure that their parents’ legacies live on. Sadly, in 1991, just a year after Namibia’s independence dawned, Tatekulu Namundjebo passed away in a tragic motor accident. Mukwanaifeta was devastated by the untimely death of her husband, as she was indeed a supportive lieutenant and confidante to him, and they were looking forward to continuing to contribute to building and reforming a sovereign Namibia. She bore her grief with grace, exerting her leadership of the family and business with dignity without her husband to support her.
I pay tribute to Mukwanaifeta, my proxy-mother for the love and guidance she gave us all. In the same vein, I pay honour to a life dedicated to freedom and livelihood, to the provision of nutrition to communities and unparalleled service to her country and people. She was a friend and a mother figure to the lowly and the downtrodden and showed great concern to the poor. I remember and pay homage to a woman of stature and indomitable courage who preferred to contribute quietly, mostly behind the scenes. Although she was married to a prominent businessman, she kept her cool and her humility; her lifestyle was not glamorous. She prayed fervently and loved deeply. She lived a life of supreme compassion, courage and generosity of spirit in some of the most difficult circumstances. As family members and some of us who were privileged to be close to her and taught by her, she made us well rounded and better human beings. She taught her children and grandchildren a lot about love and the meaning of family. She was very reserved and a woman of few words, a sharp thinker and a good listener. When you looked for counsel from her, with every reply she would say, “shiwashiwa kaume”, it is well and good.
His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba honoured and conferred on her the Most Distinguished Order - Fourth Class” category on Heroes Day, 26 August 2014. Her place in history and in all our hearts is assured and her memory will live on forever. We will miss her, but her spirit and strength remain in each of us and in the lives that she touched; she lives in all those who have been touched by the love, strength, conviction, wisdom and beauty of her soul. It is that humility and steadfast commitment to the cause of the Namibian people, that make her departure a sad loss to all. We will forever be grateful and thankful that she has been part of our lives. She was honoured by the Government of the Republic of Namibia with an official funeral at the Omafo cemetery in the Ohangwena region, on Sunday 22 November 2020. The epitaph on her tombstone reads as follows, “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” Isaiah 57:2. Until we meet again!