On 27 June 2020, I had the privilege and honour to attend the burial of my former principal and mentor, one of the illustrious and iconic sons of Namibia, Alfons Mono Dikuua, from the formidable Hambukushu Royal Family. In this tribute, I start my writing with the following expression, wherever he finds himself right now: “I am what I am (today) because of you.”
The story of late Alfons Mono Dikuua is one of great servant leadership, starting as a school teacher, principal, deputy director, and ultimately retiring as a regional director of education in the then Kavango Region. To me, it is a story of great humility and heroism, as was emphasised by various speakers at his memorial service on 26 June 2020. Allow me, therefore, in my brief tribute, to reflect on the life of this illustrious and iconic son of the soil.
After matriculating and, at the same time, completing my Education Certificate Primary (ECP) at Rundu Senior Secondary School in 1985, I started teaching as a young and energetic teacher at Max Makushe Secondary School in 1986. In that very same year, an illustrious and iconic son of the soil, namely Alfons Mono Dikuua, joined us as our first black principal at that school under difficult circumstances, during the reviled apartheid era.
His immediate task on arrival at the school was to inculcate self-reliance among his staff. As an example, he stopped us from enjoying meals at the school’s dining hall, as the food was meant for children. We then started buying our own food, and started to live like responsible adults. It is important to realise that no ‘white’ teacher was enjoying meals from the school kitchen. Subsequently, many of us had realised that it was a total disgrace for us as teachers to share the little food with school children, while the food was not even enough for them. That was Mono for you!
Alfons Mono Dikuua was like a brother to me. Those who know will precisely tell you that. Therefore, even though there were burials of my immediate family members in the Gciriku area during the weekend of his burial, I had no choice but to attend his burial, as he expected me to be there. I have no regret saying this, as most of my family and friends also know that.
One of the teachers at Max Makushe Secondary school was his younger brother, Michael Mbambo Dikuua (Pilah), who became my friend until today. We started teaching together, and were also roommates. Mono cemented our friendship, and used to treat the two of us like we were both his own brothers. Whilst teaching at Max Makushe Secondary School, Pilah and I used to frequently visit their father’s homestead at Mayara, where I would ask his late father to explain some difficult Rugciriku lexicons, as he was partly Mugciriku from his mother’s side. Sometimes when we went with Alfons Dikuua to their homestead at Mayara, his late father had a special chair reserved for him as an expression of pride in his eldest son.
Mono did not stop there. As an educationist, he and his fellow university graduates, some from the Gciriku area, encouraged us to further our education. Many of us regarded Mono and his fellow graduates of that time as our role models. Some of us followed in their footsteps, and exceled up to the highest level. It is notable that Alfons Mono Dikuua encouraged Pilah and I to resign from teaching in 1988 to pursue tertiary studies at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and at the former Academy (now Unam) respectively.
Mono did not stop there. Even though I knew some of his family members, such as Paulinus Munika Thimende, Marianus Muyevu, and many others, as school fellows, Alfons introduced me to the elder members of his family. These were his uncle, Josef Mukoja, and his beloved grandfather, the current Fumu of Hambukushu, Erwin Munika Mbambo, his ‘father’ Ludwig Kakuru Mukusha, to mention just a few. Most of all, Alfons cemented our propinquity to the point that his family members also started to cherish our fraternity. Owing to that most of them used to attend my family’s funerals, most notably, the funerals of my late wife and my father, as well as many others, which I also reciprocated.
Mono did not stop there. He also introduced me to his fellow university graduates from the Mbukushu area, such as the late Raymond Kangura waMudumbi, whom I found at UWC (doing his honours degree) when I started my university studies in 1988, Bonny Muyaya waKangungu, whom I later found out to be a close relative of mine from my father’s side, the late Hon. Raphael Dinyando (whom we used to call our ‘father’), and many others whom, due to limited space cannot be mentioned here. Moreover, his presence also cemented my relationship with some of his closest friends and/or family members, who are, among others, Colonel Fred Rugharo, Ambrosius Disho, Raphael Dikuwa, Raphael Dikuwa Ngendere, Ludwig Mayambi, affectionately known as “Night”, even though some of these comrades and friends were already well known to me.
Like it was alluded to (over and over) by most speakers at his memorial service, I would amplify the wise saying expressed in our Kavango languages that Alfons “kwa kalire muntu wakurenka ashi mwanuke unye mukondi unye”, by stating in English that Alfons was a friend to everyone and an enemy to none. Whilst stating this, I am also not oblivious to the fact (of life) that even if you are good there are some people who will hate you for nothing.
When I started to work at the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED) in 1996, I was also assigned to deal with Thimbukushu activities, before the appointment of the Education Officer for Thimbukushu, Robert Marumbu Munganda, in 1997. Being the Education Officer for Rugciriku (now Rumanyo), I needed his assistance to take Thimbukushu up to the highest level. He, together with the late Reinhold Manyandero Kandjungu, the late Mukuru Stefanus Thikusho, and others, under the leadership of Hon. John Thighuru, excelled in that. It was a daunting task, because there were no books, and the Ministry of Education was adamant to postpone the exercise of upgrading Thimbukushu. After consulting them, through their Chairperson, Hon. John Thighuru, NIED decided to give them only two weeks to produce the Grade 10 books. To our surprise, they managed to write those books from scratch, in two weeks, and Thimbukushu was introduced in Grade 10.
Last but not least, his political activism, and service to the community were elaborated on at his memorial service. I concur with most of the sentiments expressed on that day, as I had witnessed many of them with my own eyes, being closer to him, and do not intend to repeat them here.
What Alfons Mono Dikuua did for me cannot all be enumerated here. Above all, it is not the aim of my tribute. Its purpose is neither to repeat what was said at his memorial service nor glorify him, but to briefly reflect on the life of a selfless leader, brother, colleague, comrade, and icon of the liberation struggle. Most importantly, he taught me a number of life values, which I cherish until today. One of the virtues he taught me is that when you are up there (in terms of social status and/or academic achievement) you must not forget to look down. As a ‘Big Brother’, I had 24/7 access to him. With his passing on, I no longer have one. It will take me some time to accept the reality of his passing on. I therefore conclude that, together with his family, and the entire Hambukushu community, Alfons Mono Dikuua will be sorely missed by his friends, particularly those who were close to him.
May his soul rest in eternal peace!