By Timoteus Mashuna
WINDHOEK – The late businessman Harold Pupkewitz’s living legacy has stood out to re-affirm that visionary leadership, courage and hard work can bring success.
He dedicated his entire life to his family business, whilst at the same time extending a generous hand of support to the poor, the sick and the youth in general. He was indeed a hard-working son of the Namibian soil.
Harold Pupkewitz was born on July 14, 1915 in Vilnius, Poland (now Lithuania). He came to Namibia, then South West Africa, at the age of nine in 1925 and settled with his family in Windhoek. He attended Windhoek High School until he matriculated in 1932.
Besides studying, Harold Pupkewitz’s early childhood years also revolved around helping his father, Max Pupkewitz, at his wagon-building and repair shop in Windhoek and participating in sports activities, such as high jump and long jump. In 1932, after completing high school, he went to study for a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Comm) degree at the University of Cape Town.
He graduated with distinction in 1936 and came back to Namibia to join his family business years later. Harold Pupkewitz’s active role in his family business can be dated back to the 1940s. In 1946, he co-founded the M Pupkewitz and Sons (MPS) Group of dealerships, which sold building materials and farm supplies.
In 1954, the MPS Group of dealerships was expanded with the addition of a furniture shop and a car sales business.
However, the car sale business, which came as result of the Volvo franchise that he acquired in 1954, came to an abrupt end after Volvo terminated its business engagement in Namibia due to the apartheid system.
Nonetheless, this did not discourage Harold Pupkewitz from pursuing his car sales business. In 1976, he acquired the Toyota franchise and later on he added the Hino Trucks and Nissan franchises.
The car sales business ballooned to such an extent that in 2002, it was noted to have been the largest car sales business in Namibia. Harold Pupkewitz had a vision to establish an empire of chain stores across the country.
In 1952, three branches were opened at Grootfontein, Keetmanshop and Otjiwarongo, and later on Pupkewitz stores were also opened at Aranos, Gobabis and Walvis Bay.
In 1981, Pupkewitz Holdings was founded as an umbrella organisation for all Pupkewitz companies.
Besides his tireless business engagements, Harold Pupkewitz was an active member of the Namibian civic society.
He contributed enormously to Namibia’s socio-economic development through wealth creation and human resource development.
On July 4, 2010, at his 95 birthday celebration, he officially inaugurated the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business at the Polytechnic of Namibia, which he funded with a N$10 million donation. He undoubtedly played a key role in promoting vocational training and the improvement of the education system in Namibia.
He was one of the individuals who participated in the Education Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP), aimed at improving the education system in Namibia. Throughout his life as a business person, he presented papers at public forums on a wide range of issues concerning the country’s socio-economic and political development.
Harold Pupkewitz was a multi-tasking individual who provided leadership in various corporate entities in Namibia. He served as a director on the boards of Nampost, City Saving and Investment Bank, MTC Namibia and Telecom Namibia. He was also the chairman of Nampower and a member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council.
He died in the Roman Catholic Hospital in Windhoek on April 27, 2012.