By Timoteus Mashuna
WINDHOEK - A memorial address delivered by the then Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Dan Tjongarero, at the Memorial Service for Hans Berker on the 15th of July 1992, cites that despite concerted effort by many others who decided to shun Berker because of his liberal views, as well as attempts by the South African colonial regime to isolate him for he did not share the racist apartheid views, Berker “stood firm in his love for Namibia, for its people and for justice”.
Hans Berker is noted to have been born at Hamburg in Germany on the 28th of March 1924.
At the age of four, he together with his family came to Namibia in 1928 and settled in Windhoek.
He attended primary and high school in Windhoek after which he went to study for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) at Rhodes in Grahamstown, South Africa.
He later obtained an LLB degree at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Besides his commendable achievements in education, Berker also had a fair share of success in sports and perhaps in reference to this, his memorial address delivered by Tjongarero noted that Berker’s relations with many Namibians did not only develop because of his love for Namibia and the search for justice, but also due the fact that he was actively “involved in sports, notably tennis, and his love for outdoor life and the arts”.
His sportsmanship ultimately earned him a prize as winner of the Class II in the Cape to Rio Yacht Race of 1973.
Berker was indeed a true father to many Namibians whose dedication to justice, democracy and fair trials will forever be cherished and celebrated along other outstanding achievements of Namibian heroes and heroines.
In 1975, when Chief Minister Elifas, of the former Ovamboland, was assassinated, the SWAPO national organisers such as Aaron Mushimba, Hendrik Shikongo and others were arrested and accused of the murder by the apartheid authorities.
It was Hans Berker who stood for the defence of the accused SWAPO organizer against the apartheid state.
In cognisance of Berker’s subsequent involvement in the trial of Aaron Mushimba, Hendrik Shikongo and other SWAPO national organizers, Tjongarero wrote that “it was in those difficult times from 1975 onwards that I came to know him. I remember those long evenings preparing the defence of the case known as the State vs Aaron Mushimba, Hendrik Shikongo and others, and the role he played in that case: clear in his search for justice but unassuming and always humble.”
His commitment to a just Namibian society was not only demonstrated by the trial in which he stood against the apartheid state in the defence of the accused Swapo national organizers in 1975, but also by his concern to have Namibians trained in the field of law and the role he played in the Namibian justice system after independence.
Berker is noted to have had a burning obsession in having more Namibians trained in the legal profession.
Tjongarero noted that just ten days before Berker died, he “broached his concern for the training of Namibians, for his plea that Namibia be saved from corruption and that justice must be seen as an integral and inalienable part of our democracy”.
Berker was a high-profile figure in the Namibian judiciary system.
In March 1983, he became President of the High Court in Windhoek and later on became Judge-President of the Supreme Court of South West Africa.
On the 21st of March 1990, he was appointed as Chief Justice of the newly found Supreme Court of an independent republic of Namibia. He died on the 5th of July 1992 in Windhoek.