By Timoteus Mashuna
ARCHIVAL sources on the biography of Bethold Himumuine cite that he was one of the pioneers of the liberation struggle who played a very instrumental role in the early petitioning of the United Nations (UN) by the Herero Chiefs Council.
Even though the late Himumuine is rarely mentioned in Namibia’s national narratives on the history of the liberation struggle, particularly the early petitioning of the United nations, history has it that Himumuine is one of the early national leaders who played a key role in drafting the first petitions that were sent to the UN from the late 1940s onwards.
Himumuine was an educated leader of Namibia who is noted by Klaus Dierks in the biography of Namibian Personalities to have been the “first” black Namibian to complete matric.
Perhaps owing to his level of education at that time, Dierks further noted that Himumuine was a teacher by profession and a headmaster of the St. Barnabas School in the former Old Location in Windhoek.
The St. Barnabas School was established in the 1960s and due to the multi-ethnic nature of the old location, it functioned as a transit school because according to the Group Areas Act, children were supposed to be sent to their respective ethnic schools.
The school has a strong legacy not only for educating the Founding Father, Dr Sam Nujoma, but also for providing education to many Namibians who eventually became prominent figures in the struggle against colonialism.
In appreciation of the role that Himumuine played in educating these leaders and in petitioning the UN, the school was later renamed after him.
During the 41st anniversary of the Bethold Himumuine Primary School, the Founding Father, being one of the Namibian leaders to have learned English at the then St Barnabas School, remarked that “the school stands as an important reminder of the struggle for self determination, national independence and human dignity”.
Moreover, while reaffirming that Himumuine used to draft petitions that were sent to the United Nations, Nujoma also praised Himumuine as his former school mentor. He was, indeed, actively involved in the process leading to the petitioning of the UN in the late 1940s.
In fact, other biographical sources cite that he was the “one who convinced Chief Hosea Kutako to allow Michael Scott to petition the United Nations on behalf of the Herero Chiefs Council”.
It is perhaps owing to this fact Himumuine is at times referred to as “the real force behind Kutako’s petitioning of the United Nations”.
Moreover, in 1949, after English clergyman Michael Scott delivered a speech at the UN in which he spoke against South Africa’s ill treatment of the Namibian people, the South African authorities got on his trail and wanted to know the motives of Reverend Scott.
The authorities sought to interview Namibians to obtain information which they could use against Reverend Scott. It was Himumuine and Clemence Kapuuo who were interrogated by South African detectives with regard to Scott’s petition at the UN.
Being comrades in arms, both Himumuine and Kapuuo spoke in defence of what the South African authorities referred to as a nonsensical petition to the United Nations. They both “acclaimed that Scott only spoke of his experience at the UN and further emphatically denied that he was engaged in anti-government agitation”.