ORBITUARY – FRITS MUHERAB MARETHA

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By Matthew Gowaseb Long before gossip columns and satirical journalism were in vogue in Namibia, a young reporter from Katutura mastered this rare skill, entertaining in the process a countless number of Namibians with his prolific writing. Of the many who had read his columns, almost all admired his work. Equally, those who knew him admired his use of Afrikaans in writing – the humour, the truth and the passion, the ability to take the pain out of apartheid and subjugation through his humour – making it bearable. Frits Muherab Maretha, one of Namibia’s first black journalists is no more. The late Maretha started his journalism career at the now defunct Die Joernaal newspaper, where he excelled in satirical journalism. As a youngster growing up in Katutura in the late 1970s, reading Maretha’s weekly columns such as: “Kan ‘n man dan nie?”, “Fritz Maretha sÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ª”, and “Skinder Joernaal” were both inspiring and entertaining. He was not afraid to speak his thoughts, cheerful in writing, every moment. Maretha’s ability to use humour to write about life in Katutura provided an escape for many Namibians who were otherwise burdened by apartheid, poverty, unemployment and crime. Maretha’s other accomplishment was an award he received from the Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuur Vereniging (ATKV) for his short story “Die groot tug” – a first for a black Namibian writing in Afrikaans. He had an extraordinary facility with – and love for – words. Maretha was born on 11 March 1947 in the Old Location in Windhoek and died on 26 October 2006 in Windhoek. He completed his high school at Augustineum. The passing of this veteran journalist occasions the loss of an able journalist, a community leader, an intellectual who was part of a tradition of black journalists who pioneered community journalism. The craft of satire and humoristic writing has been robbed of a master wordsmith. Only the words of Shakespeare can describe the magnitude of Namibia’s loss: “On the sheer, destructive wastefulness of this death. As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. And of the emptying out of all quality in life as one surveyed the black-grey, empty days to come. After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well: Nothing can touch him further.” Maretha will be laid to rest at the Old Katutura Cemetery on Saturday, November 11.