By John Ekongo
Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Alphons Pandeni, has passed on.
He was 57.
Pandeni died on Friday in a car accident 20 km from Grootfontein on the Kombat road. He was travelling to Katima Mulilo on official business.
His body was flown in by a Namibia Defence Force military helicopter on Friday afternoon and was met by Prime Minister Nahas Angula, senior Cabinet ministers and other Government officials.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba visited the Pandeni family yesterday afternoon.
Pohamba was one of the first people to pay respects to the Pandeni family in a message on Friday.
He expressed shock and disbelief at the untimely death of Pandeni, whom he called a fearless freedom fighter, “and one of the pillars of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) as well as the Swapo Party”.
“There is no doubt that Namibia has lost a great son, an outstanding national leader who dedicated his whole life to the just struggle of the Namibian people for independence and self-determination.”
Pandeni’s body was found during the early hours of Friday in a water canal 50 metres away from where the vehicle was found. He is the only one who died in the accident while two other occupants – the driver, Jacob Haindongo and the bodyguard, Gerald Paulus – sustained injuries and are admitted in hospital.
The accident was attributed to the wet and slippery conditions on the road. Sources revealed that it appears the driver lost control of the vehicle when it was approaching a bend, forcing the car to roll over several times before landing in a water canal.
Pandeni was incarcerated on Robben Island as a political prisoner during the early 1980s together with Ben Ulenga and Petrus Ilonga.
Upon his release in 1985, he became the founding secretary general of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers’ Union, which he headed until 1992 when he gained entry into the Regional Council of Khomas for the Soweto Constituency.
His entry into the circle of the party structure came with his election into the Swapo Party Central Committee in 1991. In 1997, Pandeni was elected member of the Politburo and subsequently elected to the deputy secretary general position to which he was re-elected in 2002.
He held this position while also serving as Governor of the Khomas Region, a post he occupied for 12 years until 2004.
In 2005 Pandeni was appointed Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development.
In his condolence message, President Pohamba said Pandeni would be remembered for playing a central role at regional and central levels of the Government.
“He fearlessly championed and pursued our Government policy of decentralisation and maintained an excellent relationship with our traditional leaders,” Pohamba said.
He said in a message to the deceased’s wife Julia, “Comrade Pandeni’s death is not only a loss to you but is also a great loss to the entire Namibian nation.”
Pandeni is survived by his wife, four children – Iita, Pendukeni, Shafa and Vilho and his father John Shikongo Pandeni Snr.