I AM compelled to join the rest of the nation in equally expressing my shock at the double tragedy that last week befell the nation.
First on Thursday came the bitter and sudden news of the passing on of a Member of Parliament, Honourable Kalla Gertze. The nation had hardly absorbed this shocker when it was dealt another dose of shock with the tragic passing away of the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Minister, Honourable John Pandeni.
I may not have known the two on a personal level but there is no mistaking they have been national treasures in terms of their contributions to the national affairs of the country then and now during the independence struggle era, and thereafter during the transition to nationhood and nation building.
The latter phase is far from complete and certainly their passing on is a great loss to the nation. Pandeni has been described as a fighter, a patriot and a dedicated cadre. He seems to have been a likeable person with a few enemies. Traditional leaders he worked with in ensuring that their contribution to national affairs is solidified testify to his commitment and what a pleasure it had been to have worked with him. Others describe him as one of the “coolest heads” in government circles.
Attributes like “cool head” are hard to come by in modern day Namibia of dogmatism. That alone underlines the magnitude of the loss of a leader of the calibre of Pandeni. A prototype revolutionary of yesteryear, his commitment has also been epitomised through his work among the workers, in particular the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union, which he headed and the platform from which he continued his dedication to the struggle of the workers and for independence.
“One of the challenges facing many traditional authorities is the lack of financial and material resources. It should be recalled that the Traditional Authorities Act makes provision for the establishment of the community trust fund for each traditional authority. However, not all traditional authorities have managed to establish these trust funds. I wish to confirm therefore that our ministry is now in a position to assist the traditional authorities with the establishment of the community trusts funds,” the minister set out his commitment, vision and dedication towards the streamlining of traditional authorities on the occasion of the opening of the 10th session meeting of the Council of Traditional Leaders last October.
One must admit that there is still a lot outstanding in the sphere of traditional authorities like the ever-nagging recognition of some traditional leaders. This is a matter as some traditional leaders testify, that Pandeni has continued to be sized with patiently and untiringly. Not only that but he has also remained committed to solving disputes between traditional authorities, In this regard, he has established himself an impartial arbiter. With his passing away I understand he was on one of these very missions to solve a dispute among traditional communities in the Caprivi Region.
“The constant occurrence of disputes between and among traditional communities is becoming a serious threat to peace and tranquility in our country. To address and seek a sustainable solution to these disputes it is imperative that all stakeholders should strive for a concerted effort aimed at resolving such disputes amicably in the best interests of all inhabitants,” he once appealed to the traditional leaders.
Incidentally, the Ovambanderu are meeting in the Supreme Court this morning over their governance system or constitution. There cannot be a fitting tribute to their late Chief Munjuku II Nguvauva, who passed on this January, as indeed to Pandeni, than to heed this appeal.
And indeed there cannot be a fitting tribute from his fellow colleagues in the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development than to pick up the mantle and carry it forward. This includes the mantle of amicably solving disputes among communities as well as giving unrecognised communities due recognition.
I had the opportunity of being privy to the insightfulness of Gertze. He came across to me not only as an insightful leader but a dedicated one. A person to whom many social issues have been dear to the heart not only by virtue of his calling as a Member of Parliament but as a social activist, fighter and a genuine believer in social justice.
“The town must run itself, it must not be run by the party,” he once voiced his views on the dominance of the party political centre on the local structures.
“Political parties do not live in town but people contend that the party list system imposes candidates and this is undemocratic. People should be elected properly from the area,” he opined, lamenting the demise of the ward system.
As much as the two are irreplaceable, we can find solace in the fact that the ideals they stood for shall live forever. However, they can only live forever if we all pick up the torch and carry it forward.
Brothers, compatriots, fellow citizens, go well and rest assured that your ideals, commitment to them and your dedication to your country and people did not go unnoticed and shall for ever be engraved in the annals of history of the Land of the Brave.