By John Ekongo
John Alphons Sheefeni Pandeni has been laid to rest.
At 10h35, Saturday morning, the casket carrying the body of the late Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, was lowered into the ground at Heroes Acre.
Pandeni was declared a hero last week following his death two weeks ago.
The public, invited guests, high-ranking government officials and the diplomatic community gathered as early as 07h00 in the morning for the burial. The thousands of mourners sang hymns, while occasionally SWAPO liberation songs were provided by the SWAPO Party musical group Ndilimani.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba described the late Pandeni as a foot soldier who dedicated his entire life to the liberation of the country, as well as a peace-loving person who fought against social injustice.
“I wish to once again remind our nation that we owe it to the martyrs of our revolution to remain united and with commitment and fortitude create a stronger and democratic society to which they have de-dicated their lives.”
Pohamba added that as a nation, “it is our collective responsibility, as a people soaked in the sweat and blood of our heroes and heroines, to lay a long strong social and economic foundation on which future generations will build a prosperous, stable and peaceful society.”
It is only through hard work and commitment that the country will be able to ensure efficient and effective service delivery, provide equal access to social and public amenities and improve the living standards of the people.
According to the Head of State, the late Pandeni was a man who knew no colours, creed, race or religion – “just a man who devoted his entire life to the promotion of the wellbeing of the Namibian nation”.
The President urged the nation to take solace from the knowledge that Pandeni’s life should be viewed as a beacon of hope, which should inspire all citizens to lead an exemplarily life.
Similarly, he called for the nation to heed the call for unity and brotherhood under the realm of national reconciliation.
“On this solemn occasion of the burial of the late Comrade Pandeni, we must once again rededicate ourselves to our policy of national reconciliation – let us rededicate ourselves to the motto of One Namibia, One Nation,” said Pohamba.
Meanwhile, a memorial service was held at Parliament Gardens in the capital on Friday, where among others the Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, senior government officials, senior party leadership, influential persons in the society as well as the public gathered to pay their last respects and in support and solidarity with the widow, Julia Pandeni, and the entire family of the departed minister.
Vicar General Werner Afunde of the Windhoek Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church led the devotion and benediction.
Speaker after speaker held the late Regional and Local Government Minister in high esteem, with almost every one describing Pandeni as a “people person”.
Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Petrus Iilonga read the eulogy.
Iilonga said Pandeni was a brave man and a true soldier who executed his duties with gallantry and dedication.
Pandeni, with Iilonga and Willem Biwa, were captured in July 1978 and banished to Robben Island to serve 18 years in prison, but served only eight years and were released in 1985.
Wife to the deceased, madam Julia Pandeni, in a message read on her behalf by Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana said that Pandeni was the “quiet type, yet charismatic and energetic – the same energy fills up love in the house”.
She added: “It is the Lord that gave us Pandeni, and it is the Lord who took away his ser-vant. We can only pray to ‘Kalunga-Kanangombe’. My dear husband rest in peace until we meet again in eternal life.”
Opposition parties also described Pandeni as a humble man and a great forger of unity. Monitor Action Group MP Jurie Viljoen said Pandeni was one of the few parliamentarians who performed his duties “served with
Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma, and as commander in chief of the People’s Liberation of Namibia (PLAN), said that Pandeni was a true freedom fighter who never wavered in the execution of his duties.
During the liberation war, Pandeni was a PLAN combatant as well as political commissar, until his capture by the South African authorities in 1978.
The memorial service lasted a good five hours.
Pandeni died on March 14 in tragic car accident between Kombat and Grootfontein, a day President Pohamba described as “as one of the saddest days in Namibia”.
Also during the same month, four more lives were lost: Reinhardt Gertze, Nico Bessinger, Julia Nepembe, and Nokokure Murangi, in some instances only a few days apart from each other.