By Anna Ingwafa
The Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Gabriel “Gabes” Dickson Shihepo was laid to rest on Saturday morning at his home village of Ohakweenyanga near Ongwediva where he also doubled as headman.
Pallbearers lowered the casket bearing his remains at 11h00 into the ground next to his late wife Justina Shihepo and ahead of him, his late elder sister Julia Nepembe who pre-deceased him three months ago.
Prior to the burial at 07h30 in the morning, the body of the late Shihepo was taken to Okatana Roman Catholic Church and Vicar General Werner Afunde, helped by Father Lukas Mosemedi who led the devotion and benediction.
Meanwhile, hundreds of mourners packed the Ongwediva Trade Fair Ground on Friday afternoon to pay their last tribute to the Son of the Soil.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba and high-ranking government officials gathered from 3:30 the afternoon for the memorial service of the late Shihepo.
During a four-hour long memorial service, several speakers described Shihepo as teacher, trade unionist, traditional leader, freedom fighter, farmers’ leader, politician and above all a gallant son of the soil.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Dr Abraham Iiyambo and Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Teopolina Mushelenga co-chaired proceedings at the memorial service.
President Pohamba described the late Shihepo as a freedom fighter who dedicated his life to the fight for freedom and justice for Namibian people.
“The late Shihepo will be remembered in our history as a freedom fighter, a man of peace and true patriot. Since joining Swapo in 1972, the late Shihepo continued to mobilize the people of Namibia, particularly the youth to fight and resist apartheid colonial oppression and injustice,” said Pohamba.
“He earned the trust and admiration of the people through hardwork and dedication. As a teacher and principal, he became a leading figure in the education of children. Even though he is no longer around, his wisdom will continue to inspire the people in the drive towards greater democracy, economic development and prosperity,” the president said.
He added that during his life time, Shihepo contributed significantly to the development of the country as an educator, farmer, politician and a Deputy Minister in the Government and to the well-being and national reconciliation of people.
He said Shihepo as president of the Namibia Farmers Union was instrumental in bridging the gap between communal and commercial farmers. “When he was appointed as Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting and later Deputy Minister of Safety and Security, he continued to make a meaningful contribution towards the socio-economic development of our country until his death.”
According to the Head of State, Shihepo left behind a legacy of hard work, dedication and perseverance that will inspire everyone to face the challenges ahead as the country strives towards economic development.
The President urged the nation to rededicate itself to the policy of national reconciliation and unity as one nation. “We must honour him by working hard in unity of purpose to build a prosperous Namibian nation.
“Comrade Shihepo and other patriotic Namibians have laid a strong foundation for us to accomplish our stated goals and objectives.”
Founding President Sam Nujoma sent a message of condolence that was read on his behalf by the Acting Oshana Governor Lotto Kuushomwa. Nujoma said that Shihepo contributed immensely to the attainment of genuine freedom and independence.
“He was also one of the greatest teachers Namibia has ever produced.
Thousands of Namibian youth went through his guidance and leadership where he molded them into responsible and committed citizens who are today contributing to a patriotic and caring leadership.”
He stated that through his hobby of farming, Shihepo as a founder member of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) transformed the farmers’ organisation into a national agency uniting all communal farmers of the country.
Citing all the positions that Shihepo served in the Government and in Swapo Party, Nujoma said: “We will miss his visionary, able and dynamic leadership.
His enormous contribution to the socio-economic development of the country will be remembered by the current and future generations of Namibians. He leaves a legacy of hard work, perseverance and commitment.
We must all emulate his exemplary deeds, as we embark upon building a prosperous future for all Namibians.”
Oshana Acting Governor Lotto Kuushomwa on behalf of Governor Clemens Kashuupulwa, described Shihepo as true patriot who had contributed immensely to the educational advancement of the people in the region since becoming a teacher in 1968 at Omeege and later the principal of Ongwediva Senior Primary School from 1975 to 1999, when he took up the position of Deputy Minister of the then Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
“His sudden and painful departure is a great loss in many ways to the inhabitants of Oshana Region in particular. Equally, the Government and the people of Namibia as well as the Swapo Party family where he was a member of the Central Committee since 2002 have lost a committed, great and unwavering son of the soil who has worked tirelessly to the end of this earthly road,” he said.
Speaker upon speaker held the late Deputy Minister of Safety and Security in high esteem, with almost every one describing Shihepo as an “unwavered Miitili”.
On behalf of Swapo Party, Deputy Secretary General of Swapo Party Nangolo Mbumba said Swapo Party has not only lost a Central Committee member but also lost a dedicated cadre who served the party and Government with honour, dedication and distinction.
“The Swapo Party and its Government will greatly miss the contribution to nation-building of the late Shihepo. He was passionate about life and was a friend to many people irrespective of race, tribe or ethnic origin.”
He noted that the mourning of the late Shihepo reminded the party of other cadres of the movement who have fallen, especially in the month of March when the party lost another stalwart the late comrade John Alphons Pandeni in tragic car accident.
“As if that were not enough, in the following weeks, the Swapo Party lost two of its illustrious freedom fighters in the names of Comrade Nico Bessinger and Comrade Julia Nepembe who happened to be an elder sister to Comrade Gabes Shihepo. And then there was Shihepo’s wife Comrade Justina Shihepo who passed away in 2006”
“Equally in 2008, we lost the late Comrade Joseph Ithana, who was not only a comrade but also loving husband to Comrade Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana. We also remember the late Comrade Chris Hawala and many more.”
Gabes Shihepo died on 14 July at Ongwediva Medipark Private Hospital.
Shihepo fell ill while on official duty in the north and was subsequently hospitalized for a week until his death. He was 63.
He is survived by four children – three daughters and a son and three grandchildren.