HANNO Rumpf was among the few exceptions among the few white Namibians who openly stood their ground to side with the oppressed blacks at a time when many sympathizers had opted for silent politics for fear of embarrassing their families or facing ridicule from society. Rumpf stood firm against the policies of the Nationalist Party, and joined the rank and file of the SWAPO Party in order to fight for liberation.
In an interview conducted by Shaun Johnson shortly after Rumpf’s return from exile in 1989, Rumpf noted that whilst studying at Rand Afrikaans University in South Africa he was subjected to all sorts of harassment from his university colleagues due to his anti-apartheid views. “Partly as a German speaker in an Afrikaans environment, that awareness made me very impatient with the views of most of the students. I spoke my mind and they did not like it. I had buckets of shit thrown in my room and all sorts of things,” commented Rumpf in the interview. He is indeed one of the sons and daughters of the soil who were isolated not only from their families and relatives but also from the great masses of their own race simply because they strived for fair and equal justice for all people.
Rumpf was born on September 15, 1958 in Namibia. He attended school in Swakopmund and completed his secondary education in the 1970s. After completing secondary education his father advised him to study at Rand Afrikaans University in South Africa. But due to his political views, he was not keen to attend an Afrikaans University. However, since his father preferred that university, he ultimately enrolled at Rand Afrikaans University. There, it did not take too long before he got involved in political confrontations with fellow students over differences in political views. This prompted him to change universities – he enrolled at Rhodes University.
Fortunately, the political environment at Rhodes University was favourable to men of his political ideology and this enabled him to become increasingly involved in liberation politics to an extent that he developed a sense of national pride and identity. “There I was drawn into politics and I became more and more aware that I was a Namibian, not a South African,” commented Rumpf in the interview with Johnson. As part of his political involvement, he started to attend student meetings organized by the Namibia National Student Organization. However, his political role in the struggle for liberation was almost halted by the apartheid regime’s legalised conscription of young men into its army. A story on his life by Shaun Johnson entitled “SWAPO’s Bright Young Men: A tale of two youngsters one white, one black who came from very different worlds but found themselves under the banner: SWAPO,” suggests that while involving himself in SWAPO’s political activities, Rumpf was faced with “persistent military call-ups”. To evade conscription into the South African army, Rumpf left the country and went to join SWAPO in exile. He became SWAPO’s information officer for Germany and Austria based in Bonn between 1987 and 1989.
He returned to Namibia in 1989 and continued to contribute to the socio-economic development of his motherland. He served the Namibian government as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the National Planning Commission (NPC). He has been serving as an Ambassador to the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) and the European Union since 2006.
By Timoteus Mashuna