IN a very long and illustrious line of truly great sons and daughters of our motherland, Comrade Hitjevi Gerson Veii is probably one of the last true heroes of his generation to graciously exit the stage with his reputation fully intact and casting a larger than life, long and inedible shadow over many of us who directly or indirectly benefitted from his timeless contributions as a Namibian.
Comrade Veii was very well known to us as someone that waged the liberation struggle from inside the borders of this country, especially as a principled, courageous, fearless and respected leader and adviser to ordinary men and women. What made his distinguished life story very, very special is that he came from a generation that epitomized our struggle fully! He came from a group of people that never negotiated with the enemy, no matter the odds stacked against them, people that would rather face an uncertain future and even death, destruction of property and dignity, knowing well that the struggle was the only logical conclusion to restore our dignity as Namibians. He came from a class that chose to endure endless pain when it was so easy to give in and surrender the noble cause. He was part of that golden generation – a generation who will surely not be easy to replace, let alone to emulate.
Under the disguise of Liberation Theology, spearheaded, supported and bankrolled by the evergreen Council of Churches in Namibia, we held numerous seminars, workshops, undertook trips, etc. that were actually supposed to mobilize the broader masses to join the struggle, notably the formation of Nanso in 1984, to infiltrate schools and mobilize students! Comrade Veii’s contribution was again legendary. If we needed ready-made advice or to bring across ideas to the masses, normally we did not look further than comrade Veii and other iconic leaders, whose names are not usually inscribed in the golden pages of our heroic struggle. He kept using his favourite phrase, roughly going as follows: ‘The boers cannot extinguish the spirit inside me because that is a spiritual phenomenon and they can kill me but that spirit can never be killed.’ In that way he remained a constant nuisance in the face of the enemy until their spy-infested system ran out of ideas to contain him! When I started my teaching career in 1988, in the south of this country and had to face the same enemy and a very conservative community to convert to our way of thinking and approach, his impromptu advice was always available.
Although not a recognized academic, he could freely quote from the struggles of Che Quevara, the Mau-Mau uprising, the Chimurenga, African Socialism, etc., likening it to our own struggle and drawing comparisons and differences, but most importantly, the lessons that we had to draw from all these sources.
We met many a time after independence and although a little reserved and suffering from ill health, I believe partly because of the wounds his struggle-ravaged body had to endure, his commitment and advancement of his fellow human beings always remained uppermost in his mind.
When comrade Veii looks down on his life story, he will discover that when the choice ultimately had to be made, he chose the road less travelled, full of thorns and a variety of life-threatening challenges, a road that quickly made him to devise his own strategies to navigate this potential mine field, all the time taking blows and punches on behalf of many of us (I am absolutely sure that when he has to choose again, he will choose the very same road). He will suddenly realize that his contribution of giant proportions to this country was honest and well meant. He will realize that the road he travelled is much clearer for others to travel on, without having to constantly look over their shoulders and he will surely echo that great Negro Spiritual of the sixties and say: ‘Free at last, thank God we are free at last.‘
Go well son of a shepherd!