Twenty-nine years ago, Erick Tjanda came among us at Rundu Senior Secondary School as an entire stranger, an energetic and friendly young man. The year was 1987. Some of us came from Linus Shashipapo Secondary School, whereas others came from Leevi Hakusembe, Kandjimi Murangi, Max Makushe, Rundu Junior and Tsumeb, etc. We melted in being the first students of the then Rundu Tegniese Skool (which is now Rundu Vocational Training Centre). I found him modest and unpresuming. Wherever he was called upon to serve the interest of that first class, he cheerfully assented.
The late Tjandja interested himself in what I could term as a corps of citizen soldiery against the impediments of the apartheid regime. I speak here about the predicament of that time, about the oppression of that era which was visible at schools and throughout Kavango and South West Africa as this country was known then.
Here the genius of this young man developed itself; he excelled in the healthy exercise of soccer, and in the classroom, and determined us to blend with each other against any form of discrimination; on this subject his mind was clear and comprehensive; in a word, he was a natural leader.
The soccer team was a combination from the N1 class, which included myself, Ben Ndumba, Elia Kwenye, late Diaz Hamberera, Timotheus Shiyave, Gosbert Sikoka, Johannes Sinime, Lukas Kakoro and Alpheus Hausiku, and from the ETS 1 were Reinhardt Naseb, the late Ronnie Gomachab, John Hoebeb, late Martin Mukiri, Mathias Ndumba, Alpheus Muyenga, the late Bonifatius Kaundu, Kornelius Lukas, Shiteketa Iimbondo, Lebbeus Siyamba, Anton Ndara, Ferdinand Malwa, Nikolaus Karupu and now the late Erick Tjandja.
Those were the first students of what is today RVTC. Our teachers were Hennie Swiegers, Timotheus Kasera, Stefanus Pienaar, Lawrence Pringle, J Jakobus, Lamina Gresse, Deon Verster and Severinus Rengura.
Tjandja was the striker and although young he never ceased to amaze us with his speed and accuracy to score. He was a singer too. One of the vivid recollections I have is that every morning at assembly, we would sing. Tjandja and Anton Ndara often would be the ones to lead us in singing.
In singing and in sport we found comfort because the atmosphere of the time was that Namibia was a colony and ruled from South Africa. Most government institutions were governed in the same manner. Just like at Linus Shashipapo and other schools, the teachers were mostly soldiers. They came to school with guns at morning assembly and in the classrooms. These were tools of intimidation and these were the modes of silencing us. It was a kind of psychological warfare.
One morning my uncle Prof Joseph Diescho visited our school to lecture and motivate us about the seriousness of education. He seized the opportunity to implore us that the oppression of the blacks would end through SWAPO Party and its leadership headed by President Sam Nujoma. He was interrupted several times by white soldiers-cum-teachers to stop and not indoctrinate us. Prof Diescho was cheered on fearlessly by the late Maurus Nekaro, then principal.
Prof Diescho informed us that Namibia would be free, SWAPO shall rule and Sam Nujoma shall be the first black president. Shortly after that address, Tjandja was amongst us all when we boycotted classes.
Sadly on 13 April, 2016, Tjandja fell to rise no more when his car collided head-on with a government bakkie. Let the memory of Erick Tjandja be engraved in the hearts of every young person of my generation, who has felt the strong arm of oppression and every young person of this generation who is feeling the new form of oppression.
Behold us that he leaves behind, the young and old, black and white people of this region and of this country, what a spectacle is presented of this country 26 years after independence. It ought to excite the sympathy and compel the admiration of men and angels. What are the lessons we can derive from this young leader and educator? Unquestionably, he leaves a mark as a good son, a good husband and an exemplary father and brother.
In Kavango East in particular, he leaves behind a legacy of sterling leadership and life of a modern hero. This of course cannot discard the fact that in the silent corners some have been speaking about why Tjandja should not have been a leader in Kavango East, because his father is this or that tribe, but during the day we are smiles with angels.
His legacy must propel a discussion about the resources of the country that are in the hands of the selected few who monopolise them through tenders, while the majority are only good to be voting cows. Therefore, let his legacy also ignite freedom of speech too amongst those who are condemned to the syndrome of “goeie mense” in order for them to join without fear the vocal discussion nationally about greed, tribalism, exclusion, marginalization, corruption, landlessness, absolute arrogance and insatiable abuse of power.
To the bereaved widow, mother, children, brothers and family please accept our deepest condolences. May the soul of the late Cde Erick Tjandja rest in eternal peace.