The late Hidipo Livius Hamutenya, who died in the early hours of Friday morning at the age of 77, was small in stature but a giant in various ways. He was a giant of a man who hovered above many and an identical twin of Africa’s snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, watching over the continent’s inhabitants, burning torch in hand. Sadly Hamutenya’s torch was blown out by the winds of the continent’s ancestors, who made the call, whether we think it’s time to go home or not. He had to wave goodbye as he departed recently, leaving many in endless cascading tears in our hearts but eternally remembering his deeds.
And this introduces my personal praise of a countryman I had the singular pleasure to work with in the department of information and publicity of the vanguard liberation movement SWAPO, under its founding President Dr Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma – we worked alongside each other till our return from exile and the attainment of independence in 1990.
Looking back with many, handkerchief at hand as tears continue to roll down the cheeks of young and old, I remember Hidipo very well in his performance as secretary of education from 1974 to 1976, and also as secretary for information and publicity from 1981 to 1991. But it’s not that easy to verbally sketch all his positive deeds. Luckily for me I am going to deploy my skills as a poet and condense facts in such a way that the reader gets a balanced weight of his achievements on behalf of the Namibian nation, long before its actual birth and hoisting of the national flag, when all adults and children stood tall saluting the national flag with tears in eyes, as we also remember the fallen sons and daughters of the motherland – who died bravely as their blood watered our freedom and independence.
The year 1974 was crucial and significant for liberation movements in southern Africa, particularly because of the fall of the fascist regime in Portugal and the success scored by liberation movements in the former territories ruled by Portugal. The new political scenario also brought changes on the Namibian political scene that gave birth to the biggest exodus of young men and women. They were mainly members of the SWAPO Youth League and some, if not most, of their leaders who easily crossed the borders of northern Namibia with neighbouring Angola to reach welcoming Zambia and enlarge the membership of their mother body. This sent shock waves to Apartheid Pretoria that saw and read the message correctly that the armed wing PLAN was going to be reinforced, as not only the youth but adults also fled into exile in large numbers.|
Most of the youth league members had not completed their secondary schooling or were about to do so when the situation became politically unbearable for them in Namibia. Their fellow members were being arrested at random and detained for long periods without trial. To worsen matters the apartheid police in Namibia also kept their arrests and places of detention secret but SWAPO always discovered where they were being kept and their lists of names.
As secretary for education from 1974 to 1976 Hidipo had a mammoth task to perform and it must be stated here without prejudice that he was equal to the task. Together with Beryl Leighton Davies – popularly known as ‘McGovern’ – my common-law wife, the late mother of my son Puleni, arrangements were quickly put in motion through the United Nations Office in Zambia and hundreds of Namibian students were sent to Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Sierra Leone to complete their secondary education.