The son of late Swapo stalwart Hidipo Livius Hamutenya gave a moving tribute to the deceased liberation icon on Friday.
Kela Hamutenya said the trials and tribulations, the accusations and humiliation, the witch-hunt and name-calling his late father endured after he participated in the highly divisive 2004 Swapo presidential race – whose fallout nearly split the ruling party – should not repeat itself and Swapo party members should draw the necessary lessons from that highly contentious post-2004 period.
Hidipo, affectionately known as HH by his friends and comrades, passed away on October 6 in a Windhoek hospital after suffeing illness at a wedding in the north. He was 77 years old.
Kela said what his father went through should serve as a lesson to all to love and respect one another. “Little did I know while still in college in my senior year that our lives were to change forever,” he recalled.
“It was the first time in Swapo’s history that a democratic exercise of this magnitude was to take place. What should have been an event that should have catapulted our party into the annals of democracy was instead the beginning of a cowardly and vicious witch-hunt that would follow our father to his grave.
“Accusations and insults dogged him. [Some called him] tribalist, which he never was, as those who know him will attest. In fact, he was nominated as a [presidential] candidate by none other than the late Dr Mose Tjitendero. He was above tribal politics,” he said.
Hamutenya said the accusations spearheaded by one Ananias Nghifitikeko, who labelled his father an imperialist were “surely the figment of a very fertile imagination”.
He added that the victimisation of Hamutenya’s friends, family and sympathisers became the order of the day. “His children were not spared the witch-hunt. All my brothers and I were sidelined in our respective professions.”
He added that in 2007 – three years after the watershed congress of 2004 – HH founded the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).
He said Swapo’s leadership at the time gave no option to his father and many others, but to move out of Swapo, as the situation in the party was untenable.
“Effectively they chased him out. This unfortunate episode should have been avoided, as it served no purpose to Namibia or to Swapo,” Kela said.
He said his father was not focused on being president. He would have been fine working under any leader in Swapo, as long as he could serve his country.
“This sad, but true episode in our lives should be lesson to Namibia. So, let the death of HH serve to heal the wounds.”
The widow of Hamutenya said her husband was a leader, a man of the people who lived for others.
Nangula Hamutenya, whose speech was read on her behalf by Norah Appolus, said she recalls the many lives Hidipo touched and had an impact on.
“He lived his life for others… He was a man full of compassion, who cared for others. Hidipo would rather sacrifice his own comfort for others to enjoy peace. I will forever remember and appreciate the legacy he has left us, as a family, an entire nation and indeed for future generations,” the widow said.
Two weeks prior the couple had celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary and amongst many other anecdotes Nangula holds dear, she related how she first met Hidipo when he was still Swapo secretary for education during their trip to Nigeria in 1975.
Hidipo later told his wife that after seeing her at a tap near the tent where 50 Nigerian students lived, a voice told him: ‘Search no more, this is the girl you have been looking for, but don’t approach her this time as you will spoil it”.
Nangula said her husband was a loving and affectionate person who did not like strife. He was calm and persistent. Her husband’s weakness, she admitted, was that he was never on time and never seemed want to improve on this.
“Whenever we received invitations for some or the other event I was always concerned about our later arrival. This part of HH I did not like, because when we dashed into events late with people already seated, people always stared at me as I walked in. For him, it was okay, because he was not as tall as I am. Because of the myth that women take long to get ready, the blame was on the wife.”
She said they faced serious challenges after Hidipo was fired as minister of foreign affairs on May 24 , 2004.
“This removed him from the government payroll with immediate effect. That was the most trying time for Hidipo and I. Beside the shortage of money to pay our mortgage, the most painful part was to see our children’s education suffer. Indeed, our children’s schooling was almost disrupted, as Hidipo’s salary was the one covering Kela’s university fees and stipend at university in the USA and Ndeipala at Windhoek International School, which was not a cheap school. We thank God for giving us the grace to trust His word that says: He makes a way where there seems to be no way,” while adding that their children’s studies were fortunately not disrupted by the political drama.
President Hage Geingob, who was close friends with HH over a period of five decades, said no matter how many times death is experienced, one never really gets used to it.
Geingob said they met in 1959 as students at Augustineum in Okahandja and later met his parents in Zambia, with whom he travelled to Botswana. From there they later returned to Namibia.
“He was a brother, schoolmate and comrade, who had tactical acumen and commitment to hard work. His writing, especially, served the struggle well,” the president said.
Geingob said after he was elected president he pondered certain issues, such as what would happen if Hamutenya dies.
“Will he be buried as a hero? The answers varied. Some said ‘yes’, while other said ‘no’. Those who said ‘no’ justified their answer, because they believed he was a sell-out, but the fact is Comrade Hidipo never sold out, as I will illustrate soon. He only disagreed with us in Swapo.”
He added that late Hamutenya must receive a hero’s burial, because he fought valiantly against apartheid and said his late friend exhibited a strong commitment to uniting Namibia and to take care of young cadres.
“There were never any tribal undertones in anything he did during the struggle. Today his name shall ever be etched in the annals of the country’s history. Today, he joins the distinguished heroes and heroines of Namibia’s struggle for independence,” said Kela of his father.