In celebrating Africa Day on the 25th of May each year since 1963, this day should remind us that the independence and freedom that many Africans cherish today and forever more was in fact achieved over the years through the sweat and blood of many young people across the African continent and Namibia is certainly no exception.
In celebration of this very significant day, I would like to bring forth the ages of key Namibian politicians as they were in 1960 and at Independence relative to the struggle of today’s divided youth. First and foremost, I shall for the purpose of this piece commence with Dr Sam Nujoma.
Dr Sam Nujoma, the Founding President of the Republic of Namibia was born on the 12th of May 1929 and at the age of just 31 years of age became the first president of Swapo in 1960. He thereafter with other key members of the party established, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) in 1962. Through his focused leadership, PLAN among many other fronts of Swapo, launched its first combat incursion into the motherland in the year of 1966 and launched a war that lasted till 1989, which eventually led to our independence in 1990.
Nujoma became at the age of 61 years the first President of the Republic of Namibia from the period 1990 to 2005.
Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba was born on the 18th of August 1935 and was just 25 years of age in 1960 when he also became a founding member of Swapo. However, during that time he was arrested, imprisoned and placed under house arrest. He subsequently went to Lusaka in 1964 to set up the Swapo Office in Zambia. At the age of 54 years of age he became the first Minister of Home Affairs from 1990 to 1995, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources between 1995 and 1997 and Minister without Portfolio from 1997 to 2000. He was later appointed as Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation – a position he held until he became the second elected President of the Republic of Namibia.
Current President Hage Geingob was born on the 3rd of August 1941 and at a tender age of just 19 years of age in 1960 was expelled from Augustineum Training College for participating in a protest march whilst demanding quality education but was subsequently readmitted, after which he eventually completed his teacher training course in 1961. He briefly taught in Tsumeb but due to his thirst for more knowledge and his hatred of the then Bantu education system decided with 3 of his colleagues to leave the country. This he did through Botswana with the aim to reach the then Tanganyika but could not reach his destination due to an incident that prevented him from doing so. He remained in Botswana where he served as Assistant Swapo Representative in that country from the period 1963 to 1964. He eventually left for further studies in the United State in 1964. President Hage Geingob, at just 48 years of age became the first Prime Minister of an Independent Namibia in 1990 for a duration period of 12 years.
Former Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab was born on the 23rd of January 1939 and was only 21 years of age in 1960. He also graduated with a teaching qualification from Augustineum Training College but went into exile in 1962 whereby he became an associate representative of Swapo at the United Nations in America from 1964 to 1972 and later the chief representative from 1972 to 1986. Former Prime Minister Theo-Ben then 51 years of age became Namibia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1990 till the year 2002 and thereafter become the second Prime Minister of the country to the year 2005 after which he became the Speaker of the National Assembly.
Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana was born on the 11th of October 1952 and was only 8 years old in 1960 when Swapo was officially established. She went into exile in 1974 at a tender age of 22 years of age whereafter she later became one of the first woman fighters of PLAN.
During those years, she was very active in the Swapo Youth League after which she became the Secretary of the Swapo Women’s Council in 1980. She became at the age of 37 years of age the first Minister of Youth from 1991 to 1995 after which she among others served as Minister of Lands, as Attorney General and Justice Minister and now as Minister of Home Affairs.
The list is very long and for these illustration purposes will take many years to compile.
In regard to the above brief assessment and in the context of the Africa Day celebrations, our current African and the Namibian youths are in particular are all quite disillusioned, highly divided, a lost generation and as a consequence set the African agenda as was intended backwards rather than forward.
In conclusion, and what is certainly clear from the above assessment, is that age was never a factor but the determination of a united leadership of society to achieve its intended national goal. This united leadership and determination is unfortunately sadly lacking going forward of which the nation could be going more backward instead of forward causing more division and fragmentation of the populace. And as they say, the rest is history. Happy Africa Day.
* Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian Socio-Economist