Windhoek-A Windhoek car guard never imagined he would receive a letter from First Lady Monica Geingos inviting him to State House for an interview to become a board member of the One Economy Foundation, of which Geingos is the founder and executive chairperson.
This is what happened to Festus Mukungu, 55, who has been a car guard for 16 years at Klein Windhoek Woermann Brock parking lot, which he refers to as his “office”.
Mukungu now serves as a board member of the One Economy Foundation with other five board members. Other members are Kaunapaua Ndilula, Mavis Elias, Dawie Fourie, Marcelina !Gaoses and Fredericka Eichas.
The One Economy Foundation strives to serve as a conduit for transformation by connecting Namibia’s formal and informal economies and as a bridge over which Namibians in the “second economy or operating on the peripheries of the first economy can cross and fully utilise their talents in one economy”, according to the foundation.
One Economy Foundation has been described as the implementing arm of all the projects to be undertaken by the Office of the First Lady, primarily focused on, but not limited to, enterprise development and entrepreneurship; integrated early childhood development; gender-based violence response and preventative programmes; health; and institutional strategic support.
Mukungu told New Era the first lady took interest in him and proposed the idea of him becoming a board member after he appeared on the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NBC) Good Morning Namibia programme, during which viewers had to vote whether they thought Mukungu was the programme’s hero.
In the short video Mukungu stated he decided to become a car guard after he was retrenched by a parastatal where he worked as a security guard.
When the reporter approached Mukungu for an interview to hear how he became a board member he listened attentively but at the same time directed motorists where to park or when to drive out. At the same time the neatly dressed man greeted clients and interacted with them, some of whom pay him for guarding their vehicle.
Mukungu then directed the reporter to sit on the pavement to have with him an undisturbed interview.
Mukungu was born at Okakarara some 55 years ago where he was raised by his aunt. He is a father to three grown children – two sons and a daughter. And he is currently raising four grandchildren. Mukungu only managed to attend school up to Grade 10.
Mukungu recalls his disbelief when a clerk from the first lady’s office approached him at the parking lot with a letter inviting him for an interview. He thought the clerk mistook him for someone else and as a result he did not share this news with his family right away.
“The clerk came to me and said the first lady wanted to see me personally and I must make a day which suits me to meet the first lady. But I told the clerk it’s not up to me to decide – they should choose a day that was suitable for them. They set a date and we all (board members) had a meeting maybe for two or three hours with the first lady, where she explained everything in detail,” reminisced Mukungu.
He said Geingos spoke about her objectives in life, her views and her reason to establish the foundation and he recollected they all agreed to assist her. Only after this did Mukungu share the news with his family.
He further recalls how his family was proud of him and the fact that besides having little education he reached this high in life.
“I was delighted that the first lady took an interest in me but at the same time I could not believe that high-ranking people took cognisance of me. It was one of the most joyful days in my life,” Mukungu reminisced.
Mukungu described the first lady as being a humble person, educated, very intelligent. “She does not underestimate a person, she listens to people’s views and opinions,” he adds.
He pointed out that State House that was once a foreign building to him has now become a place he visits regularly.
When asked how he feels about being a board member, Mukungu said he is very proud as they (the board) are rendering a service to the community.
“I have learnt a lot in being a board member. I was never before in a managing position where I decide for a company and put my signature on a document to transfer some of its funds from one point to another, or being accountable for the finances of an organisation.”
When asked what his contribution to the board is, Mukungu replied that he can’t single out any contribution he makes because as a group they are all responsible for the success of the company. “It’s our joint effort.”
Mukungu advised people in trying situations to never lose hope. “Keep your spirit high. Keep your head high and your thoughts together. Focus on one thing and do it, at the end you will have the necessary fruits to eat.”
He also told leaders to stop corrupt practices. “Now and then when you open a newspaper, you hear of gross mismanagement of funds. We must stop this before our economy becomes a total mess and it’s not from the grassroots but from people in higher positions because they have an upper hand in these corrupt practices,” he stated.