Little has not been said about this versatile stalwart of Namibia’s struggle for justice and those who are most qualified to raise their voices in this regard have done so eloquently.
I had intended to speak at the memorial service and as I was about to pick up my friend Dr Zandile Erkana for the service, the phone rang: Her brother Poland Dakile had just passed on in Johannesburg and I had to spend the evening at her house alongside others. While I contemplated how best I should get my send-off for Nora, the phone rang and Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana told me that I was assigned to manage the State Funeral at both the Parliament Gardens on Friday and at the farm on Saturday. At this stage I knew that I would not be able to sneak in my send-off as intended, short of risking tears in front of the most eminent of our society. After the funeral on Saturday, the next morning I jumped on the plane for the funeral of my brother Poland Dakile in Johannesburg. This in itself was a funeral out of the ordinary and I had the privilege to rub shoulders with some of South Africa’s big names, the likes of Ivan Khoza of yesteryear’s Orlando Pirates central squad and maestro of South Africa’s soccer fraternity.
Nora Schiming-Chase features among Namibia’s children of the storm who pioneered the final thrust of Namibia’s liberation movement that in the end inaugurated our decolonization from Apartheid South Africa. I came to work with Nora closely in the fold of the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN), alongside the likes of Immanuel Ngatjizeko, Batseba Katjiuongua, Daniel Tjongarero, Ephraim Kasuto, Gregorius Makgone, Sieglinde Maletzkie and others. Above these featured a fearless, diminutive man by the name Dr Abisai Shejavali, who served as Secretary General of the CCN and overall head of the church organization. Mokganedi Thlabanelo joined the CCN for a brief stint as Associate General Secretary and unfortunately passed on after less than a year, and I succeeded him.
Nora was charged with the education portfolio and she played her role with diligence. At the time Namibians had rebelled against Bantu Education and communities in the south of the country had established English medium private schools with the help of the CCN, under the tutelage of Nora.
Those were difficult days and a step of that nature evoked rage and reprisals from the Apartheid South African internal accords regime in Namibia, just like with the creation of other progressive programs such as the students’ movements, labour unions and the likes. The Council of Churches of Namibia acted, behaved and was perceived as Namibia’s de facto government by the progressive forces in the country. Evidently this had to provoke rage and reprisals from the Apartheid regime.
Nora played a critical role in garnering resources to provide for the English medium schools in the south and she mobilized scholarships for learners from needy communities to study at universities internationally as we did not have a university in Namibia of the time. This proved a daunting task.
While I was in South Africa recently, I had a telephone conversation with Joram Rukambe. He is currently in Nairobi, Kenya working for the United Nations. Joram regretted that he had missed Nora’s funeral. He said that Nora had been instrumental in his studies. He had applied for a scholarship and the CCN grants were all taken. It happened that one scholarship holder dropped out and Joram successfully pleaded with Nora. That is how Joram went on to study in South Africa then and became one of our capable professionals in Namibia, before he moved on to the international arena.
Nora was a revolutionary par excellence. President Hage Geingob pleasantly surprised the mourners at the state memorial service when he shared that Nora had opted out of her first proposed marriage because the anticipated husband turned out to support the Biafra war. She left him with no delay.
Nora was a parent to all children of our community. You would never find Nora with children on the street, in the office environment and or in her house and tell which were and which not her children. And to this effect, all her children were brought up to love the world and to this date, all three Nora’s children are selfless and devoid of materialism. Nora loved the world. When children came from around the country to proceed to their study destinations, they always stayed at her house and her children were accustomed to sleeping on the floor from an early age on, because their beds had to accommodate other children. During the struggle my brother Gerson Hinda completed his legal studies in South Africa and he had difficulty finding a professional setting in Namibia to do his requisite articles. At the time Nora had moved to Geneva to work for the Lutheran World Federation.
We managed some funding for Gerson to do his studies in Geneva and I implored Nora to take in Hinda for the duration of his program. Hinda became a child of that house to date.
During the course of the funeral on the farm I had collected courage to sneak in my farewell note in closing, as Director of the Ceremony. I looked up from the podium and my eyes fell on Essie, Afra and Kweku. I melted off but contained my tears that had accumulated behind my eyes, and managed to deceive the mourners with a brave face. When I glanced at the casket I could symbolically hear Nora quietly reciting one of the poems by Brother Langston Hughes, a Negro poet who lived in the United States of America circa 1930s: “In an envelope marked ‘Personal’, God addressed me a letter; in an envelope marked ‘Personal’, I have given my answer.” Kaende Naua Kandu Kandje!