Rest in Peace H.E. Hage Geingob (1941-2024)

Trbiute to HE Hage Geingob, obituary

We are saddened by the news about the passing of H.E. the President of Namibia, Cde Hage Geingob, just after midnight (Namibian time) on Sunday 4 February as he was reported to be about to start chemotherapy for cancer.

Tributes are flooding in from presidents, thought leaders and very many others around Africa for a hero of the liberation struggle, whose deft and skilful leadership during the independence period and dedicated public service for three decades since has helped Namibia advance to its present position and who has been a dedicated and visionary pan-African.

According to the official statement “The Namibian nation has lost a distinguished servant of the people, a liberation struggle icon, the chief architect of our constitution and the pillar of the Namibian house.”

Sincerest condolences to Monica Geingos, all the Geingob family and all his very many friends and all Namibians. It is a devastating loss which so many Namibians are feeling, and many others around the world.

In the UK, flags were flown at half-mast on all government buildings from 4 to 5 February. The Book of Condolences is available for signing at the Namibian High Commission in London until Friday, 16 February (10am-noon, 2pm-5pm).

Namibia already has a new President after a typically peaceful transition. H.E. Nangolo Mbumba has been sworn in as President and H.E. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as Vice-President in the afternoon on Sunday 4 February. They will serve out the remaining term until 21 March 2025. Namibia expects elections in November 2024.

Key role in Namibia’s democracy

Cde Hage was a leading campaigner for Namibia’s independence from his school days, then in exile in Botswana and from 1964 as SWAPO representative to the United Nations and the Americas, during which time he qualified with BA and MA degrees at US universities. In 1975 he moved to Lusaka to initiate and head the United Nations Institute for Namibia, helping Namibians to study and prepare to be the future Government of their country.

After returning to Namibia in 1989 he was SWAPO’s Director of Elections. Later that year he had a decisive role as the Chair of the Constituent Assembly that brought the formerly warring parties together to craft the Constitution. This was unanimously adopted in February 1990 and has served Namibia well. He was appointed Prime Minister in 1990.

In the early years after independence, as the first Prime Minister, Cde Hage’s leadership was responsible for several key steps that helped set the tone of Namibia as a leading democracy in Africa and the world, with respect for rule of law and freedom of the press, and concern to help all Namibians advance. According to Reuters, he said later: “There were no textbooks to prepare us for accomplishing the task of development and shared prosperity after independence. We needed to build a Namibia in which the chains of the injustices of the past would be broken.”

In 2002 he left government to become Executive Secretary of the Global Coalition for Africa. In 2004 he studied for and was awarded a PhD at the University of Leeds for a thesis studying the evolution of Namibia’s democracy.

He served as Minister of Trade and Industry from 2008-2012 and then Prime Minister from 2012-2015. He was elected as Namibia’s President in 2014 to serve from 2015-2020 and then re-elected for a second five-year term. There were difficult times as scandals came to a head and former ministers went to prison.

On a personal level, Cde. Hage is well known for his warmth, friendship, lively interest and humour, and for his leadership. As President, he has built a strong leadership team and continued to build and strengthen democratic institutions and governance.

The new President, H.E. Nangolo Mbumba (the former Vice President), is a very experienced leader with a strong track record of diplomacy, leadership and achievement.

We wish the new leaders and all Namibians all the best for the months ahead, and wish encouragement and support for the Geingob family and all who are mourning at this very difficult time.

Extracts from tributes

UN Secretary General António Guterres: “He promoted gender equality, championed clean energy, and was a strong ally of international solidarity embodied here in the United Nations. The tributes from his fellow African leaders hail him as an icon of liberation, and a powerful voice for Africa, and African unity. Democracy, self-determination, and human rights for all, animated the life and work of President Geingob.”

HE Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa: “President Geingob was a towering veteran of Namibia’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid. He was also greatly influential in the solidarity that the people of Namibia extended to the people of South Africa so that we could be free today. We are therefore filled with appreciation and sadness at the passing of a comrade in struggle and a close partner in our democratic dispensation.”

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Namibia: “Hage Geingob was a determining factor in Namibia’s emergence as a human rights-based modern democracy. We simply would not be the nation we are without his hugely positive influence. He leaves Namibia as an open democracy where there is freedom of expression and where civil society activists can operate without hindrance.”

Rest in Peace, Jane Katjavivi

1 September 1952 – 9 August 2022

Many friends of Namibia are mourning the passing of Jane Katjavivi, solidarity activist, publisher and writer, who made a huge contribution to independent Namibia. Jane was a pillar of support for her husband Peter Katjavivi and the Katjavivi extended family as well as her many dear friends. She was travelling home from Heathrow with Peter when she passed away suddenly on the flight.

Tributes to her have been pouring in from so many Namibians and others worldwide: politicians, writers, publishers and friends. According to President HE Hage Geingob “…she became one of us in advancing our fight for freedom and independence. After independence in 1990, as an accomplished author and passionate editor, Jane was instrumental in building Namibian literature and assisted many with editing manuscripts and documents.”

Jane Coles was born in Leeds, studied English Literature at the University of Sussex and studied for an MA in African Politics at the University of Birmingham. She joined the World University Service (UK) in 1975 as a Scholarship Officer.

She met Peter Katjavivi in 1975 and went on to work with him as Information Officer for SWAPO in London (1976-78), also attending meetings, pickets and demos of the Namibia Support Committee. Many UK-based former campaigners for Namibian independence will remember her fondly as a personal friend and fellow activist.

After a stint as editorial assistant at AFRICA Magazine, Jane moved in 1980 with Peter to Oxford, where she joined a book publisher and he completed a doctorate. They married in 1981 and their son Perivi was born in 1984, while their daughter Isabel was born in 1988 in the USA, where Peter had taken up a fellowship at Yale University. The family moved fully to Namibia in March 1990, just a few weeks before Independence.

Once in Windhoek, Jane set up publishing house New Namibia Books (NNB). “The worst desert in Namibia is the book desert,” she told friends and family. And she did not accept what she was told – that “Namibians don’t read”.

Over 10 years NNB published 63 books encompassing Namibian history, anthologies, fiction, poetry, life stories, democracy and gender. There were children’s books and science textbooks too. She opened a bookshop, later named Onganda y’Omambo, specializing in books about Namibia and Africa. She also set up a Namibian imprint, Tigereye Publishing, and was founding publisher of the University of Namibia Press from 2011 to 2016, establishing it as a leading academic publisher. She was also a proactive leader in publishing organisations including the Association of Namibian Publishers and the African Publishers Network.

Her memoir Undisciplined Heart was published by Modjaji Books in 2010. It charts her life, her sustaining close friendships, her health struggles which meant she was fitted with a heart pacemaker, her long road to recovery, and finding a renewed understanding of the Christian faith and spirituality. Writer Margie Orford commented: “Jane Katjavivi’s frank and intimate memoir of love and politics, of survival and finding way to make a home, shows that history is also what heals when it is filtered through a loving heart and an open mind.”

An important part of Jane’s life was bringing up the family and supporting relatives. She was uprooted several times, moving home from the UK to the USA, Namibia, Brussels and Berlin as she supported Peter, whose varied posts after independence included those of founding Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia, Namibian ambassador to the EU and then Germany – which meant long periods away from Namibia for Jane – and most recently Speaker of the National Assembly.

Jane’s memorial service was held on Thursday18 August at Parliament Gardens and later St George’s Cathedral, and her burial service is on Saturday 20 August at St George’s Cathedral (from 09h00) and Pioneerspark Cemetery.

Friends of Namibia sends sincere condolences to Hon. Peter Katjavivi, Perivi, Isabel and all the family and friends as they mourn Jane.
Many tribute articles and obituaries are already published, including by friend Werner Hillebrecht in The Namibian, 14 August, from which much of this information is drawn:–with-a-great-legacy

Undisciplined Heart is available from the African Books Collective at
Obituary by Tom Minney, with additional thanks to Jo Morris and Marion Wallace.