Reverend Petersen diesBy: CATHERINE SASMAN
THE unexpected death of Reverend Hans Petersen (87) has left a leadership vacuum in the ongoing succession wrangle in the Witbooi clan after the death of the late Dr Hendrik Witbooi in 2009.
“His death is a great loss for the Namibian nation, the AME church, for the Witbooi clan and the Witbooi Royal House,” former Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Marlene Mungunda said yesterday.
“This was not the right time for him to go because he was the uniting force.”
Petersen died in the Windhoek Central Hospital on August 8, with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, at his side.
He is remembered as a deeply intelligent compatriot, historian, a “mobile archive and library”.
Petersen was still serving as a pastor at the AME Church at the time of his death.
He was the eldest son of Katrina Petersen (born Witbooi), the daughter of Gaob (king) Isaak Witbooi, and a former teacher at Usakos, Ismael Petersen.
Petersen was born on September 5 1924, and attended primary school at Usakos until Standard 4 (Grade 6).
After this, he worked part-time because he could not find full-time employment under the apartheid dispensation that demanded work and travel passes.
Because of his writing and reading skills, Petersen was employed by a doctor to dispense medicine.
In 1942, he enrolled at the Augustineum Training College at Okahandja where he received a teacher’s certificate in 1944.
Petersen taught at the Rhenish Missionary School at Gainachas in the Karas Region between 1945 and 1950.
When the Nama pastors broke away from the Rhenish church in 1946, Petersen was forced to resign. He then joined the AME Church with other Nama leaders.
On July 2 1946, Petersen married Alwina Witbooi of the Witbooi Royal House, and the eldest sister of the late Reverend Witbooi. They were married for 66 years and had two children, Anna and Markus.
Petersen started teaching at the AME Private School at Keetmanshoop in 1951.
As an activist, he became part of the Nama teachers’ strike in 1976, the same year he joined Swapo with the Witbooi clan.
On July 11, 1978, Petersen went into exile to join the liberation movement. While in exile, his daughter, who had returned to Namibia, died in 1987. His son died in exile and was buried in an unknown grave abroad.