Geingob had a special place in his heart for Botswana – Masisi

Mokgweetsi Masisi

On this sombre day as we gather to pay our final respects to one of Africa’s heroes, and while the mood is filled with sadness at the demise of Dr Hage Gottfried Geingob, it is our fond memories of this stalwart that enable us to gather the strength to observe this occasion as a celebration of a life well lived.

It is sad as we mourn the loss of a beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, friend and colleague, yet also celebratory as we acknowledge and recognise the magnificence of his example.

My wife and I, as well as the Botswana delegation, are here today because my departed elder brother, Dr Hage Geingob, was a true friend of Botswana. He had a special place in his heart for my people and country.

I came to realise this, as on several occasions when we met and conversed, he reminisced about his days as a refugee in Botswana. I always admired his humble demeanour, his straight talk, and his genuine appreciation of the contribution Botswana and the Batswana made to the liberation of his country, the people of Namibia, who gallantly fought brutal colonisation, and also apartheid’s occupation and racial oppression.

While some are not as informed about the sacrifices the Batswana made for the liberation struggle in our sub-region, in Dr Geingob I found a man who understood and sympathised with our unenviable position, which was right in the belly of the beast.

When talking about his stay in Botswana he would say to me: “In my wildest dreams I could not imagine that one day a refugee in a small white house in Francistown would become president of his country.”

He would then unleash his trademark handsome and infectious smile and chortle. I surmise that this disposition on how an individual’s life chances may unfold in the course of time is not alien to us, as each one of us has some narrative to tell regarding the hand of fate in our earthly and mortal existence.

Since his untimely demise, the world has been awash with messages that epitomise this remarkable man as a distinguished servant of the people, a liberation struggle icon, the pillar and gatekeeper of the Namibian house.

Dr Geingob and I shared a common vision and an unwavering determination to achieve higher levels of development for our peoples. His remarkable statesmanship endeared him to many globally. He was a true pan-Africanist and genuine believer in multilateralism.

I fondly recall our numerous meetings and robust exchanges on the challenges facing our people and our resolve to act in unity and solidarity to address the common challenges and achieve the goal of shared prosperity for our peoples.

Our leaders’ bilateral meeting, which was meant to be held early in January in Gaborone this year, remains postponed as in his words, “because I am an unwell young man, but we will meet later after my recovery”.

President Geingob will be remembered for the 2023 bilateral agreement to allow citizens of Botswana and Namibia to use national odentity cards to cross the border between our countries.

I deeply valued president Geingob’s support as a senior statesman, confidant and trustworthy partner in building the extraordinary partnership our two countries and people enjoy today.

We are all the better for having been touched by president Geingob’s influence and huge sacrifices.

My confidence is firm that our two countries and people will leverage on the solid foundation Dr Geingob has built for us to broaden and deepen the relations and strong bonds of friendship that exist between our countries and people.

I thank Monica Geingos and his family for sharing and supporting him to the end.

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

*Mokgweetsi Masisi is the president of Botswana.

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