Goodbye, President Geingob

Martha Mukaiwa

There are many ways to mourn a president.

One of them is to cast your mind back to the height of the Covid-19 pandemic while playing Coastal Sound Entertainment’s ‘Hage LuLu’ as you marvel at how utterly unserious Namibians can be.

Produced by TellyOnTheBeat and up- loaded toYouTube in June 2020, the buoyant bop uses a clip of the late president Hage Geingob, declaring “I am older than your mother” at a time when his sage lockdown leadership included such iconic phrases as “the selling of alcohol is … (dramatic pause) … prohibited!”

In the wake of president Geingob’s sudden death, it is clear that, despite his perceived flaws and suggested failures, the former presi- dent held a special place in Namibian hearts.

On the morning after the announcement of the president’s death, the mood in the capital is sombre and the day is grey.

Traffic, which runs thick near the top of the hour, seems to proceed in slow motion as I tune into a Radiowave broadcast that fills the contemplative silence of my mother’s car.

“Hage ‘Danger Point’ Geingob,” says the radio presenter, who recalls the statesman as a fearsome footballer in his youth, celebrates the president as a patron of sport and describes him as beloved by the Namibian rugby team before cuing Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’.

As Chris Martin croons, I realise you never know what’s going to break you.

I’ve already posted a tribute to Geingob on social media, a stunned and clumsy sentence or two that I immediately find inadequate.

But, as a seasoned crybaby, I’m surprised I haven’t yet shed a tear.

“Lights will guide you home. And ignite your bones …”

That’s what does it.

Coldplay singing their gets-you-in-the-guts classic as we drive to Maerua Mall, where I make a beeline for the newsstand in a fresh produce store.

Every newspaper cover presents an image of Namibia’s late, great president, and the effect overwhelms.

As I go about my business, stopping at a new coffee shop where everything costs 20 bucks, then hitting the gym and blindly running errands, every passing conversation I lean towards, listening, is about ‘Oom Hagz’.

Eavesdropping shamelessly and trying to gain some insight into what Windhoekers are thinking, it strikes me how genuinely shocked people seem to be.

Yes, president Geingob’s death was sudden. It feels as though we were told he has cancerous cells today and he was gone tomorrow.

But the man was 82 and people die.

Yet for Namibians, the particulars of Geingob’s death are unprecedented.

Namibia is just 34 years old. The passing of the nation’s third head of state is the first death of a president in our country’s brief history.

Both the founding father and our second president are still alive. In this context, the loss of a sitting president presents as doubly devastating to our young democracy.

More so because Geingob chaired the drafting of Namibia’s robust and formative Constitution at the dawn of independence, before eventually leading the country as head of state.

New as our nation is, Namibia is a land of firsts.

Some thrilling, this one rather shocking and shaking.

We are shocked and we are shaken, be- cause after nine years of Geingob’s peaceful and relatively liberal leadership, we worry about what comes next.

Geingob was not perfect.

Nobody is.

Personally, I am particularly grateful for his aversion to hate speech, his decisive and life-saving leadership during those first ter- rifying days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and his commitment to the equality and freedom of the press that underpins our democracy.

Geingob is gone, and as we measure the length and the breadth of his life from boy to ‘Danger Point’ to prime minister and finally head of state, we know there are many ways to mourn a president.

But perhaps chief among them is to honour, continue and transcend the light of their legacy.

–; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter
and Instagram;

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