Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah: Beyond Gender

Nelago Johannes

As I reflect on the potential candidacy of Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah for the Presidency of Namibia, I find myself immersed in a narrative that transcends gender considerations.

While the notion of Namibia potentially having its first female president is undeniably groundbreaking, it is imperative to acknowledge Nandi-Ndaitwah for the person she is – a remarkably competent and accomplished leader.

I had the unique privilege of delving into the life and history of this extraordinary woman in 2022: I was entrusted with crafting a booklet that would encapsulate the struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs that have defined her life and journey.

Initially, my engagement with this project was fuelled by a professional commitment.

However, as I unravelled the layers of Nandi-Ndaitwah’s life, I became intrigued and moved by the depth of her experience and her experiences.


Born on 29 October 1952 in Onamutai, northern Namibia, Nandi-Ndaitwah was the ninth of 13 children.

Her father, an Anglican clergyman, instilled in her a profound sense of purpose and commitment to justice.

This resonated with me on a personal level given my aspirations to become a legal practitioner.

I felt a deeper connection to the principles that have guided Nandi-Ndaitwah’s life.

Her journey took an unexpected turn on her 21st birthday when she found herself in prison for protesting the arrests of Swapo leaders.

From August to December 1973, she and her comrades faced imprisonment, with many enduring public flogging upon release.

She subsequently decided to flee the country to contribute to Swapo’s diplomatic and other efforts in exile.


It is tempting – for some, at least – to not look beyond the narrative of being a woman.

Nandi-Ndaitwah spent her youth fighting for freedom, enduring exile, and rising to become Namibia’s first female vice president.

Those who reduce Nandi-Ndaitwah’s potential Presidency to just gender overlook her abilities, competence and the extensive contributions she has made to Namibia’s political landscape since 1966.

She has demonstrated dedication and leadership throughout her political career.

Some of the mixed reactions to her potential candidacy underscore the complex dynamics of Namibian politics.

This scepticism necessitates a nuanced analysis that goes beyond gender and considers her individual competence.

Afrobarometer surveys show increasing levels of support for women in political leadership among Namibians, reflecting a societal shift towards recognising the capabilities of female leaders.

If Nandi-Ndaitwah assumes the Presidency, it will mark an historic milestone and contribute to the broader narrative of women’s leadership in Africa.

But, be that as it may, it is imperative not to ignore the depth of her story.


Nandi-Ndaitwah’s potential Presidency is not a token celebration of femininity, but recognition of a competent leader who has weathered the storms of political activism and exile, and represented Namibia internationally.

Beyond being a woman, she embodies resilience, competence and leadership.

Hers is a compelling life story, testament to the transformative power of leadership, and an unwavering commitment to serving the nation.

  • * Nelago Johannes is a passionate youth leader with a keen interest in law and politics; email

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