Remembering the Remarkable Hetty Rose-Junius

Hetty Rose-Junius

Hetty Rose-Junius was a remarkable human being.

She had the heart of a freedom fighter in the body of a social worker. Why?

Hetty, as she was known by all (‘Moedie’ to her family), had a deep-seated sense of justice.

She was a bit like the image of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded, because true justice is totally unbiased.

Likewise, Rose-Junius found it difficult to choose the side of her type/clan/colour/political persuasion/religious conviction when a choice between right and wrong was involved.

She always tried to side with (in a way had an inbuilt preferential option for) the poor, the wronged, the underdog, the helpless.

This is why she dedicated her life to social work as a vehicle to attain her ideals.

This is also why among her best friends were people from different political and other persuasions.

For her, the foundation of friendship involved common values and social engagement, and not slogans, prestige or upward mobility.

She did not have much interest in politics, because for her it represented too much talk and too little action.

However, when approached to serve on the Windhoek City Council for the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), she accepted because she felt she could contribute more concretely in a structure that was supposed to create frameworks for social upliftment.

This proved more difficult than what was hoped for.

Academically and on a personal level, Rose-Junius inspired many of Namibia’s present generation of leaders in the field of social work.

At the time of her death in January, she was completing an anthology on the role and contribution of social work to uplifting lives in Namibia and creating hope and opportunities for the disadvantaged citizens of her beloved Namibia. This important book will hopefully be completed and published soon.

Her keen sense of social justice found its expression in working towards processes of restoration and healing. Together with Christo Lombard, Emma Kambangula and others, she contributed to the establishment and development of the Project for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation Trust.

This later became the Peace (People’s Empowerment, Assistance and Counselling for Empowerment) Trust, where she continued over years with myself, Gudrun Kober, the late Hans Pieters, Helao Shityuwete, Laura Sassman, Lydia Nisbet, Vicky Festus and many others to make sterling efforts to explore methods and processes to empower and support victims of violence.

It did not matter whether they were victims of gender-based violence or of the South West Africa Territorial Force brutalities during the border war or of apartheid-era discrimination, or of Swapo atrocities in the dungeons of Lubango.

There was no grading system in suffering, and all deserved the same level of care and support.

Unfortunately, dealing with survivors of political and organised violence was (and still is) a minefield of conflicting positions and convictions.

It is further undermined by continuing suspicions, insecurity and fear. A Swapo leader even warned against the dangers of “opening a Pandora’s box”.

For Rose-Junius and others it was not so much about opening boxes, but rather about healing wounds.

It was about trying to find meaningful pathways through the maze of expectations and contestations. It was not about right and wrong, but about concretising compassion and hope.

Sadly, the necessary support from the private and public sector was not sufficiently forthcoming, and as a result, the work of the Peace Centre was seriously handicapped.

Eventually Rose-Junius, as well as board members and staff continued to volunteer as best they could to assist individuals and look for ways to keep hope alive.

Together with me, Doufi Namalambo and later also Helene Scholtz, Rose-Junius represented Free To Grow in Namibia for many years.

She was a master facilitator of programmes to enhance employee well-being, staff engagement, financial life skills and customer care in various organisations.

In this role, she could tap richly from her academic background, which was deeply rooted in the everyday experiences and challenges of workers and team leaders.

I will miss a true sister, friend and comrade.

Although she would never see herself as such, she represented everything a true comrade is: a trusted companion, involved in difficult activities and prepared to make enemies for a good cause.

She was a dedicated believer, and her faith was the foundation on which she built her life.

The church was the space in which she found her inspiration and from where she tirelessly strove to inspire and serve others.

Namibia is left poorer today by her absence, but eternally richer because her presence and influence will continue to resonate in the lives and actions of those she touched and inspired.

  • Danie Botha was a member of Namibia’s Constituent Assembly from 1989 to 1990 and first National Assembly from 1990 to 1995.

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