‘The end of an extraordinary journey’

McHenry Venaani

Sunday marked the end of an extraordinary journey that began 82 years ago.

It is the end of 82 years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of Namibia, a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength, and indeed a beacon of a citizenry that entrusted him with their hopes, aspirations and livelihoods.

It has been a long, painful week for the Namibian nation, since president Hage Geingob took his last breath on 4 February.

When the president disclosed his battle with his illness last month, the country was gripped with fear and anxiety.

We refused to confront the reality of the president’s mortality. What truly stands out is the spectacular display of admiration by thousands of Namibians from all corners of the country, who descended upon public spaces wherever they found themselves across the country to spend time celebrating Geingob’s legacy.

His life was dedicated to the service of humanity, the well-being of Namibians, and the actualisation of what it means to live in a sovereign nation.

We are reminded of his illustrious academic journey that took him from Augustineum Training College to Fordham University, all the way to the graduate faculty of the New School, New York, where he focused on international relations.

His intellectual prowess was always at the service of the nation he loved dearly. This event in our national life is unprecedented, and is indeed a solemn occasion.

Never before in Namibia’s history have we lost a president. Yet, as we struggle to make sense of our grief, it comes marked with admiration, respect and celebration of his life and legacy.

The international reaction to Geingob’s passing mirrors our own: The world is mourning the departure of an exceptional leader. Geingob was a man of political acumen, a stalwart for freedom, a generational thinker, and most notably, the architect of the Namibian Constitution.

He was a man who possessed a vigorous dedication to public service and a fervent commitment to building the Namibian House.

Regardless of our political differences and affiliations, we shared a common vision of a better Namibia. Even though we had divergent ideas on how to realise this vision, Geingob had an open mind and warm heart towards constructive discourse.

For that I found in him a man of principle, a fierce political opponent, and above all, a friend.

Through our contact and in my observations, I saw a man deep-rooted in his love for his people, cherishing his bond with the Namibian soil. His affable nature and joviality touched hearts far and wide, infusing solidarity among the people and the nation as a whole. This trait will be dearly missed.

Eulogies across the world have exemplified his unique impact, holding him high as a beacon of transformation and an exemplifier of freedom, as seen in Namibia’s firm establishment of press freedom under his stewardship. His dexterity in negotiation, his passion for justice, and his commitment to ensure no Namibian was ever left behind built our nation’s house with unshakable foundations.

My deepest admiration and respect goes to his wife, madame Monica Geingos, a pillar of strength and solace, who stood faithfully by his side during his daunting battle. My heart aches with the shared loss of a father figure for his children.

As they mourn, our nation mourns with them, extending comfort and compassion to the extended Geingob family.

The legacy of Geingob will continue to inspire and guide us as we uphold his ideals and strive to realise the prosperous Namibia both he and I and other political leaders across the spectrum envisioned. His name is irrevocably etched in the annals of our history, and he will forever remain at the heart of the Namibian people.

I leave this brief poem by novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, which captures the beauty in mourning:

“His departure was as quiet as arrival, As though death in its dignity whispered, ‘See, I don’t break your life, I lift it higher, I transmute it to height and resonation, I don’t take, I give, I am transformation.’”

We find our strength and unity, and in his memory, our inspiration to continue the work he so passionately pursued.

Geingob’s journey may have ended, but his legacy lives on, uninterrupted.

As his journey ends, ours must continue in earnest.

His abiding revolutionary spirit will prevail, and we must pick up the mantle and continue to advance the ideals in which Geingob believed, such as his commitment to press freedom, human rights and gender equality.

As our nation continues to mourn, may God be with the president’s family, and may God be with the Republic of Namibia.

*McHenry Venaani is the leader of the official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement.

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