Tötemeyer hailed as champion for democracy

Gerhard Tötemeyer

Founding president Sam Nujoma and vice president Nangolo Mbumba have paid tribute to Namibia’s first elections director, Gerhard Tötemeyer, who died at the age of 88 in his home at Swakopmund on Tuesday.

The founding president said Tötemeyer pushed for Namibia’s “genuine” independence and helped to fortify its democracy.

“The late professor was Namibia’s first ever director of elections and helped to strengthen our country’s democracy after campaigning vigorously for Namibia’s freedom and genuine independence,” said Nujoma’s senior special assistant, Paul Shipale, yesterday, speaking on behalf of Nujoma.

Nujoma expressed his condolences, as well as those of his family and the veterans of Namibia’s liberation struggle over the death of Tötemeyer.

Mbumba yesterday described Tötemeyer as one of very few previously advantaged people who supported Namibians’ liberation struggle.

“He clearly and openly identified himself, as well as his wife, with the aspirations and hopes of those who were struggling for freedom and independence,” Mbumba told The Namibian.

The vice president said he taught and educated many students.

“He was outspoken and clear in both his speeches and writings,” Mbumba said.

Speaking about Tötemeyer’s time as a deputy minister, Mbumba said his record on governance, especially when it came to regional and local authorities, was unsurpassed.

In 2000, Tötemeyer became a member of parliament and deputy minister of regional and local government and housing, until his retirement in 2004.

“The greatest achievement in public was how he organised and conducted the presidential and National Assembly elections. Thus, our most sincere sympathy and condolences to his family and colleagues,” Mbumba said.

From 1992 to 1998, he served as director of elections, overseeing the first local authority, regional council, National Assembly and presidential elections after independence.

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) director Graham Hopwood reminisced about his first time meeting Tötemeyer.

“I first met professor Tötemeyer when he was elections director in the early 1990s. Over the years, we met many times mainly to discuss his published work on Namibian politics,” he said.

Hopwood said Tötemeyer played a key role in helping to shape Namibian democracy in the early years after independence.

“I really valued hearing his views on regional and local governance. He was so willing to share his in-depth knowledge and understanding of governance systems,” Hopwood said.

Former health ministry deputy executive director Petronella Masabane said Tötemeyer provided her with guidance during her early political activities.

“You served the Namibian people well. I remember as a young political and social activist in the 80s, you always made time to listen, guide and support my activities in southern Namibia,” Masabane said.

The Namibian’s founding editor, Gwen Lister, said Tötemeyer pushed Namibia’s German community in terms of their views.

“With love, care and commitment for Namibia, late Gerhard Tötemeyer more than played his part over many decades and challenged the German community in the process.

“He was organising a coastal symposium on challenges to our democracy when he died. You’ve done good,” she said on her X page.

A fellow parliamentarian of Tötemeyer’s in the third National Assembly, Reggie Dier­gaardt, described working with him as a privilege.

“He was a true Namibian, intellectual and his presence will be sorely missed in the Namibian political scene. The fact that he, after his retirement due to health concerns, still frequently published on politics and education in Namibia, shows that his true ambition was always for a prosperous Namibian people,” he said yesterday.

Diergaardt said the professor in his role as chairperson of the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) showed that he was a champion for the people.

“As chairman of the NHE, he could further help the Namibian people by running projects dedicated to providing housing for the poor. He was indeed a champion for the people,” he said.

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