What is in the name Hage Gottfried Geingob?
Hage means he came or he arrived. According to ethnology, Gottfried is originally a Germanic name, which means peace of God. Numerologists defines Gottfried as a charismatic character, quick witted with a sense of humour, creative and dynamic, determined, full of energy, ideas and plans and someone who adopts communication as an essential part of his life and enjoy the company of other people. Geingob means equal to the big ones.
Does the above match the description of Swapo Party presidential candidate, Hage Gottfried Geingob? The meaning of the name cited above is true to the character of the man. In 1941, Hage came on earth, starting the beginning of the making of a man. In 1963, he arrived in exile to start his life as a freedom fighter. In 1989, he arrived in Namibia heading a team of Swapo Elections Directorate.
Geingob charms both comrades and political opponents alike. He disarms his opponents with the vigour and dynamism of his arguments and reasoning. As Swapo Director of Elections in 1990, he waved to the Namibian people the Swapo flag given to him by then President Sam Nujoma in Angola in a charismatic manner that ignited the spirit of revolution, garnering mass support for Swapo across Namibia.
Following the victory of Swapo in elections, his wit and skilful diplomacy smoothened the process of drafting and adopting the Namibian Constitution, which he presided over as Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, from November 1989 to February 1990.
As the first Prime Minister he formulated policies for the Namibian public service to ensure a vibrant and professional civil service. He has ideas and plans about where the Namibian Public Service should be in the near future, in terms of meritocracy and service delivery.
He embraces Namibians from all walks of life, and enjoys the company of both young and old fellow citizens. He believes in consultation and communicates effectively with his peers and those whom he leads. His is eloquent and articulate the position of Swapo Party and of the Namibian Government, as he believes in clarity without leaving chance to ambiguity.
Indeed, when elected Geingob will be following in the footsteps of the big ones, Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba and a number African statesmen and women. He is, certainly, not equal to other presidential contestants.
The journey to politics
The journey of successful politicians started from humble beginnings. Born in Grootfontein district in Otjozondjupa Region, when Namibia was under illegal occupation of South Africa, Geingob endured the bitterness of colonialism like any of his contemporary Namibians. He received primary education at Otavi under the Bantu Education System, meant to keep indigenous Africans inferior to Afrikaners and others of European descent.
Having joined Augustineum in 1958, his consciousness about the impropriety of the then political system grew. In 1961, he participated in a march to protest the poor quality of education resulting in his expulsion from school.
He was re-admitted and finished his teacher-training course in the same year (1961). In 1962, he joined SWAPO as he believed it was a unifying national liberation movement for Namibians. In the same year he decided to join other Namibians in exile to bring about independence and, therefore, change in inferior education system which he highly disapproved.
He remained in Botswana where he was appointed as Assistant Representative for Swapo. He later moved to Leopoldville, Congo (now Kinshasa), where he stayed briefly and took up a scholarship to study in the United States.
Responsibilities entrusted to Hage by Swapo
While a student in the US, he was appointed Swapo Chief Representative to the Americas and further represented Swapo as a Petitioner at the United Nations, 1964 – 1971. It was during those difficult days when the South African government tried to prevent the Namibian petitioners from accessing the United Nations tower. Hage manoeuvred his entrance in the UN headquarters to go and present the case of the Namibian people, because of the determination that he had. He regularly attended sessions of the UN General Assembly from 19965 to 1971, and thereafter sporadically until 1988.
The problem that many Africans faced after independence was to have a trained and skilful civil service. Discerning this problem, SWAPO negotiated with the UN to establish a tertiary institution where Namibians could acquire knowledge and skills that will stand their motherland in good stead, once the country has become independent.
The United Nations Institute for Namibians (UNIN) was established, and the responsibility of its management fell on the shoulder of comrade Hage G Geingob. He remained at the helm of ININ until 1989. As the Director of UNIN, he established relationships with various institutions of higher learning in Europe, such as University of Warwick, University of Eat Anglia, and University of Sussex, for example. He also served as a member of the Central Committee and Politburo of SWAPO and was, therefore, part of the highest decision making structures of the liberation movement.
When the UN Security Council resolution, which provide for transition to Namibia’s independence was finally implemented in 1989, SWAPO had to look for a leader who will prepare the election machinery within a very short period in a hostile security environment. Hage was suitable for the job and he was equal to the task before him. President Sam Nujoma gave him a SWAPO flag as a symbol of steering the ship. Hage navigated the ship through the rough ocean waters and delivered the occupants onshore.
Following the victory of Swapo in the election, a Constituent Assembly was established to draft the Namibian Constitution. This forum needed a skilful diplomat who can build consensus among erstwhile divided political leaders. This responsibility fell on the shoulders of Hage, the unifier. Thus in a record of two and a half months, given Hage’s sterling leadership, diplomatic and negation skills, the Constituent Assembly produced one of the hailed constitutions in the world.
As Director of UNIN, Geingob was a permanent employee of the UN. His love for his country compelled him to leave a well paid job in the UN system and accepted the appointment as Prime Minister, so that he could contribute to nation building and economic development.
As Vice President of SWAPO, Hage is the embodiment of unity and remain true to the revolutionary principles that have sustained SWAPO, both as a liberation movement and as a political party. He engages opponents in open debates, sending them completely disarmed and trounced.
Hage in government
Hage has experience at different levels of government structure. He thus, understands the responsibilities of government leaders at various levels. Like his predecessor, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Hage served as a back bencher. This gave him an opportunity to be exposed to the work of parliamentary standing committees, having served as Chairman of the Standing Committee of Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration. As Chairman of the standing Committee of Economics, he was at the helm of oversight over ten economic ministries. He advocated sound interactions, briefings and feedback between the Committee and line Ministries.
Hage served as the SWAPO Chief Whip in the National Assembly. He was responsible for coordinating the work of the National Assembly with the Whips from other parties. With his statesmanlike approach, he could convince other political parties to break deadlock on issues that could hamper the progress of the work of the National Assembly.
As Minister of Trade and Industry, he oversaw the formulation of the industrialisation policy, a blueprint for the development of the Namibian industrial base. He persistently and successfully argued the Namibian position in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) between the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU). He ensured that although Namibia was a small state, she will not be compromised in the negotiations. Namibia remained reluctant to sign the interim EPAs, selling her position to other stakeholders. Eventually, ACP countries were not subjected to a raw deal in the EPA negotiations…omake!
As Prime Minister, Hage coordinates the work of the government ministries and act as principal advisor and assistant to the president. At independence, he worked towards an integrated civil service comprising previously advantaged and disadvantaged people. The public service charter was formulated and other measures that are aimed at maintain meritocracy in the civil service. Further, he is the leader of government business in Parliament, where he ensures that the Executive and Legislative branches are of respective importance to the government.
An old adage says “some are born great, some have achieved greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Of these phrases, the one that fits Hage the most is that he has achieved greatness.
An inspiring education
Hage’s academic achievements attest to the fact that from a humble educational beginning one can achieve high academic credentials. He took his studies seriously in top of other responsibilities. He completed his high school at Temple University, followed by successful completion of the degrees of BA at Fordham University and MA at the University of New School for Research. He combined his university studies with his diplomatic assignment to America and the UN. He pursued his PhD studies at the Leeds University on top of a busy schedule and heavy responsibility as Prime Minister. In so doing, he inspired his colleagues in Cabinet and Parliament, and the civil servants.
Hage is a researcher and accomplished scholar. He chaired the UNIN Research Coordinating Committee which resulted in 22 published research studies. He has contributed to numerous articles in academic publications.
Hage’s achievements have been acknowledged by various institutions and governments, which bestowed upon him numerous awards. He received four honorary doctrates from the Columbia College, University of Delhi, University of Namibia and the American University of Rome.
Other awards include the Palmes Academique (Officer Class) for valuable services in education, awarded by the French government in 1980; Omugulugwombashe Medal by SWAPO for long service and bravery, awarded by SWAPO in 1987; Order of the Sun (First Class), awarded by the Namibian Government in 1994; and the Order of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the highest order of Cuba awarded in 1994.
Photo credit : Wayne State University