Namibia Mourns Former Prime Minister Gurirab

The late Theo-Ben Gurirab.

Six months after celebrating his 80th birthday, one of Namibia’s longest-serving politicians Theo-Ben Gurirab died at a Windhoek hospital on Saturday.

President Hage Geingob on Saturday said without Gurirab as one of the leading architects of Namibia’s diplomacy, a more prosperous chapter is closing.

“The exceptional work of comrade Gurirab in service of the liberation movement, Swapo, and the Namibian people shall be cherished forever,” he stated.

Later on Saturday, Geingob visited the family at their Klein Windhoek home to comfort them and offer condolences.
Founding President Sam Nujoma was among those who visited the Gurirab home to express condolences to his widow, Joan Guriras.

Others included the Namibia Media Trust’s Gwen Lister, Swanu’s president Cornelius Iijambo, Alpheus !Naruseb and Bience Gawanas.

Vice president Nangolo Mbumba, who yesterday said Gurirab’s death was saddening, credited the diplomat for helping him get elevated to a ministerial position.

“I will miss him. He pushed me to hold talks with the South Africans at Walvis Bay. That was how I was recognised for my role and promoted as a minister in the government,” he said.

Mbumba described Gurirab as a man who “loved his country”, and who demonstrated his patriotism by his active involvement in United Nations Resolution 435 that eventually opened the doors for Namibia’s independence.

“He was a patriot. He knew the United Nations in and out, and studied international relations to ensure peace between Namibia and other countries, and was well-known and respected in diplomatic circles. We had hoped to have him with us a little longer, but we have to move on and continue,” he added.

Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi yesterday said he arrived too late at the hospital after he heard of Gurirab’s illness.

“On Saturday lunch time, when I heard that my old comrade was getting weaker, I drove to the hospital to see him. Sadly, I arrived just after he had left us, but I was able to pay my respects to him, to his wife, Joan, their two sons, and members of the immediate family. My wife and I wish Joan, their children and grandchildren, strength at this most difficult time,” he said.

Katjavivi said President Geingob had rightly stated that a rich chapter of the country’s history is closing.
He noted that Gurirab’s contribution to Namibia was immense, adding that condolence messages and tributes are pouring in from around the country and the world, including messages from the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Gabriela Cuevas.

Katjavivi said the nation would be informed about funeral arrangements in due course.

Former president of Swanu Usutuaije Maamberua described Gurirab as a jovial, fearless and fair individual, even when it came to dealing with opposition parties.

“I remember when he was still the Speaker, I had whispered to him that Swanu was not an opposition party, but a government in waiting. That was back in 2010. Later on, he would always address us as such. This signified how jovial he was, and how fair. We will sorely miss him,” said Maamberua.

The outgoing leader of opposition party Nudo, Asser Mbai, described Gurirab as a man of in-depth knowledge, fairness and diplomacy.

“I had great respect for him, and in the few times that I had met him, he oozed diplomacy and being genuine. These attributes set him apart from any of our leaders. We have truly lost a great man, who can never be replaced,” said Mbai.

Cuban ambassador to Namibia, Giraldo Mazola, told NBC on Saturday that Gurirab was a pillar and icon of the liberation struggle, and that his legacy should serve as an example and inspiration to Namibians, especially the younger generation.

Gurirab, Mazola said, was the first Namibian he met when he served as Swapo secretary for external relations.
Sports deputy minister Agnes Tjongarero described Gurirab as a silent giant, a man of few words but whose wisdom was unfathomable.

“When he enters the room, everybody will notice because he was a sort of silent giant. He was a determined individual and his words when he spoke carried so much weight,” said Tjongarero.

PDM parliamentarian Elma Dienda said she will remember Gurirab as her hero and mentor, who always gave opportunities for young politicians to grow.

“I was only 38-years-old when I joined parliament. As a Speaker, he sometimes took me with him when he was touring overseas as an opportunity for me to learn, and it is because of him I am able to stand on my own feet as a politician.
“It did not matter which party you belonged to, he wanted young people to grow in politics and implement what they have learned,” she said.

Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula said he will remember Gurirab not only as a politician, but as as an elder brother. “He was family to me.

When I got married in New York in 1978, he acted on behalf of my parents and hosted my wedding. His wife, Joan baked a cake and we were joined by Martti Ahtisaari and many more,” he said.

Angula said that as a politician, Gurirab was his mentor and guide.

“As a Swapo representative, he introduced me to the UN system. Back home, he became the first foreign affairs minister, and I became minister of education. Together, we formed the national education institutions,” he said.

He added that they formed the pan-African Centre for the Study of African Society in 2015. “I met him a few weeks ago, and discussed some of the developmental issues regarding the centre.

He was sharp, although his legs could not carry him any longer. He was my hero, and I hope fellow Namibians will also see him as a hero,” he said. Angula said that he drove from his village to Windhoek on Saturday to visit Gurirab in hospital, but was informed he had already passed on.

Former youth league secretary Elijah Ngurare said the Theo-Ben Gurirab he knew and worked with was a true friend of the young generation. Ngurare also said Gurirab was approachable, and not flamboyant.

“He always condescended to our level. He would call to advise, and he would call to encourage. His vision was a Namibia that is vibrant, united and where its people, especially young people, have ample opportunity for growth socially, economically and academically,” Ngurare said.

Family spokesperson Tsudao Gurirab said the family committee would be meeting to decide on funeral arrangements, which will be finalised once the government has decided what kind of burial the deceased will receive. Gurirab is survived by his wife, Joan, and four children.

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Source: The Namibian

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