Netumbo’s appointment with her political destiny
During 1974 in Zambia – exactly 41 years ago I found myself one day leaning against an Italian manufactured Fiat motor vehicle belonging to the Namibian national liberation movement’s department of information and publicity at Mbila Street situated in Lusaka’s Libala township talking to a young Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah about an imminent interview scheduled to take place at the offices of the Zambia Daily Mail.
I was informing her that she should be ready at about 8 o’clock the following morning for I will be accompanying her to meet Zimbabwean-born exiled prominent journalist Farayi Munyuki who was then employed by the afore-mentioned daily.
Netumbo’s political career started quite early with the result that by 1969 she was serving as the chairperson of the well-mobilized Swapo Youth League in northern Namibia until 1974 when, at the age of 22, she left with the exodus of hundreds of young and old plus some children, who significantly reinforced the national liberation movement’s membership in exile consequently sending political shock waves to apartheid South Africa.
The interview held at the Zambia Daily Mail took place as scheduled and ace journalist Farayi Munyuki then going by the name of Albert Mvula, was at his best and got excellent information about the prevailing political situation in Namibia at the time of Netumbo’s departure in 1974 – she was photographed and a story based on the interview appeared in the local daily the following day, and it was then also well-received by the liberation movement’s leadership and general membership as well.
As a political commentator on the Voice of Namibia radio in Lusaka at the time, I used the information to propagate the message for genuine independence too. As for my colleague Farayi Munyuki, he joined us at Nampa years later via Zimbabwe and stayed on as an editorial advisor until shortly before he passed on, on 30 July 2007, and is now buried in his native country at Gweru – May His Soul Rest in Peace.
At the Extended Swapo Central Committee meeting held at Nampundwe outside Lusaka, Zambia, Netumbo was unanimously elected as a full-fledged member of the Central Committee and served from 1976 – 1987 as such. From 1976 – 1978, she was Deputy Chief Representative of the movement and then promoted to Chief Representative for Central Africa based in Zambia. She also served as Chief Representative of Swapo in East Africa and the Organisation of African Unity Liberation Committee based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 1980 – 1986. At the first Swapo Congress held in an independent Namibia she was elected to the Central Committee, and served as a Political Bureau member from 2002 – 2007, and also held the position of Swapo Party Deputy Secretary General in 1996.
Netumbo was repatriated in 1989 with most of the exiled Namibians and following the attainment of independence in 1990, she was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and she served in that position until her appointment as Director-General of the Department of Women Affairs – with Ministerial Rank in the Office of the President from 1996 – 2000.
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has served as Minister of Women Affairs and Child Welfare from 2000 – 2005, Minister of Information and Broadcasting since 2005 – 2008 when she was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and towards the end of 2012, she was appointed the first woman Minister of Foreign Affairs and it must be noted that she has been a Member of Parliament of the Republic of Namibia since 1990 – and what you are reading here today merely represents an abridged version of what Netumbo has so far achieved in her life time. She now doubles up as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Co-operation under President Hage Geingob’s newly installed administration. – The article first appeared in the New Era a few years ago.