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In remembrance of Geingob...

07 Feb 2024

In the spirit and sustenance of bilateral relations between Botswana and Namibia, Historian and former Press Secretary to President Festus Mogae, Dr Jeff Ramsay took BOPA down the memory lane of the late Namibia President Dr Hage Geingob’s involvement in the strategic ties of both nations.

“I remember when it was announced he was becoming Vice President, we were in Windhoek during President Dr Mogae’s era and there was so much excitement from some of my Namibian friends. And that’s because he had been a very well respected figure across the spectrum of Namibian and international society for a very long time,” Dr Ramsay said.

In particular, Dr Geingob was denoted as a true longstanding friend of Botswana and in the same vein Batswana were also termed to have exceptional relations with the people of Namibia both at personal, community and government level context, dating back many years.

During the struggle for Namibian’s independence, Dr Ramsey said Botswana had very strong relations with SWAPO and the United Nations Commission which at the time was headed by Dr Geingob who was not only a member of SWAPO, but was a senior UN official overseeing Namibia.

Dr Ramsay said their relationships at the time not only were about giving refugee and support to Namibian refugees as a frontline state, but they were the ones who proposed to the United Nations protocol on behalf of the African Region and for Namibia’s immediate independence.

Even going back much further to 1946, he said the traditional leaders of the Herero and the Nama groups joined hands with the their counterparts in Bechuanaland Protectorate and together made a joint application in the United Nations to block South Africa’s annexation of Namibia, right after the second world war.

Dr Ramsay said Tshekedi Khama in particular was an important leader in that movement working hand-in hand with Fredrick Maherero, an exile leader of the OvaHerero people based in Mahalapye at the time.

He said Dr Geingob decided to leave Namibia at the end of 1962 to join the liberation struggle where he came to Botswana and ended up like so many Namibians in Francistown waiting to be evacuated.

At the time between June and August 1963, Dr Ramsey said the ANC working with FRELIMO and SWAPO had been chartering East-African Airways flights to get refugees from Francistown to Dar as Salaam, citing that Samora Machel was on one of those airplanes, including many other famous South African liberation activists.

Dr Geingob was scheduled for the flight on August 29, 1963 and early that morning the airplane he was supposed to have travelled in was blown-up before they were on-board at Francistown airport, now known as PG Matante International Airport, he said.

Surprisingly, Dr Ramsay said all three of Namibia’s presidents (Sam Nujoma, Hifikepunye Pohamba, and Dr Geingob) spent their initial exile in pass to other things in Botswana.

And when they came here they found it much easier than some refugees because they would cross the border and find Hereros, the Namas and other people who facilitated their settling into Botswana.

“So we have these longstanding ties and ambitions and one of those pending which one hopes is still to come about is the railway linking Botswana and the Walvis Bay,” he said.

This according to the renowned historian would not only be Botswana’s port in another place, but more effectively an Atlantic window to global trade.

Dr Ramsay said the demise of Dr Geingob left some unfinished business and lots to grow on, however, he underscored that since 2019 both nations accomplished so much and both Presidents deserved their accolades.At the pinnacle of extraordinary turnaround strategies for both nations, Dr Mokgweetsi  Masisi and Dr Geingob were hailed for establishment of Bi-National Commission which propelled both nations up a notch and allowed them to cooperate in trade and investment, he said.

In addition, Dr Ramsay said this led to mutual aid in cross-boundary movements and water and energy affairs, including diamonds and other resource management matters.

Dr Ramsay said National Parks and Wildlife Management was another distinct area of cooperation at bi-lateral and multilateral and as members of SACU with three other nations, both nations worked together on the initiative to secure their agricultural production.

Dr Ramsay said the initiative on import substitution became eminent and successful at implementation because Botswana had full-support of Namibia, citing that it has strengthened their hand within SACU and negotiations with South Africa.

To his heartfelt sentiments, Dr Ramsay said he had no doubt that the legacy of Dr Geingob, which resonated with that of predecessors, Pohamba and Nujoma would carry on, citing that Namibia had a stable government with a firm ruling party. Ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Marvin Motlhabane

Location : Gaborone

Event : Interview

Date : 07 Feb 2024