A Day With Sam Nujoma

17 Dec 2017 17:30pm
By Charles Tjatindi
FARM ETUNDA, 17 DEC (NAMPA) – It is just after 07h00 at Farm Etunda, some 30km south of Otavi in the Otjozondjupa Region. The serenity farm life brings is clearly felt as workers calmly go through their early morning chores.
Etunda is home to one of Namibia’s most recognisable faces – Founding President, Sam Nujoma.
Our mission here is simple: spend a day with Nujoma and get first-hand knowledge of how the man who led the long and bitter struggle to liberate Namibia, keeps himself busy.
As we make our way along the well maintained sand road, it’s not difficult to see why Nujoma chose this piece of land as his permanent dwelling; it truly is a haven for peace and tranquillity.
After a few wrong turns on the farm, we finally find our way to the main farmhouse, which also serves as his office while on the farm.
A few minutes later, my three colleagues and I are ushered into a room where we wait for Nujoma who is an adjacent room, engaged in a last-minute briefing of the day’s programme with his executive assistants.
The waiting room is not the usual doctor-type waiting enclave; no outdated magazines placed on coffee tables, no water cooler or file cabinet.
Instead, we are seated on comfortable leather sofas with Nujoma’s portraits depicting his heydays at the helm of the erstwhile People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) round up the mood of the room.
We sit in silence, with only a few pensive nods and small talk exchanged between ourselves and the security detail stationed in the room with us.
Finally, the doors separating the waiting room and Nujoma’s office swing open, and the Founding Father emerges clad in Safari-like overalls in anticipation of the day’s activities.
As per popular African customs, we rise to our feet in recognition of the entrance of an elder into the room, as our minds race on whether we were doing it right.
Wearing his trademark smile, Nujoma greets us with a firm handshake, before motioning us to take our seats.
“Welcome to Etunda. Here we work hard and also relax when the time permits,” he quips.
Breaking the ice is relatively easy for now, as the obvious denominator of the conversation is the pleasantries of farm life.
Introductions and a rundown of the anticipated programme for the day follow, to which Nujoma eagerly agrees to. He quickly reminds us that a tour around the farm is one of the activities planned for the day.
By now, we realise how important life on the farm has become for him, as Nujoma lets us know that there is no other place he’d prefer.
One of my colleagues makes an observation about the picture of Nujoma as PLAN commander, which triggers a recount of the activities surrounding the liberation struggle.
We exchange glances not knowing if we should ask our camera operator to set up her equipment pronto and record the conversation, or if we should remind Nujoma that the interview is only scheduled for after the greeting.
The tales are too good to pass on, so we embrace the moment to learn a thing or two about Namibia’s struggle for liberation through stories that were never printed or published.
Soon, time for the interview arrives: the set is arranged, the excitement palpable and Nujoma is called to take his seat in front of the camera.
Lights, camera, action! The interview gets underway, and so does our appetite to learn more of the life of the man who, alongside others, sacrificed his entire youth to the liberation of Namibia.
As we wind up the interview, there is no question that Nujoma had lost valuable years of his youth, but he had achieved an invaluable feat – to help liberate Namibia.
The next phase of our day was without a doubt Nujoma’s favourite – a tour around the farm he calls home.
In fact, Etunda is the original birthplace of Nujoma. It is located in the heart of northern Namibia, a few kilometres outside Okahao in the former Ongandjera district.
As Nujoma narrated, he named the farm after his birthplace as it reminded him of his upbringing as a cattle herder.
Embarking the 1980s Toyota Land Cruiser, fully converted into a sightseeing and camping vehicle, we knew it was going to be an information-rich ride – and Nujoma did not disappoint.
Our first stop is at a borehole where some cattle are kept. Here, workers are seen inspecting the animals and making sure the water trough is filled.
We disembark after the Founding Father, who immediately gets into an inspection of the cattle. The love for these animals is clearly visible on Nujoma’s face as he describes how he plans to rear the cattle.
His methods are nothing fancy; no stud breeding and neither is it for show. It is all about production in order to sustain his family and others dependent on his farming.
He admits it is a lot of hard work, but the pleasure he derives from farming far outweighs the difficulties that come with it.
“This is the life I have always wanted. The peace around here is what keeps me mentally young and will keep me going for more years to come,” Nujoma smiles, pointing to birds chirping in the background and the occasional sighting of some wild animals.
After spending close to an hour orbiting the farm, we return to the main homestead, where Nujoma invited us for lunch.
Although we gladly accepted, we were worried about sharing a table with the man; what will we talk about? Can’t we have a smaller table in a corner somewhere where we can be on our own?
Nujoma will however have it no other way. It was a buffet meal, and Nujoma kindly allows us as guests to serve ourselves first.
With our plates filled, he proceeds to dish up for himself. At this point, we were already seated, anxious of what to do next.
I was assigned the seat immediately to his left, while my colleagues and Nujoma’s assistant filled up the remaining chairs at the table.
Nujoma tells us that the springbok meat we are about to enjoy, was shot for the pot the day before.
“We only consume what we have on the farm. This springbok was shot yesterday for meat right here on the farm.”
He shares how he walks 2 kilometres daily to keep healthy; a remarkable feat for a man of his age.
Not long after the meal, we get into the Land Cruiser again to visit projects on the farm.
The first stop is the clinic operated by two permanent nurses. It was handed over by Nujoma to the Ministry of Health and Social Services earlier this year.
The clinic was built mainly to cater for nearby farmworkers who had been finding it difficult to access healthcare facilities.
Just a stone’s throw away from the clinic is the construction site for a primary school. This too was financially supported by Nujoma through the Sam Nujoma Foundation.
Next was a visit to the Namibian icon’s evergreen garden; clearly a source of pride. It houses mainly citrus trees. More fruit trees and vegetables are set to be planted.
“I come here almost every day to take a breather. As you can see, all trees here were planted by myself as this area was only full of bush,” gestures Nujoma.
And so the time to depart drew nearer. Saying our goodbyes, Nujoma offers us treats for the road: biltong, fresh omaere (cultured milk) and other snacks from the shop at the Etunda fuel station.
As his protection detail whisks him away back to his farmhouse, we cannot help but admire the strength and agility of a man now in his late 80s.
My mind is now surely made up on what I want to be when I grow up: another Sam Nujoma ...of the journalism world.