(17 June 1939 – 6 October 2016)
Hidipo Hamutenya was born on 17th June 1939 at Odibo, Ohangwena Region. He did his primary education at Engela Primary School (Ohangwena Region) before attending studies at Augustinium Secondary and Teacher Training College at Okahandja.
His father, Aaron Hamutenya, was a railway worker and a founder member of SWAPO. He played a major role in influencing the young Hamutenya politically.
Young Hamutenya joined SWAPO in 1961 when he was 22. He left for exile through Frans town, Bulawayo, Lusaka and ended up in Dar-es-salaam, in the then Tanganyika, the following year.
In 1963, Hamutenya was sent by SWAPO to Egypt, where he worked at the SWAPO office in Cairo. From Cairo, he went to Sophia, Bulgaria to do a short course in media at the University of Sophia.
After a brief stint in Bulgaria, Hamutenya proceeded to the United States to Temple University High School in Philadelphia with other Namibians like Hage Geingob, Theo-Ben Gurirab, Philemon Kanime, Festus Muundjua, late Ewald Kanguatjivi and the late Linekela Kalenga. Upon graduation in 1964, Hamutenya enrolled at Lincoln University and obtained a BA in Political Science in 1968. During this time, Hamutenya, together with Hage Geingob and Theo-Ben Gurirab, was appointed as a SWAPO representative to the Americas.
Hamutenya later obtained an MA in Political Science and Development Studies and Economics from McGill University in Quebec, Canada in 1973.
He was recalled by SWAPO to Tanzania to take up various duties with the organization. He was thus appointed Secretary for Education in 1973 and as such he was responsible for placing thousands of young Namibians in educational institutions throughout the world.
Hamutenya was elected to the SWAPO Central Committee and Politburo in 1976. In the same year, he was made Deputy Director and Head of the History and Political Science Department of the United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) in Lusaka, Zambia, where he taught many of Namibia’s current government officials, including Chief Justice Peter Shivute, Justice Minister Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana, Attorney-General Albert Kawana, Judge-President Petrus Damaseb and many others. He held this position until 1981 when he was elected SWAPO Secretary for Information and Publicity.
From 1978 to 1989, he was a key member of SWAPO’s negotiating team for the UN Plan for Namibian Independence.
After nearly 30 years in exile, Hamutenya returned home in 1989 as part of SWAPO’s Elections Directorate.
This saw Hamutenya becoming a member of the Constituent Assembly and its Constitution Drafting Committee, effectively making him one of the true founding fathers of the Republic of Namibia. He was also the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly’s National Symbols Committee which was responsible for producing the national flag, the national coat-of-arms and the national anthem.
At independence, he became a Member of the first Parliament and the country’s first Minister of Information. Under his guidance, the then-SWABC was transformed into the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and it truly began to reflect the new dispensation in both its programming and recruitment policies. Under his leadership, the Namibian Press Agency (NAMPA) and New Era were also established.
Hamutenya took over the portfolio of Trade and Industry in 1993. Here he was instrumental in the promotion of the SME programmes and the introduction and implementation of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) policy and programme.
During this period Hamutenya chaired the committee that was responsible for overseeing the design of national honours including Namibia’s various Orders of Merit, the first of which were awarded at the first Investiture Ceremony on 21st March, 1995.
In 2003 Hamutenya was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, which was marked by the pursuit of policies such as “Economic Diplomacy”. He authored the policy document on Economic Diplomacy.
Hamutenya was one person in the SWAPO leadership who recognized very early on, the importance of the force of ideas in the development and growth of a movement like SWAPO. He was then SWAPO’s ideational man.
In 1968, he and former Prime Minister, Hage Geingob, co-authored a seminal document which first defined the meaning of the name “Namibia”. This document formed an important chapter called “The Rise of Nationalism in Namibia” in a book entitled “Nationalism in southern Africa”.
Together with the late Homateni Kaluenja, SWAPO Youth leader, Hamutenya penned the SWAPO anthem “Alert Namibia” in 1973. Following the untimely death of Kaluenja, Hamutenya co-opted Obed Emvula into the project. Hamutenya then sent the lyrics to his close friend, a South African renowned musician and producer, Caiphas Semenya, and asked him to set the lyrics to the tune of “Nkosi Sikele iAfrica”. The work was completed in 1981 and “Alert Namibia” became a powerful mobilizing tool for SWAPO and the liberation struggle.
In 1976 Hamutenya wrote the SWAPO Constitution which, albeit with minor changes here and there, still remains in force today.
Together with Shoombe Ndadi and a Norwegian media artist Torril Berklit, Hamutenya conceived the idea of the powerful SWAPO election symbol and developed “Die Mannetjie”. The three sat for three days to fine-tune the concept and design.
In 2004, Hamutenya was nominated as one of three SWAPO candidates for the presidential elections and was, at the same time, fired from the SWAPO government.
In November 2007, Hamutenya resigned from SWAPO and from his seat in the National Assembly, where he had served for 17 years.
November 17, 2007 saw the launch of the RDP and Hamutenya appointed as its interim President. He was subsequently unanimously elected as the RDP President at its first convention in December, 2008.
Hamutenya is often seen as an enigma. Quizzed about this he says, “I am a man of few words. I speak when I have to speak”.
On the other hand, his friends and colleagues describe him as approachable and trustworthy. Others say he is hardworking, highly intelligent, friendly and dedicated to any cause he embraces.
Hamutenya was married to Nangula Hamutenya and has three sons and one daughter.
*Biography compliments of New Era newspaper