When Hidipo returned from exile, we did not know the man, only the legend: a revered freedom fighter, a revolutionary, a political giant.
The fist time I saw him in real life was at a press conference with Anton Lubowski in 1989, and contrary to my expectations he was friendly and kind of shorter than I imagined… not a giant at all.
The first time I actually spoke to him one on one was at parliament, in the restaurant when I asked for a copy of a speech he made. I called him “honourable” and he said: Call me Hidipo. That was in the mid 1990’s.
Ever since, he has been my friend, my go to guy when I needed the truth, or reaction to international events. He was always accessible and his sharp intellect is something that I will remember forever.
I understand the reasons that he broke away from Swapo, he was sending a message, and I understand why he went back. He belonged there.
I was in awe of his intellect, his charisma, his personality, his kindness, his integrity and his humanity.
He never saw the colour of my skin. He saw me just as a fellow Namibian.
Words fail at this time, but I would like to read an Afrikaans poem, that I will loosely try to translate. It was written by the South African poet, Jan F.E. Cilliers and honours a South African general De Wet who fought in the Anglo Boer war against the British.
I can find no better words to describe my friend, your husband, father, brother and comrade: Hidipo Hamutenya.
“Stil, broers, daar gaan ‘n man verby, hy groet, en dis verlaas.
Daar’s nog maar één soos hy;bekyk hom goed.
Die oog, nou dof en weggesink, soos vuurvonk kon hy blink – die arendsblik, Die stap en kraggebaar is nou bedaar.
Is dit jul leier nog? Gewis! en soos hy ons s’n was en is.”
And the translation:
“Be silent, brothers, A man is walking past, he greets, for the last time.
There is but only one of him Look at him and look well.
The eyes, Now faint and sunken, Could shine like fire sparks – The eagle eye,
The walk and power he exuded Have now gone… Is this still your leader? Indeed!
Like he was and still is.”