By Stuff Reporter
New kid on the block, now regional councillor in the Erongo Region, Knowledge Ipinge, says the whirlwind of his winning the vote and subsequently being sworn in has not yet died down.
It should come as no surprise that the political science aspirant fell in love with the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement, which spoke his deep-rooted loyalty to his family, his community and his country.
Life threw some hard lessons Ipinge’s way though, when as a young man he was compelled to play a significant role in his home, after his father passed away in the year 2000. Consequently, he stepped up to assist his mother with duties around the house and taking care of his siblings, a situation that instilled the care of others even further into him.
“The privilege of going to study, even though I was accepted at a university in Canada, was taken away from me and I chose football as a career, but that passion fell away with time. I then took up to a career to work more with people, so I did artist management events; all my endeavours are always people-centred.”
The activism bug bites
Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make positive changes in society.
In 2014, Ipinge tells us, he was drawn to being an activist and particularly the message from AR spoke to him.
“I saw these three guys grabbing land and I was like, ‘yes! These are the guys I can associate with. I remember making contact with ‘D’ (Dimbulukeni Nauyoma), well with all of them actually, but at some point, D replied, and I told him the Walvis Bay story, which did not make sense to him at the time. I explained to him that as a young person from Walvis Bay my opportunities were limited; there was just never something for us youth to do. It is either you are sent to Windhoek to live with family, otherwise you are stuck in your parent’s house depending on their meagre N$3,000.00 – N$4,000.00 salary, which is what most factory jobs pay in Walvis Bay. Where does that leave you ? That same money needs to keep a roof over your head, buy food and much more. You end up sitting on the walls of the shops, abusing alcohol; and drugs is the next option.
That is the Walvis Bay story.”
And that is how the AR activism movement in Walvis Bay begun. The three leaders (Dimbulukeni Nauyoma, Job Amupanda and George Kambala) took Ipinge under their collective wing and groomed him, guiding him to lead the mass land application that happened mere months after he joined the movement.
“On the 27th of February 2015, I led the 9,463 to the municipal offices in Walvis Bay, just a few months after I became an activist. My first task was to ensure those mass applications, and our applications here with second only to the ones in Windhoek. A milestone indeed” Ipinge beams with obvious pride.
Still new to being referred to as ‘Honourable Councillor’, Ipinge then relays a story that is both amusing and one which speaks to the fortitude of an office bearer, needing to have the ability to maintain a separation of church and state.
“The mass applications were on the Friday and on the Monday I coordinated a team of filmmakers from South Africa, who on behalf of Multichoice was shooting a documentary of the President. It was an interesting dynamic being the production manager and the project manager of the documentary, the only Namibian on the production, while just two days before we had taken mass action against the State. The question of the AR was unavoidable in the documentary, which was to be aired at the President’s inauguration on the 21st of March.
The professionalism was amazing, based on what my duties and responsibilities in that sphere were and the same from the President’s office.”
Has the Honourable Councillor turned in his Swapo membership?
“I am still a member of Swapo, but I ran as an independent candidate.”
An independent candidate is a politician not affiliated with any political party. There are various reasons why someone may stand for office as an independent. Independent candidates may support policies which are different from those of the ruling political party. In some countries (such as Kuwait), political parties are illegal, and all candidates stand as independents.
“I have been hearing a lot of whispers about ‘how can I step into this office of the Councillor, when I am surrounded by Swapo members?’ As Councillor I am not only here to serve a certain group of people, no.
I am here to serve the people of Walvis Bay, regardless of their political affiliation. My power in any event comes from the people.
As an independent candidate, people are not bound to me by party loyalty and that changes the dynamics of the office that I am serving.
So, my first few days in office have been entirely about the people. I have been meeting many people on a daily basis, just to hear their stories and find out where I can help. I make time; it means me walking rather than driving out of my office and meeting with people.”
What is the biggest task that lies before Ipinge?
Ipinge is of the opinion that although there is a huge expectation on his shoulders, it is not a pressured situation because all that is needed is the implementation of already existing policies.
“Let’s look at the matters at hand; it is the housing issue, it is the fishermen issue, it is unemployment; what is so difficult about these?
The solutions to these issues are there already, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It is just a matter of willpower, you have to really have humanity in you, that is all that it is.”
Ipinge says his leadership style is the ‘shepherd style’ of leadership. “I don’t differentiate whether it is a white or a black sheep, whether it is fat or thin; a sheep is a sheep and that is who I am focused on.”
Shepherd leadership is a matter of selfless service to others. This service will require a commitment to serve without the potential of immediate recognition or reward.
Shepherd leadership will require, at times, gently leading those in their charge, mentoring and sometimes teaching them along the way.
“It is all about me ensuring they have access to water, access to food, that they are in an area where they can grow; I need to create areas for growth. This office is all about being a facilitator; holding the municipal office accountable, holding other stakeholders accountable; that is what it is all about.”