1. Welcome Dr. Ngurare to Namambe, first of all please tell us how many languages do you speak?
I speak Nyemba, Kwangali, Gciriku, Afrikaans, English, Thimbukushu and a bit of Oshikwanyama.
2. Are you a morning or an evening person? What happens when you’re forced to be the opposite?
A morning person; but in my line of work, it is inevitable to be an evening person as well.
3. Super! Please tell us now something about yourself?
I was born in a peasant family at Nkure-nkuru (located on the border between Namibia and Angola) during the heat of the liberation struggle in the face of African resistance led by SWAPO against Apartheid tyranny. My father had four wives and my mother was the youngest in the union. As a little boy, I looked after my father’s cattle and goats just like all other boys at the time. I am a first born to my mother’s 9 children. As a first born, I had to pound mahangu, fetch water, firewood and cook for my siblings. I started school late as a result.
4. Where did you go to school? Starting from your pre-primary till where you got your PhD?
I attended Kakuro Pre-Primary School (under the tree), Siurungu Primary School, Nkure-nkuru High School, Kaisosi Tweende High School, Linus Shashipapo Secondary, Kolin Foundation Secondary School. Tertiary education: BSc, Magna Cum Laude, Central State University (USA), LLM, University of Dundee (Scotland), and PhD, National University of Ireland (Republic of Ireland).
5. What is the best conversation you’ve ever had with the youth in this country?
The best conversation I had with the youth was during the 2009 Presidential and National Assembly Elections. This was the first election in which the youth born in 1990 attained voting age. Convincing them to vote for SWAPO Party was not the same as convincing the elders who have lived through the dark days of apartheid. It is through music and thanks to Namibian artists that our message got through to them and energized them to vote for the SWAPO Party.
6. What does a typical day entail in Dr. Ngurare’s life?
I wake up around 5am for a bit of exercise, take my daughter to school and go to work. At work, a normal day would be swamped by meetings with youth and elders from all walks of life. And usually return home very late.
7. Suppose you have no obligations, what would your perfect day be like?
I would enjoy walking in the desert or the forest, it is my favorite pastime.
8. What are you busy with at the moment?
We are busy formulating policy papers for the SWAPO Party Youth League. This implies that we want to position the SWAPO Party Youth League as an active, revolutionary and militant youth wing of the SWAPO Party driving the countries’ economic agenda for this generation and generations yet to be born.
9. How would you describe your political journey and role in the Ruling Party today? What are your struggles (we all have them!)? What’s going well?
My political activeness began in 1983 at Nkure-nkuru High School where I was a top student of the late Mitili Jacko Kangayi, who in our presence, faced the brutality of the Apartheid soldiers; I drew immense inspiration from his bravery and unquenchable courage as well as conviction in his self-determination for the total independence of Namibia.
I got involved in student activities from an early age at Nkure-nkuru and later at Linus Shashipapo Secondary School where I was during the time of NANSO’s founding in 1984. Some of our teachers then were South African defence force soldiers, with guns and uniforms, they taught us.
As for the political struggles of today, I really think that there aren’t many. The challenge of today unlike yesterday is that we have people interested in cliques and trying to please such cliques. This negates the broader purpose of modern and dynamic political formation such as our ruling party. Put simply, those of us who are members and leaders we are because we have agreed (voluntarily) with the Aims and Objectives of the SWAPO Party through the ideals of solidarity, freedom, justice, democracy and progress.
These ideals are like the Biblical ten commandments, thus if all of us adhere to the Aims and Objectives of the Party, all becomes well, and if the opposite happens yes there are bound to be struggles. In this regard, I am pleased to acknowledge that majority of the membership and leadership of SWAPO Party agree with these aims and objectives with the exceptions of the few. This is human.
10. Give us an example of how you’ve worked with people who did not share your philosophy or values.
Somebody told me once that the easiest people to work with are all in the cemetery; thus so long as we are alive you will find resistance from other thinking human beings. I have worked with people who did not necessarily share my values from the days of student politics to the present; but it is also true to say that I have worked with many people who have shared the values and philosophies I shared.
The vivid example that comes to mind was when I was a Senator in the Student Government Association of the Central State University and President of the International Students Association at the same school. A few of us led by my Cde. Lawrence Hamilton III and myself. we defiantly mobilized students to demand adequate funding for the university.
A standoff ensued and a near riot developed. Some African students threatened me that if they lost their scholarships in the process they “would deal with me”. Eventually the Governor of the State gave in and we travelled to the State Capital (Columbus) to meet lawmakers and we were joined by Revered Jesse Jackson after which it was announced that the University will be funded as per our demands. From that day, those who were against what we were doing became our friends to this day.
11. What do you enjoy most about being a youth leader? Are there many opportunities to learn and advance?
It is not an enjoyable job but rather a challenging one. You should be aware that I am employed fulltime by the SWAPO Party. The practice has always been that when you are in that position you automatically take up a position in government. I refused this notion during a meeting of the SWAPO Party Central Committee in 2008. My conviction is that it is better to have a SWAPO Party directing its government instead of the other way around.
In this position, it is not a popular one particularly if you are not seen to be a yes-man to the senior leaders. But what is guiding me is that there is a constitution of SWAPO and a Constitution of SWAPO Party Youth League. One is able to read and apply it. You can thus make up your own objective views on issues.
After all, leadership is not and must not be a beauty contest of popularism but a case for fearlessly articulating the views and aspirations of the electorate and people of this country. And being head of SPYL which is a transmitting belt of the SWAPO Party ideology, policies and programmes also requires that you are militant, active and revolutionary wing of the ruling party. This does not make us into pastors or bishops but militant voices of the ruling party demanding the implementation of the policies and programmes of the ruling Party, without fear or favour. It is in this process that we must learn and advance within the framework of the Party. In other words, I joined the Party to advance its Aims and Objectives but I did not join to please the egos or personal agendas of individuals. As individuals, all of us, will and must die one day, but the ideals of the Party must live on.
12. Is there any part of Namibia where you have not yet set your foot?
I have travelled in all 107 Constituencies and 13 Regions of our country. The last place I had not visited in a long time was Oranjemund, which I did last month. I have been to many remotest of villages and it has been quite a taxing exercise. This to me is the best thing because one is able to hear and see the realities on the ground. I have learned a great deal in this respect.
13. When you heard about the news from the media that Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC? Were you surprised or sad and why?
Julius Malema is a product of the South African condition, especially where the ANC is ruling. As we speak there are more poor young South Africans, poor black South Africans, but there are rich blacks too. I thus was surprised to hear of his expulsion. But all said and done, he is in South Africa and we are in Namibia. We are not members of ANC and they are not members of SWAPO; but we are sister parties.
We have commented on the process of the expulsion, which is flawed, but it has got nothing to do with us here. We have our own policies and programmes in Namibia. Some elders in SWAPO Party are friends of Jacob Zuma and it is only natural that some youth in SWAPO Party are friends of Julius Malema. But the sins of Zuma are more those of Malema, history know this only too well.
14. You’ve probably been all over the world. What country do you think has the most messed-up political system?
Every political system in the world has its flaws including ours. However, I think US political system is worth commenting on. In that system, a rich person gets elected but hardly a poor one. He that pays the piper controls the music one may say. But there is a lesson for all too, namely that when it comes to national interest and security, Americans unite against all odds in support of their country. They also unite in promoting their values beyond its borders. Today the Hollywood gospel is in every corner of the world including here in Namibia; and the founders of social networks such as Facebook or many computer brands are residents of the United States of America. It is an imperfect political system that has created a conducive environment in which individuals have harnessed their creative ingenuity to revolutionalise the world, technological speaking.
15. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
A university lecturer and a successful communal farmer in the Kavango Region.
16. How many state presidents are there in the world?
Judging by the number of countries that are members of the United Nations, I think there are over 150 state presidents.
17. What would you do if a colleague is underperforming, which is hurting you and the economy of our country?
If a colleague is underperforming, it is imperative that I make it known to him/her that hard work is better than laziness.
18. . Which of the 13 regions faces the biggest socio-economic challenges when it comes to youth empowerment?
Demographically, we know that over 70% of the country’s population live in rural areas. Thus the regions of Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kavango, Omaheke, Otjizondjupa, Erongo and Caprivi face the biggest socio-economic challenges when it comes to youth empowerment.
19. How would your political opponents describe you?
I leave that to them to describe.
20. What would chairs look like if our knees were on the back of our legs?
It is a hypothetical question, I wouldn’t want to speculate.
21. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go first and why?
I will go to visit Nakuru, Kenya. I would want to study the migration of Africans from Central Africa to this part of the world. In particular, to enjoy the spectacular flora and fauna of the Lake Nakuru National Park.
22. What are your favourite computer programme (s)?
I was introduced to computers 1992 through FORTRAN and later WordPerfect platforms until the advent of windows multitasking platforms. Thus throughout this period, I have gotten to experiment with a lot of computer programmes and recently have decided for Mac based programmes instead of Windows based programmes. Too many to list.
23. You are one of the leaders in Namibia who is prominent on FACEBOOK why do you think some leaders are inclined to use this modern mode of communication?
Those who are using facebook are no different from those who use cellular phones, the objective is to enhance modern communication. Those who are allergic to it now, it is purely because they don’t understand it. It is a matter of time, give them a few years they will be owning up to it. Back in the early 1990s, internet was not received well even here in Namibia, but today everybody is talking as if they have been friends of internet since its inception. For example, it was hard in 1999 when we tried to convince our senior leaders in SWAPO Party to develop a homepage or website, but today there is a dynamic website of SWAPO Party viewed by all.
24. Is there anything else you feel that our youth in Namibia need to be reminded of?
The generation of Hendrik Witbooi, Samuel Maharero, Mandume Ndemfayo these were militant and fearless youth who confronted their adversaries head on; the generation of Sam Nujoma, Andimba Toivo yaToivo, Hifikepunye Pohamba these were militant and fearless youth who partook in the liberation struggle culminating in the independence of Namibia in 1990. In other words all these generations cannot be faulted for having waged various wars and won and we shall not expect of them to fight the sophisticated war of economic independence. This is our duty and a generational obligation of the current youth to become true economic freedom fighters of Motherland Namibia and Africa. In particular, the current youth and elders must not betray those whose blood waters of our modern freedom.
26. Please tell us some of the major youth programmes that are happening in the regions aimed at building the capacity of our youth and alleviate poverty.
The government through the Ministry of Youth, National Youth Service, Sport and Culture, National Youth Service, and the National Youth Council of Namibia ideally are supposed to have TARGETTED programmes aimed at building the capacity of our youth and alleviate poverty. Equally, most other Ministries/Offices/Agencies of government too are meant to do the same. Regrettably, I cannot say, with absolute certainty how such programmes are effectively addressing youth issues in all 107 Constituencies.
27. I noted that there is a shortage of trained web developers, layout artists and graphic designers in most of our rural towns, what is currently being done to address this skill shortage in the interim?
This is arguably one of the challenges we have not only in rural towns but also at the level of central government. For example, just make a research and you will discover that not all our Ministries/Offices/Agencies have presence on the internet. Those who are there their web presence is what I would term “electronic white elephant”. I attribute this to the lack of skills you have outlined in your question. I sincerely hope that this is a matter which we must take up with those of you who possess these skills and propose to our local authorities for implementation.
28. In your view if a person takes up his or her study up to a PhD level what type of skills/knowledge can that person gain which he couldn’t get if he or she ends up with a master degree?
I think postgraduate education generally has the potential to enable one to acquire the skills/knowledge necessary in a particular field of specialization especially at the master’s level.
The PhD level denotes that that particular individual undertakes further research in the given field in order to reach a level of competence and advanced knowledge for such a field of study. I would encourage all our youth to aim high and reach PhD level, if resources and time allows. There is also nothing wrong to settle at Master’s level or even a first degree.
Having said the above, I must hasten to add that all degrees in the world will be meaningless if not accompanied by commonsense and humility. Let us study but we must never forget who we are after acquiring such qualifications. We must not aspire to become more English than the Queen or more catholic then the Pope.
29. If you are given a choice today to choose between pure communism and pure capitalism, which one would you go for and why?
None of the above. I will go for what is relevant and commensurate with the realities of the African condition.
30. Finally please tell us what all your three names mean, namely Elijah, Ngurare and Tjitunga?
My birth name is Tjitunga, which is “to build”, “Elijah” is a Hebrew name as a Christian name, Ngurare is my late father’s first name.
Thank you very much Dr. Ngurare for your time, understanding and inspiration.