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Namibia Mourns Iconic Publisher

By: Justicia Shipena

A woman of letters who was selfless is what many have described, Rosemary Jane Katjavivi. Jane, the wife of the speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi, died on Tuesday on a flight on her way home in the presence of her husband.

The couple was said to have been returning from a trip when she passed away.

Jane was a writer, editor and former publisher with an academic background in African studies. In 1990, she set up New Namibia Books and for ten years published Namibian writing.

She was also the founding chairperson of the Association of Namibian Publishers and the Namibia Book Development Council, Southern African Representative on the African Publishers Network (APNET) board and a member of the African Books Collective Management Committee.

Having a niche for sharing the stories of Africa, the 70-year-old was also the founding publisher of the University of Namibia (Unam) Press from 2011 to 2016, which published peer-reviewed books in law, public policy, history and memory politics, language and indigenous knowledge.

President Hage Geingob, on Tuesday, extended his condolences to her husband and family.

Geingob narrates that Jane helped at the Swapo office and became a steadfast supporter of freedom fighters during the liberation struggle.

“After independence in 1990, as an accomplished author and passionate editor, Jane was instrumental in building Namibian literature and assisted many with editing manuscripts and documents,” Geingob said.

He said the nation would cherish her outstanding role in developing the language and preserving Namibian literature.

“Jane will be sorely missed by many of us for her gentle demeanour and willingness to offer assistance to those in need. During this difficult hour of grief for the Katjavivi family, I extend on behalf of the Namibian people and government, my wife Monica Geingos and my family, sincere condolences to my dear brother, Cde. Peter Katjavivi, the children and the entire bereaved family. May the soul of Madam Jane Katjavivi rest in eternal peace.”

The office of the speaker of the National Assembly also announced her passing.

In a statement, it said Jane worked at World University Service (UK) in 1975 as a Scholarship Officer, focusing on Southern Africa and with Swapo in London as an information officer from 1976 till 1978, before moving into magazine and book publishing.

The office said she has consistently been a consultant on book development projects in Africa.

“She will be remembered for her gentleness, kindness, consideration and eagerness to help people and for contributing to the writing of Namibian stories,” it reads.

The deputy speaker Loide Kasingo, on behalf of the entire membership of the National Assembly and the secretariat, extended deepest condolences and sympathies to the speaker and his family.

The paramount Chief of the Herero Professor, Mutjinde Katjiua, describes the late Jane as a daughter of the nation who has been a pillar of support to Peter Katjavivi during the dark days of exile and the dawn of independence with its challenges.

Katjiua says that words cannot describe Jane, the woman of letters, as she was a humble soul, adding that in conduct and disposition transcended race and thus radiated humanity at its best.

“She was a great mother to Perivi, Isabelle, Uanaingi and many others, and a loving grandmother. She will be dearly missed, and in this hour of their loss, I wish to extend sincere condolences on behalf of myself, Ngurii and the OvaHerero people to Prof. Peter Katjavivi, the children and the entire family. Ovati vetu ngavejakure omuinjo ue, and may the good Lord comfort you all.”

The official opposition party PDM leader, McHenry Venaani, shares that Jane began her academic career at the University of Sussex, earning a B. A Honours in English literature and later earned a Master’s degree from the University of Birmingham.

“As an author and editor, Mrs Katjavivi naturally had a way with words, freely expressing herself eloquently; however, it is not just her fluency that we will remember. We shall fondly recall her versatility,” Venaani recalls.

Venaani recites that Jane left a legacy of what a great public servant should be.

“She proved that one does not need to be in a position of power to make a difference. The Katjavivi family lost a matriarch and pillar of support. And on this day, as we bid farewell to Jane, we also celebrate a life well lived in the service of her people and her country as an activist and sympathiser of change in Southern Africa. This was unforgiving work. A task not readily rewarded, yet she did this with remarkable distinction during a repressive period.”

Venaani thanked the Katjavivi family for sharing Jane with the nation and allowing her to make a difference in the history of Namibia.

Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi has described the late Jane as a silent giant who did not use her husband’s position for self-gratification.



Justicia Shipena

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