Death has robbed Namibia of one of its pioneering jurists; death has robbed Zimbabwe of one of her surviving Second Chimurenga veterans! Oh death! How cruel and callous could you be? Simpson Victor Mtambanengwe has a proud and long record of active involvement in the fight for freedom, independence, social justice and the protection of human rights. His journey started way back in the 1950s while he was at high school, where the abundant leadership qualities of the future freedom fighter and jurist of note possessed were already recognised and put to the test during those formative years, when he served as a school captain.
After finishing school, Mtambanengwe taught for a year and later entered the then University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland at its founding, and graduated in English, Economics and Latin at the end of 1959. At the University, Mtambanengwe served as a member of the Students Representative Council. Upon completing a brief teaching career, he left in 1960 for the United Kingdom to read law at the Inner Temple (London) and was called to the English Bar in 1963, after which he read for a year in the Chambers of eminent barristers of the time, Sir Elwyn Jones and Sam Silkin.
While studying in Britain, Mtambanengwe became a founder member and first President of the Zimbabwe Students Union. He was also the ZANU’s representative to the United Kingdom up to the party’s first congress. In 1964, Mtambanengwe returned to Zimbabwe and was admitted to the local Bar in June of that year, as a barrister or in Namibian legal parlance, an advocate.
On the political front, Mtambanengwe had been a member of African nationalist parties since the time of the Youth League and was elected ZANU Secretary for External Affairs at its first congress at Gweru in 1964. When the party was ultimately banned, Mtambanengwe went into exile to Tanzania, where he continued to actively participate in the struggle for his country’s independence.
He travelled widely during the struggle days to mobilise international public opinion about the plight of his country. He crisscrossed the capital cities of countries in East and Western Europe, North and South America, the Far East and Africa, to solicit support for his country’s independence.
After the first democratic elections in 1980, and with the mission to liberate his country having been accomplished, Mtambanengwe ceased active politics and began to concentrate on his practice as a legal practitioner.
While in practice in Zimbabwe, between 1980 and 1986, he served in various leadership capacities in the Law Society of Zimbabwe. In November 1986, Mtambanengwe was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe.
At Independence, Namibia’s judiciary did not reflect the country’s demographics. With a seriously limited pool from which to select judges for possible appointment at the time, Justice Mtambanengwe, following a government-to-government arrangement, was seconded to the Namibian judiciary, where he was appointed Judge of the High Court in October 1994. No doubt, he sacrificed a promising career in his own country to come and serve the people of Namibia. In Namibia, Justice Mtambanengwe was appointed to some other key positions such as Acting Chief Justice, Acting Judge-President of the High Court and Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia. He has laid a strong foundation on which succeeding judges have endeavoured to develop our judiciary and jurisprudence, so as to take them to greater heights. Whatever task had been assigned to Justice Mtambanengwe, he accomplished it with dedication and total commitment.
I can attest, without any fear of contradiction that throughout his career in this country, Justice Mtambanengwe remained true to the oath of office he took upon his appointment as judge, namely to defend and uphold the Namibian Constitution as the supreme law, and to fearlessly administer justice to all persons, without favour or prejudice, and in accordance with the laws of the land. As we pay tribute to this gallant son of the African soil, who fell in love with the Land of the Brave, and dedicated the last years of his life to the service of her people, I must thank his family for their support and encouragement for his selfless service to the Namibian judiciary and to the people of Namibia.
The pain and grief endured by his family is directly shared by me, my own family and the rest of the judicial officers, as well as the staff members in the Office of the Judiciary. We have indeed lost a visionary and a legal giant.
*This eulogy was delivered on Tuesday at the Central Methodist Church in Windhoek. Retired Judge Mtambanengwe died last week. He was 87
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015