Daniel, my older brother joined SWAPO, an organization that fought against South Africa Apartheid government for the independence of Namibia, when I was little. Like many Namibians who fled the country during the South African Apartheid, he too did. He went and stayed gone in exile for over 9 years without ever hearing a word from him, for security and safety reasons for our family.
So I grew up with my mom and my two young brothers, Sakeus and Thomas, and my baby sister, Libertine, alone at our rural farm. My three older sisters, Maria, Jenny and Sippora; Maria was married and the other two, Sippora was in high school away from home, and Jenny was working in Oshakati to support us. My dad lived in Oshakati all his life and never provided us with any financial support.
Towards the end of 1989 when all exiled people returned to Namibia, we were shocked that Daniel also returned, well and healthy. All those years he was gone, he was a soldier for the SWAPO military wing, the PLAN. I was at school in the US when he returned and when I went back to Namibia, it was during the election campaign, and I got busy going around with SWAPO President Sam Nujoma helping with the election and only went to Oshakati once where Daniel was also volunteering at the SWAPO office helping with the election.
I walked in to the SWAPO office and asked the gentleman who was at the reception desk that I came to see Daniel and the guy asked me who I was and I told him my name and that I was Daniel’s young brother. He told me to wait and he went back to call Daniel.
I was nervous because I haven’t seen my brother since I was a kid. And then the guy came back from the back room and asked me to come in to the back office. He asked me to sit down on the couch in the living room, and he sat next to me and he said he was Daniel. We both didn’t know what to do. We hugged each other and cried and then talked. We talked for about 15 minutes and then I had to leave because everyone was waiting for me, so I had to go. We promised each other to meet after the election.
So I left happy and was still dreaming that my brother whom I haven’t seen in years was alive and well. And after the independence in March 1990, I went to Oshakati from Windhoek to see him. I went to his flat (apartment) and we were so happy to see each other again. I was dressed in a black sport suit but without a shirt or anything under, and when he looked at me he thought I looked so cool. He also put on similar suit but a brown one, and also without a shirt under.
We took a walk, strolling down the street, shirtless but with jackets only, we looked so cool, and just talked. That was the best day of my life ever, walking and talking with my older brother. I grew up alone looking up to no body but my mom and suddenly there I was, walking with my brother for the first time in my life and after so many years. We looked so cool together.
My brother was the coolest and most good looking guy ever. He was tall and slender, and light skin. He looked so cool and I was so happy that I was no longer alone as the head of our little family. Finally I was going to answer to someone else other than my mom who was then and is still my best friend and hero. Finally I had a man in my life that I could proudly look forward to spending time with, learn from him and just to feel safe again, just to have a male role model in my life.
We went to a fish and chips sandwich place and we ordered some food. He asked me what I wanted to drink. For the first time my brother was asking me what I wanted to drink. Then I told him that I would have a Fanta and he asked to have the same.
Then we stood there arguing who to pay for the food. I was telling him that I was paying because I was from Windhoek, and he was saying he would pay, and we stood there for a few minutes looking at each other laughing and arguing who should pay, and he said, look kid, I’m the older so I will pay. So he paid for the food and we sat down and ate and were just talking about the family related things. I finally had a male figure to talk to him about our family affair.
I was so happy, it felt like heaven, it felt so surreal that I was sitting there and eating a meal with my older brother. Then he told me that he was engaged and also had a little 3 year old daughter, Maria, named after our older sister. He asked me that one day when I get some time that I should come and go with him to meet his daughter and his fiancé.
Then we left to the bus stop where I was gonna get on the bus to go back to Windhoek as I had to go to work the next day. At the bus stop, he hugged me tight and told me that he was very proud of me and that he loves me. For the first time ever, someone else, and it was my brother telling me that he was proud of me and that he loves me. I got on the bus and he came to the window of the bus and held my hand and telling me that he will see me again soon.
As the bus was leaving, my brother stood there waving at me until I couldn’t see him any more. So I left. Long story short, a few months later, I was walking on the street in a daze, for two long weeks I was in a dark cloud, I didn’t eat I didn’t sleep, my uncle Joe would ask me what was wrong and I told him I didn’t know.
But on that cloudy but sunny day, I took a walk and as I was walking down the street, a childhood friend saw me and walked up to me and said, Simon, what are you doing here, haven’t you heard? And I said heard what? On the radio, your brother Daniel died in a car accident in Caprivi. Then the whole world came crumbling down on me right then and at that moment I felt no sense of anything.
I got up, as I had just collapses to the ground, went home, packed up my stuff and went home to my mom. At my mom, she was devastated, I didn’t shed a tear as I didn’t want my mom to feel even worse if she sees me crying. I became a man, went to the mortuary, took his body, arranged for my brothers funeral and buried him.
Two weeks later in Windhoek, something just came over me. It hit me so hard, the death of my brother, and I cried for two long weeks, mourning the death of my brother. And then I got up, went to my mom and asked her how to go find my brother’s daughter.
Then I went looking for her and found her mother about 200 miles away far in the north of Namibia near Angola. Then her mom and I talked and I took the little 3 year old girl and took her with me to Windhoek and raised her as my daughter. I was just 19 years old. My life as a young man ended and I became a father.
I was working as a sound engineer for NBC so money was not a problem. I bought my first 3 bedroom house before I turned 21 so I could better raise my daughter, Maria. She’s now 24 years old and very beautiful and smart. If there’s anything I have been successful at in my life, it’s raising and taking care of my daughter, Maria. I have been her mother and father, and I am so proud of her, so much, and if my brother would come back and see her, he would be so proud of her, and hopefully he would appreciate me more.
My brother Daniel, died while he was serving as a Paramilitary Police for the newly formed Namibia Defense Force. Him and two other died in a military vehicle in a head on collision in Katima, Caprivi in 1990, just a few months after Namibia’s Independence from South Africa.
He spent over 9 years fighting the bush war against the Apartheid South African Powerful Forces and survived, unharmed, a bit injured but survived and was healthy just to come and die in a silly head on collision.
In 2002, my young half brother Absalom, whom I hadn’t seen since 1984, but became close by emailing each other, I had registered him to come to the US and attend college at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio was driving with friends from Windhoek to Oshakati.
Right after they passed Otjiwarongo, their car had an accident, it rolled over and he was sitting in the back seat, unfortunately without a seat belt. He was thrown out of the car and went throw the windshield and got cut by the wires that made up the side fence, he died a few hours later.
Yes, redesigning and rebuilding Namibia’s express highways is very personal, sort of a revenge to help make the roads in Namibia better so other people don’t lose their lives or get injured as my brothers did.
It can never be more personal than this and I am taking it head on, with the help of my friends, Robbie and Robert, in the US, and the best team in the world, in Namibia led by Peter and Joseph, and in South Africa, Japan, and a pool of incredible partners and investors across the globe.