TANGENI ANGULA’S BIRTHDAY MESSAGE...TO NAHAS... “YOU’RE GOD GIVEN”
PF: How do you describe your husband?
TA: Oh, my husband cannot be described in just one straight line, as he can be different things for different people. Perhaps what is common in all these is his sense of humour, intelligence, meekness, humility, hard work, honesty and drive for fairness towards all.
PF: If you are to describe him in two words, which ones would you use?
TA: I would pick these from the above list: funny and highly intelligent.
PF: What lessons have you learnt from him over the past years?
TA: I learned self-confidence, assertiveness, and independence of action while always paying attention to future consequences of present behaviour.
PF: What is your birthday wish to your husband?
TA: My husband is a God-given gift to me, our children and the entire family. My birthday wish is for him to have unlimited blessings of happiness, divine health, and genuine friends and associates who can understand and share his great vision of social upliftment for all.
PF: What is the children’s birthday message to their father?
TA: “Happy birthday Daddy! You are a true inspiration to us all and everyone around you. You taught us how to be principled, and the importance of honesty. We thank you and love you always. Today is your special day so, face your future. We are behind you all the way!”
PF: How does it feel being married to a hero like him?
TA: I feel privileged of course; as any other woman would, I am sure. However, his life has been a life of self-sacrifice, both while in exile and when we came back home. It reminds me of the remarks made by the Founding father of the nation, H.E. Former President Shafiishuna Nujoma, at our wedding in New York in 1978. These remarks were directed to me: “My daughter, you have married a servant of the whole Namibian nation. There will be times when he will be away from home for protracted periods of time. He may not always be there when you need him, as his national duties will take him wherever he is needed, sometimes requiring him to venture into dangerous zones in the course of national liberation.” Yes, I reflect back to those times and I still say, thank you Lord that he is my husband!
PF: What has changed in him over the past 20 years in an independent Namibia?
TA: Well, he is 20 years older! Further to that, he has the whole Government business on his shoulders, compared to the Education portfolio that was his sole responsibility at independence. His current role requires him to deal directly with the whole range of national issues (political, economic, social, environmental, legal as well as technological issues). So, the changes that I see mostly are as a result of this shift. However, his heart remains that of a teacher.
PF: What is his favourite food?
TA: Traditional food!
PF: Who is his favourite person in the world?
TA: It is anybody who inspires him, and there happen to be quite a few world-wide. I want to believe that the top one is still Hon. Andimba Toivo yaToivo!
PF: What do the two of you share in common?
TA: In terms of personality: humility is our common trait. Activity-wise, we both love reading.
PF: Which birthday of his do you remember most and why?
TA: I always remember the one of 1992. That day we had a joint party for him and Hon. Andimba Toivo yaToivo at our house. As Mrs Vicki YaToivo and I were busy with party arrangements, a relative of ours who was staying with us gave birth to a baby boy on the same day – so we ended up having three “birthday boys” on the same day!
PF: If the PM was allowed to return to the age of 20 again, what else do you think he would wish for?
TA: He would most likely go for a second university degree – a Bachelor in Agriculture! Although he is a highly educated teacher, well rooted in his profession, he has great passion for farming (crop and animal farming) both at subsistence level as well as at large scale.
PF: How many kids do the two of you have?
TA: We have six – two daughters, two sons, one son-in-law and one granddaughter!PF
TANGENI Katrina Angula nee Namalenga married Nahas Angula in the summer of 1978 in New York at a wedding attended by the likes of Dr. Sam Nujoma and the late Bishop Auala. The couple used the house of the Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Theo Ben Gurirab for the reception and after-party.
The SWAPO top brass had come to New York for the United Nations Commission for Namibia meeting.
Between that time and independence, the Angulas were never to become a regular family. In fact, the longest they stayed together since that wedding day was not more than a year.
“Family or marriage life started at independence for me,” says Tangeni Angula, who had been left with the task of raising two children for Prime Minister Nahas Angula born between 1978 and 1990, while the commitment of the liberation struggle took toll.
But things changed at independence and today she is an oasis of strength for the Prime Minister.
“He loves watering my garden. You see him whistling around the yard watering the garden while I do the other chores. He won’t use a water-pipe. No. He prefers that can,” says Meme Tangeni, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Namibian Institute of Pathology (NIP).
A pharmacist by profession, Tangeni, was born in Onayena village in the Oshikoto Region, met the Prime Minister, when she went into exile in Zambia in 1974, straight after her matriculation at Oshigambo High School.
He was the Head of ‘Old Farm’, an exile camp in Zambia and she somehow got to teach senior grades at the camp.
“Nothing serious materialized at that time because I then went to do my A’Levels in England and I finished in 1978,” she recounts.
But in those two years, they remained in touch after providence separated them when he also went overseas ‑ New York in the United States.
Upon finishing her studies in 1978, she got admitted to a University in Birmingham, but before she could start her studies, “he could not visit because he was now tied up at the UN Commission for Namibia in New York, so I decided to visit during the summer vacation,” she narrates.
Of course, love was in the air. One thing led to another and they got married that same summer in New York.
But she had to return to England to pursue her pharmaceutical studies.
“It was a divided family. I went back to England to pursue my studies upon which I was blessed with my first child in 1979. We jointly then decided that we should stay together, so I joined him in New York where I later graduated.”
In 1980, Nahas, born on 22 August 1943, was posted to Angola and because of studies, Tangeni and her one-year-old daughter, Nambata Talakomeho, had to remain in the US.
She graduated with a degree in pharmaceutical studies and in 1984 she sat for her Masters in New York.By this time, Angula was now the SWAPO Secretary for Education in Angola.
“It was hard, having to cater for the child and to stay away from my husband. I was only fortunate in that he would come to New York with mission work occasionally, but it was challenging. Whenever he came home, he would tell me, ‘Tangeni, you never know about the future. Don’t count on me; you need to be independent because you would not know when I will go.’ This kept me going. Things were heating up in terms of the struggle so there was no surety and that kept me strong enough. Our daughter is called ‘Talakomeho’, meaning, look into the future. We took the name from those situations we were having”.
“My husband encouraged me to be hard working and not to waste my own potential by counting on him. Many married women in exile did not live with their husbands and it was tough for us. Survival and looking ahead was the only option, waiting for the day that the husbands would return,” she relates.
Tangeni joined her husband in Angola towards the end of 1984, and did a few pharmaceutical assignments. But language barrier troubled her and this meant after years of studying she would be forced to stay at home and put aside her degree as the requirements were that one had to do internship before accreditation.
There was only one option.
Leave Angola … and Nahas.
“I went to Zambia on January 1, 1985 and did my internship there. My husband remained in Angola.”
Before she could return, the Ministry of Health in Zambia requested her in writing that she must help in the production of medicines at the country’s medical stores.
Now a mother of two, after Peter Nanyemba was born in 1983, Tangeni became Production Manager at Zambia’s biggest medical parastatal till independence.
By now, Nahas had become a Central Committee member of SWAPO in charge of Zambia affairs.
“Maybe he wanted to get close to his family because I was the one with the children all this time,” she smiles.
Tangeni returned to Namibia for the first time in 1989 since 1974, when she was coming to register as a voter.
She returned in 1990 and got a job, (before her husband) on January 2 as a senior pharmacist at Katutura State Hospital.
Nahas waited for three more months when independence was declared when he got his first post in an independent Namibia, as minister.
“That’s when family started for me,” says Tangeni, who had her third child, Nangolo, in January 1991.
Nambala, Nanyemba and Nangolo, why the ‘Na’ on all the children’s names?
She laughs, “Men give names in my tradition. His name is Nahas, so that’s where it comes from.”
Nangolo is now a law student in South Africa.
In an independent Namibia, Tangeni has not followed the attention and high profile that has gone her husband’s way.
She absorbs herself in spiritual literature, spending much time reading the Bible and never missing a Sunday service.
“Why should I put myself on top or seek attention when my husband who is the head of my family, lowers himself to the people that he leads? Everyone talks about how vibrant he is yet down to earth. Who am I to seek any form of attention?” says the NIP Chief Executive Officer.
She has served as Chairperson of the Swapo Party Branch in Klein Windhoek where they stay but still prefers the backseat.
She worked until she was promoted from Katutura State Hospital to head a directorate for Tertiary Health Care and Clinical Support services in the Ministry of Health.
In July of 2003, Tangeni, now oozing with so much experience, was asked by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to head a pharmaceutical programme for the region.
She moved to Botswana where she conducted and made policy and programming proposals in the procurement of pharmaceuticals for the whole region.
Above all, she was tasked by SADC to oversee the harmonization of medicine regulations for the region, till her term ended.
She returned in July 2004, five months after her husband had been appointed Prime Minister by the new government of President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
“I was excited at his promotion. He works hard, that man. The way you feel when someone in the house has been promoted is the way I felt, when I heard it. Excitement,” she says.
Upon her return and with the recommendations from SADC, the then Minister of Health advised that she apply for the vacant position at NIP.
Meme Tangeni loves cooking for her husband.
“I am a housewife and a mother in my house. I leave my title at work. I love cooking. And he loves it when I make him traditional meals. Any mixture of traditional food. He loves it,” she smiles.
Tangeni rarely moves around with the Prime Minister. She regards both their roles as employees of the government and wants it kept that way, a move that has left many people oblivious of her influence in one of the country’s most powerful man.PF