Tuesday 31 March 47194 Shares


By: Selma Iipinge

We met with Joseph Kalimbwe who was expelled as UNAM SRC President. As student of the university, he gave us access to his life. Here was our brief conversation with the young leader.

Selma Iipinge (SI) : You have been mentioned everywhere over the past week. On TV, Newspapers, Radio and social media. Who is this Joseph Kalimbwe for those are not at UNAM?

Joseph Kalimbwe (JK) : Well I was born in 1993 to Ms. Florence Lubinda. She was born and spent her earlier childhood in Katima Mulilo and moved to Zamibia with her parents. And my father whom I never got to meet.

I was told that my father died when I was 2-3 years. So I have no single memory of him. But whenever the topic of my father comes up, I don't feel comfortable. His son, my brother rejected my existence and distanced themselves from me.

SI: So who raised you?

JK: I was raised by my mum's brother and sister (uncle and aunt). This is because my mum also died when I was 11. So my uncle took after me. My aunt here in Windhoek also took responsibility. They then took full responsibility for my upbringing as their own in the absense of my long passed parents.

SI: So both of your parents passed away?

JK: Yes they did. But i cannot begin to feel sorry for myself. Since I never got to meet Mr. Kalimbwe, I don't really miss him than I do my mum who passed when I was 11. The treatment of my father's sons was unjust. I considered changed my surname at some point. Growing up without a father's embrace. I felt sorry for my mum at times, she was a single man, working hard to became a displinarian until her passing when I was 11.

SI: So will you forgive them? I mean your brothers since they distanced themselves from you?

JK: I have met them, so i don't know. But i have a great old brother my mother. He has done everything.

SI: Am sorry for that. Tell us about your leadership! People want to hear that.

JK: I think I started at 17. I had just come face to face with true definition of injustice. I was working for a company whose top manager was very stealing lots of money from our labours. We would make a lot of money and get paid rubbish at the end of the month. This would happen while our boss would dine at fancy restraunts. My colleagues used to bitterly complain but could not do anything. I was equally troubled by the events.

Everyday my colleagues would complain but were not willing to do anything. So one day, I felt compiled to approach the Old man, fully aware of the consequences of my bravery. I asked him to stop his conducts or we would take it further. I doubt he expected that but we had had enough of his stories. So we reported him to his superiors who took further actions.

When he returned, he was very furious he decided to fire me saying I was trying to stop him from eating his bread. At 17, I could see how deeply polarized the world is. We worked in the streets and it was during that period that I got awakened. To see the world beyond myself. People would pass by me and sometimes would not want to return the greeting so their friends do not ask would not ask if they know me.

But i took great satisfaction from the experience. To imagine a fair world where corrupt individuals are reminded in the face than silent complaints. My actions would lead my friends to have an increased payment and I was proud of that, even though others enjoyed my fruits and not myself.

SI: I overheard students saying you write two books. Is it true?

JK: Yes it is. I wrote the first one at 18. It is titled "Teenagehood & the Impact of the Western World ". It bassically just outlines how young people have become too consumed by what they seen on Television and in the process that lost touch with reality. Some tend to think they can leave school and immediately land into a great job. Some few they can make it easily through music, many of which are unrealistic expectations.

The second is titled "The Pain of An Empty Stomach". That one is political (laughs). It explains how governments make huge promises and then turn their books on the people whose very existence they owe. Instead of providing strong quality leadership, self enrichment because more important.

SI: I also searched your name the other day and found several of your articles. How do you do?

JK: Well I have alwaya believed writing can change people's perceptions but then again. I have written several articles & editorials on different articles in our column. I realised not so many people my age like reading. So I decided to actually get involved. Because am allergic to corruption, it sticks and as young people we must be very brave to fight it its ugly vices.

SI: I first met you at the Gym Hall where you gave one I think was one of the great speeches I ever heard. The hall was full to capacity yet to stood up to go give it without reading a paper. What give a you courage?

Jk: I think speeches must be an interaction between a speaker and an audiance. You don't want to bore them to sleep. So you make eye contacts . I usually prepare my speeches a day or two before and first know what kind of audiance am going to speak it. So you start well and end well.

SI: The University of Namibia, tell us about it. Students at UNAM love you. Some say they had never seen an SRC President like you. They even sing songs of your name. You have a lot of influence with the students, a hero. What did you do to deserve that?

Jk: Maybe they have been given reasons to believe in themselves. They are just innocent souls wanting a better future for themselves. Wether I influence them or not is not for me to say really.

SI: Hundreds of students followed you even to the gate and jail following your arrest. It's something UNAM had never seen. Some of them created songs and videos for you. Close to 20 000 students give you a big approval. You should be proud of yourself.

JK: (Laughs), students are entitled to see where they had been blind. If they follow me, maybe they see hope in themselves. I cannot hold or tie their feets. It's their choice, it's nothing to do with Joseph Kalimbwe. But am greatly thankful to them because we all come from different backgrounds. Never defined by the languages we speak but by the common good of us all.

SI: How do you view student leadership?

JK: Well philosocally am a Marxist. I watched how the people in Selma Alabama once stood at the Brigde in Selma when people struggled for justice.

Student leadership to me goes beyond my own individual satisfaction. One has to make his followers believe in themselves to say we can help ourselves move from A to B where B is a better place with a sharp distinction.

SI: Students say you set the bar too high for future student leaders. They rejected that someone else will be their president. What do you think?

JK: I don't know if the bar was set high but am alive and that's what is important at this time.

SI: And the death threats. How did they make you feel.

Jk: We will all die at some time in our lives Selma. Even if i fear death, i will ultimately die when time arrives.

SI: And going to Jail for students, sleeping in the Windhoek Central Police cells. Others say it's like Joseph bible story. But was it worth it to be arrested on behalf of students Kalimbwe?

JK: I think it was meant to happen. I met different people in there but the stories I heard in there left me with so many questions. I will consider putting all those stories in a book. To tell the story to the next generation of student leaders. The world will be more fair if even those rejected by unfair treatment are given a voice, a strong voice.

SI: Can you talk about your court case?

Jk: No, not at all. That unfortunately I cannot do. Perhaps after 24th August never now.

SI: Do you think UNAM will ever change?

JK: I don't know. Perhaps maybe it will but I cannot talk about those things now except to say I love its students whole heartedly.

SI: You give us hope, all students admire your bravely. We love you my president. Thank you for your time.

Jk: Thank you too Selma. Study hard & never give in to your fears. There will be time when you get confused at the things going on. People will paint you either bad or good but that must never break your spirit. That must even give you hope to stand determined.

SI: Thank you my president.

JK: (Laughs) you're welcome.

*Selma is a student at the University of Namibia who is inspired by the Kalimbwe spirit & enthusiasm.