SWAKOPMUND – “We have lost a man who was able to transcend political differences, and to reach out and forge alliances in pursuit of a common goal,” founding Father Sam Nujoma said as he described Gerhard Hans Tötemeyer, who died on 31 January 2024 at his residence in Swakopmund.
Tötemeyer, a prominent figure in Namibian politics and academia, died at the age of 88. He was cremated in a private ceremony over the weekend.
The late professor was Namibia’s first-ever director of elections, and helped to strengthen Namibia’s democracy after previously campaigning vigorously for Namibia’s freedom and genuine independence.
Tötemeyer served in the Namibian Cabinet as the deputy minister of local government. Before he became a member of Cabinet or served as the election’s director, Professor Tötemeyer was a member of the first Delimitation Commission of Namibia, a critical body for the administrative division of the country.
He retired in 2004 from politics due to health concerns, but continued to contribute to Namibia as he served as the chairman of the National Housing Enterprise.
Mourners from all walks of life turned up on Friday in Swakopmund to pay tribute to the political figure who was instrumental in transforming Namibia’s political landscape, education and in various communities with roles assigned to him while serving the country.
“In reading the numerous tributes penned over the past week by those who worked alongside him and were mentored by him, it’s evident that describing him as one of the champions of our democracy is fitting”, Nujoma said in a statement read on his behalf during the memorial service.
He highlighted Tötemeyer’s contributions to strengthening democracy in Namibia, including his task of dividing Namibia into regions, constituencies and local authority areas.
He added that the deceased’s unwavering support during the liberation struggle as well as the pivotal role he played as part of a delegation which visited the Swapo leadership in Zambia during the struggle and his continued advocacy for Namibia’s freedom and genuine independence, will never be forgotten by the country.
Nujoma emphasised Tötemeyer’s tenure from 1992 to 1998 as the director of elections, overseeing various pivotal elections in Namibia, and representing the nation on the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC).
“His intellectual force reverberated through every structure,” Nujoma recalled, noting Tötemeyer’s clarity, professionalism and respect in all endeavours.
Moreover, Nujoma highlighted Tötemeyer’s role as the initiator of the Gesprächskreis in Swakopmund in 2019, which led to the establishment of the Forum of German-Speaking Namibians in April 2021, where Tötemeyer served as a founding member.
“We’ve lost a man who transcended political differences, forging alliances toward common goals,” reflected Nujoma. He acknowledged Tötemeyer’s enduring impact through mentoring and training numerous young men and women.
Speaking on behalf of SEAC, Ticheme Dlamini from the Kingdom of Eswatini said the late Tötemeyer made a huge contribution to SADC as he is one of the founding members of SEAC who undertook reviews, development and the implementation of key SEAC and SADC electoral observation mission documents.
“The SEAC was formed by the SADC Summit in 2006 to advise the SADC organ on politics, defence and security affairs on matters of elections, democracy and good governance. This council is composed of representatives of SADC member states. Namibia nominated Tötemeyer to represent it on the council. This nomination is a reflection of the trust, confidence and respect that his country had for him. Indeed, he displayed these attributes as he was honest with himself and everyone, and conducted himself like a truly righteous person. He never pretended,” Dlamini said.
According to him, Totemyer was instrumental in the drafting of the SEAC Structure, Rules and Procedures, the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015), the SADC Principles of Election Observation Missions (which guide SADC Observers during observation missions), as well as the SEAC Strategic Plans for the years 2015-2020 and 2021-2025.
Apart from this, Tötemeyer was also instrumental in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of 2021, which include, as an annexure, Guidelines for Election Observation Under Public Health Emergencies (annexure came about due to the Covid-19 pandemic).
“Hence, our presence with the family is to accompany and walk with them during this last mile of his life. Tötemeyer is a member of the SADC family. He made valuable contributions to SADC, and his dedication and interventions where necessary are being honoured and celebrated here today,” Dlamini continued.
Erongo governor Neville Andre also paid tribute to Tötemeyer, saying that he was a remarkable individual whose impact Namibia felt. He observed that the late Tötemeyer was not merely a scholar or a politician, but was also a dedicated visionary leader whose democracy leanings and public service shaped the course of Namibian history.
“He played a pivotal role in laying the foundations of our democratic system. His commitment to ensuring free and fair elections set a precedent for transparency and accountability in our fledgling democracy. Under his stewardship, Namibia’s electoral process gained international acclaim for its integrity and inclusivity,” Andre said.
“Tötemeyer also served with distinction as Deputy Minister of Regional, Local Government, and Housing. In this capacity, he championed policies aimed at empowering local communities and fostering sustainable development across our nation, as well as the decentralisation process”, he reminisced.
Tötemeyer is survived by his wife, four children and six grandchildren.