Gabi Woermann Speaks About GBV, Death Penalty, Prayer and Elections [interview]

GABI Woermann (74) married into one of the oldest German families in Namibia, and calls herself a rebel, someone who is nosy and fights for fairness.

These attributes did not count against her, but have resulted in her becoming a conductor in Namibian politics and business, and although some may consider her as a bit of a nuisance to others she is a voice.

The Namibian’s Adam Hartman wanted to know more about this iron-lady who is not afraid to swim a few hundred metres in the cold Swakopmund ocean on a daily basis, and her views on some pressing current issues.

In short, who is the Woermann-family?

In the 18th century there were peasants from Germany who eventually built up a name for barrel building, spice and linen trade which they shipped to the Far East and even the Americas. Our ancestor, Adolph Woermann, established trade posts around Africa including South West Africa. Before World War I he was the largest private ship-owner in the world with the Woermann-Linie.

Where does Gabi Woermann fit in?

I married Konrad Woermann who in 1960 took over a small shop in Windhoek, Independence Avenue, we have four children and consider ourselves Namibians as Jesko Woermann leads Woermann Brock in Windhoek and Ingo Woermann at the coast.

Where does your love for Namibia come from?

When I came to Namibia, I learnt that the people were extremely friendly, extremely peaceful and helpful. Even during the independence struggle, they were caring for and helping each other. This attracted me.

What did you want for Namibia?

We knew Namibia would be independent eventually and we lived from the start as if Namibia would become independent. It was important to us. I remember when black children were appointed to perform in the Windhoek theatre for the whites, and the entrance was “whites only”. The parents brought the children and they had to wait outside because they were not allowed in the theatre and that caught my attention. Some friends and I confronted every person waiting to enter and asked them if they really wanted to listen to the children while their black parents could not have the pleasure of seeing their own children perform. Eventually the theatre was opened to all races, not at that specific performance, but afterwards.

I wanted people to know that I was against this ‘whites only’. I did not want publicity, but fairness. I wanted independence where the people of this country could move and talk freely. I wanted apartheid totally out of the way. I was hoping for more equality in the economy. That goes throughout my whole life. I still fight for that. I’ve been involved in the founding of the food and allied workers’ union, and because of friends in certain organisations, I was put in contact with political and business leaders at that time, such as Sam Nujoma, Hage Geingob and Martti Ahtisaari.

Has that realised since?

There is independence. Apartheid is out of the way, but I also hoped that there would be an equalisation in the social status that means reducing the gap between rich and poor. Unfortunately, that I can’t see yet. I think it is a shame that after so many years and despite all the foreign donor money, we were not able to achieve this goal. This is a crucial issue.

What has impressed you most with the new Namibia?

That all people have the opportunity to improve their lives. Whether they are using that opportunity, that’s another thing but they do have that freedom and opportunity to do something for themselves. They can make their own decisions and the possibilities are there.

What has disappointed you the most?

Corruption. It’s all over the world, but in Namibia it, maybe, has to do with the hierarchy of the rural society where they seek for a leader. So the leader has to represent himself with lots of wealth and if heshe has that then everybody wants to serve him. Maybe that’s the psychology behind this corruption. It’s individuals that are corrupt. And it’s deep in our nation.

The issue of gender-based violence: what needs to be done to stop it?

Respect. The media reported that our Founding Father said that those murdering women should be buried alive. I think that is not right. Should violence be met with more violence? Our Founding Father, chiefs and churches should confess that they failed to honour and respect mothers and women. They are the leaders who should guide us. Fifty percent gender participation in Namibian politics is much better than in most countries of the world but respect for the mothers of the children of a nation builds a nation.

What do you think of the death penalty?

I don’t know. There’s too much injustice, and in the end who are we to judge about another person’s life? It’s a difficult question. I think one should do something else. To simply put the guilty person into prison is not a good idea because they have a room, food and maybe even a TV. Instead, they should work extremely hard for the community from sunrise to sunset, maybe life long? Yes, that would be my answer.

What do you think of prayer for the nation?

That’s not enough. Our problems are home-made. Do we really need a new parliament with i.e. a fitness centre for the PM? What about investing in education: more qualified teachers, classrooms, computers, etc.

In short Namibia needs to invest in our children. They are our future.

What are you hoping for the outcome of the elections?

That we have some opposition parties definitely. That is not to say I am against Swapo. We are happy and proud to live in a democracy which demands a multi-party government. At the end of the day our leaders did a good job. I will not be able to do their job, but yes, we need an opposition.

What is the biggest unanswered question you have?

Why am I so naive to think that I can still make a difference in this world?

Source : The Namibian