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Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi: oration

Professor Richard Mawditt's oration on Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi for the honorary degree of Doctor of the University in December 2018.


Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi
Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi

Chancellor, those of us who have had the privilege to journey across Africa will have learned of many men and women who have endured troubled times and hardship in their quest for peace and independence for their country and it is my pleasure to present to you one such doyen - Professor Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi, Member and Speaker of the National Assembly, Republic of Namibia.

Peter Katjavivi has dedicated his life to the causes of social justice, education, good governance and democracy, building international support for his country and its African neighbours through diplomatic activity with a special persona recognized throughout Africa and beyond.

In those long, dark years of political and diplomatic struggles, when his country was externally governed, Peter was in exile engaged in the Namibian nationalist movement, SWAPO, as their Representative in the United Kingdom and Western Europe (1968-76). He was a member of the SWAPO Central Committee, being both instrumental in the preparation and a signatory to the Independence Constitution, that came at last in 1990!

After schooling in Namibia and Tanzania, his University education was in exile, first at the University of Dar es Salaam, studying History, Law and Politics and then at The University of Warwick, gaining an MA in 1980. Finally he moved on to St Antony’s College, Oxford, where he served as President of the Oxford University Africa Society, and was awarded his doctorate, DPhil, in 1986.

Following Independence, Peter became a Member of Parliament in the Namibian National Assembly, playing a major role in formulating new legislation and repealing discriminatory and outdated laws inherited from the apartheid era.

He became Special Advisor on Higher Education to the Government leading the process that established the University of Namibia by Act of Parliament in 1992 and not surprisingly left Parliament to become the Founding Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia (UNAM); he held this appointment for the next decade.

Next his path took him abroad, serving his country during the following five years as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium; to The Netherlands; to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; to the Holy See; to the Republic of Turkey; to the European Union, and finally until 2008 Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. He was supported throughout by his wife Jane, who he married whilst he was in exile in the UK.

Back in Namibia Peter was appointed by the President to the post of Director General of the National Planning Commission, and re-entered Parliament in 2010 as Government Chief Whip. In 2015 he was again elected to Parliament and chosen as Speaker of The National Assembly, the role he currently holds with total respect from all members of Parliament and beyond.

Throughout his career Peter has served on many international bodies including: a Governor of the World Bank; The Commonwealth Secretariat; The Association of Commonwealth Universities; The United Nations University; and, significantly for me, as a UNESCO Executive Board member, where his advice and support were welcome in establishing the Bath University UNESCO Chair, and the Doctor in Higher Education Management degree which has successfully so far graduated some 70 doctorates.

As a distinguished Professor of History his publication record, especially on his country and the Commonwealth, would do any academic proud and in 2016 he became the Founding Chancellor of the Namibia University of Science & Technology.

After a quarter of a century of peace and stability, Namibia is now the ‘go-to’ country in Africa with two fine universities and an outstanding Medical School, due in no small part to our distinguished honorary graduate today.

Chancellor, I present to you Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of the University, honoris causa.


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