You would think a double divorcée well in his retirement years with a long look at a successful career would at some point finally withdraw in some lonesome tiny corner of the earth but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Pupkewitz did it till his last breathe. Why wouldn’t Eberhard Hofmann?
This father of three children whose two daughters are now married, also has a very adorable son. Yes, I said his son is adorable, and thank heavens Mr. Hofmann has two male grandchildren as well.
This man’s story reads like that of Liam Neeson’s characters in most of his action movies, of course minus the dramatic action scenes. Liam Neeson is always the distraught divorcée but a loving and caring father who goes out of his way for the sake of redemption. If only every man had the I-maybe-a-lousy-husband-but-I’m-one-heck-of-a-father mindset, the world would yield proper children, with the right amount of self-confidence, just enough ego, and well, self-discipline and respect for others and themselves. Hats off, Mr. Hofmann!
With a long career in journalism, he is the [recent] outgoing chairman of the Editors Forum of Namibia (EFN) where I first met and served with him in the executive committee for two years. It was a privilege, sir!
“I taught for six years and then dedicated the following 13 years as a media liaison, partially for the previous South African administration and partially for the newly founded Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (1990 – 1995). In a nutshell, I have solid 27 years of journalism to date, with interruption during the time as administrative/government official, of course.
So what has his journey as a journo and working for Namibia’s only German newspaper under the biggest media house in the country been like?
“In April 1975, I entered journalism at Allgemeine Zeitung (AZ), leaving behind an initial career in which I taught German and English. From 1979 to 1983, I was a reporter, columnist and commentary author at Die Republikein. I would resume journalism in January 1996 as the editor-in-chief of Allgemeine Zeitung, a post I held until I reached senior citizen age in 2004,” he says.
But age is just a number to this workaholic dad. Undaunted, therefore, he has stayed on as a full-time Deputy Editor of the AZ. In comparison to the other local dailies, Mr. Hofmann says Allgemeine Zeitung is a small newspaper with massive Internet readership incomparable to its rivals.
“AZ is locally the only written daily news source in the German language in Namibia. Therefore, it is an indispensable medium for many friends of Namibia overseas, including German-speaking tourists who prepare themselves for a first or a repeat visit to Namibia. AZ covers all the national and local news of Namibia deemed relevant to its readers in Namibia and overseas. It has a longer national history than any other national paper, having been established in July 1916. It became a daily at the beginning of the 1930s and celebrates its centenary birthday next year.”
What has it been like being the face of the Editors Forum of Namibia for so long?
“Founding and serving the Editors´ Forum of Namibia (EFN) as an initial professional stakeholder body has been an arduous challenge, because quite a number of the media colleagues and houses have always been skeptical or indifferent to the necessity of such an entity. The road to recognition and support by the major media houses was difficult at conception and even today, it must not be taken for granted. For me, there was never any doubt that editors need[ed] an interest body just as much as architects and lawyers.
What kind of father are you – would you spank or give time-out – and what’s your relationship with your kids like, seeing as you’ve been divorced twice?
“I was raised in an age when spanking was part of upbringing, educating children, if not at home, then definitely at school and in the hostel where many of us also grew up. Spanking in my parental home was a rare exception. When my children were small, some physical punishment – not spanking in the literal sense, however – was still common. But education and upbringing is about quality family life, love, caring discipline; not about spanking. The worst thing you could do for your child is discipline them out of anger vis-à-vis doing it solely for the purpose of correcting a wrong.
“Today, I enjoy the best of relationships with my children – my second daughter, Gisela, is married here in Windhoek, my eldest, Anneliese, has two sons in Cape Town and my single son, Bernhard, is in his 5th year as a site engineer in Beira and Maputo, Mozambique,” Mr. Hofmann enthuses, adding, “At family gatherings, the children and their spouses see their divorced parents enjoying the simple moments together.”
Asked what the first thing that ran through his mind the first time he held each of his children in his arms was, Mr. Hofmann says: “Nothing beats that deep sense of gratitude when the mother of your child gives birth to a healthy baby and recovers from labor. Holding a newborn as it takes its first few breaths is an unbelievably rich experience. Anneliese was born in 1974 in Walvis Bay and today, she is in marketing and advertising in Cape Town. Gisela was born in 1979 in Windhoek and is now a confectioner with her own business, which she’s had for the past 11 years. The First Lady is among her clients.”
Bernard was born in 1985 in Windhoek.
But what would Mr. Hofmann have become had he not pursued journalism?
“I still regard teaching as a good second choice.”
If he had the power to change the situation of the less-privileged in this country, especially children in abusive or broken homes, Mr. Hofmann would have stricter laws to take irresponsible fathers to task, he says.
“It’s sad how they happily procreate and then abandon their children. I would also organize more support for schools and homes in the fashion of Hermann Gmeiner institutions where abused, neglected and abandoned children find a safe haven to grow up in a secure and well-cared-for environment so they later can fend for themselves.
“Such children would also provide loving parental homes to their children in order not to repeat the ordeal they underwent. By what I see in the independent lives of my children, I can perceive that they have social hearts. That is how they work and operate as employers or colleagues in their working environments or at home where there are domestic aides.”
There are so many fathers who’ve either abandoned their kids or abuse them (if they live with them) and then there are those who abuse their women in front of their kids, to, I don’t know, feel ‘manly’. Then there are those who do irresponsible things that land them in jail, leaving their children roaming the streets homeless or raised by their (now) single mothers. And then there are single fathers who use their kids to get women. But then, there are single fathers who do whatever it takes to earn an honest buck. And here in Namibia, there are passion killers who kill their women (sometimes out of sheer jealousy or kill or hurt children to punish their mothers). And then there are divorced fathers who would give their lives for their children, like yourself. What would you tell each one?
“By the variety of cases and examples you’ve mentioned, I couldn’t give advice specially as would a clinical psychologist. In the case of those committing heinous crimes just because they are physically stronger but emotionally weaker than their victims, however, the criminal law must run its full course. The victims must receive even more appropriate attention than the perpetrators.
“Again, reckless parents must be taken to task regardless of their genders. Professional psychologists and the courts must as far as possible recommend practicable rehabilitation measures for both victims and perpetrators. For parents or single parents who maintain good relations with their children, it is essential to keep that up. Grandchildren benefit greatly through such relations, trust me!”
So what kind of legacy would this father like to leave his children?
“I’ve instilled in my children a sense of taking informed decisions, to create a stable home for the whole family, lead balanced lives for body and soul and not be led astray by the trash found on the Internet and elsewhere.”
If you ruled the world, or even Namibia – and not that it matters, but being a white Namibian – what would you do differently that would make all the difference, starting with the
never-ending crimes against humanity that have marred our world (and particularly country)?
“I would improve education and teaching with strict discipline and continuity for both learners and teachers; improve and speed up the processes of law, as well as improve the police and prison services. I’d also provide comprehensive social and psychological care for victims of gender and related violence.
“You know, church congregational participation means much to me, even though I don´t have the desire to canvass for religion. My children were all confirmed as kids, but it wasn’t ever about wanting to be members of a congregation or becoming church goers. These are choices grownups decide by themselves but which I won´t prescribe. It doesn’t take away my sense of righteousness though.
“That said, if for instance any of my children came home to announce they’re gay or better yet, want to surgically change their genders or whatever, I would take some time to ‘digest’ the disappointment, but in the end some things take their course and are eventually accommodated. What’s important is that such a person finds a meaningful existence to unfold their own personality. So I’d let them be and love them all the same.
“You know there are things fatherhood teaches you that you wouldn’t learn elsewhere, such as creating a structured family environment in which there is mutual trust and confidence, both in the context of a family and in a stakeholder organization like EFN. From my own father who suffered a serious setback in life – losing his farm in the communist system of then East Germany – I learnt that yes one may remember the past, but shouldn’t get stuck in it. I also learnt that one can start again, regardless of how small the beginning may be. It’s amazing how my father never lost his sense of humor in the face of adversity.”
With such a long career in the media, here’s what Mr. Hofmann has to tell aspiring journalists: “A journalism career is a calling with continuity, consisting of hard learning years, relentless deadlines, moments of glamour and enlightenment but more often slogging away with tricky and nasty details. Surely, pursuing this career with dedication will lead to valuable critical self-assessment – the printed or broadcast product is important and the journalist, however indispensable they may be, will take second place and will not overestimate themselves.”
And then came: “Enough about the sad stuff. By the way, I’m a very good cook. I can cook very good soup – be it oxtail, beef, mushroom or butternut. I do one at a time, though, with some fresh pieces of garlic, some blood sausage (Blutwurst) cut in small pieces and some green peas or canned beans with a shot of fresh or sour cream on top. Delicious!
“I also cook Omajova fried in !Nara oil, onions and fried potatoes (Bratkartoffeln) with fresh salad, carrots and or lettuce, sprinkled with some cream and fresh lime juice. My next favorite would be raw pickled herring filets (also called Bismarck-Hering) on a bed of hot potatoes (cut and boiled) with raw onions, some gherkin sprinkled regally with fresh or sour cream.
“Told you I could cook :-)!”