She is a huge Chris Brown fan, a soccer mom who can scream at the benches as her son scores on the pitch, she can rap like most can’t, she is the God daughter of the late Reverend Miles Monroe and believes the late American rapper, Tupac Shakur is still alive, somewhere.
I give you Namibia’s ‘Iron Lady’, Hilda Basson-Namundjebo, also reffered to by local media as ‘Namibia’s Oprah Winfrey’ – her opinion matters in all the right corners of this country.
Without it, life is a cycle or revenge and retaliations, fueled by resentment, bitterness and emotional poisons you don’t need or deserve
“I’m a passionate Namibian and the daughter of an 86-year-old who still worries about not being able to attend important events like the International Women’s Day celebrations, because age’s catching up with her. I am also my father’s daughter with deep rooted love for the media, seeing as he worked in a company that put together radios.
He was the kind of father who would bring home daily newspapers, to ensure we stayed up to date with current news in Namibia and around the world.
Before there was TV, Hilda’s father would “bring us old-school movies, which he’d play from his little projector. The tapes would sometimes fall off the reel after which he would spool them back together to ensure we enjoyed the movie to the end – ask my brother, Neville. That was all the entertainment we had, although our house was always full of literature and music.”
Growing up with four brothers and three sisters and lots of cousins from either side of her parents, Hilda says her parents’ home, “was always your typical African home full of extended family. We were all treated with the same love and attention.”
That familial characteristic has stuck with her to date, “My house is always full too, albeit a smaller environment. Still, it is the same lifestyle I grew up in.”
Anybody who needs mothering under my wings I will mother them, sometimes I will smother them.
She suspects she gets her empathy and upbeat nature from her mother. “She became a ‘super’ single mother after dad’s passing and did it all to put us all through to university. I was never driven to or from school and that never changed the course of my upbringing.
“I sure get my craziness from mother. The kind of ‘good crazy’ that juggles many things at a go. For me, I’d say it’s because I’m fearless, with a great support system starting with my very secure husband. That wasn’t my mother’s path.”
My mother had no choice but to be fierce because we were all looking up to her to ‘come through’, in dad’s absence
Hilda’s dad died when she was very little, yet “I remember him like it was only yesterday. I didn’t mourn him. I didn’t drop one tear when he died, only for it to weigh me down in my early 20s.
I first wept bitterly for my dad’s death when I turned 21.
“The absence of a father while turning into an adult set in at a time I didn’t expect it to. I wept. I mourned his death properly and allowed myself to go through the emotions and then came to the peaceful place where I let go and let him rest in peace. Believe me, that goes for every aspect of my life since then – I mourn every loss; be it a failed romantic relationship, business partnership, or broken friendship… I mourn without hiding anything ‘under the carpet’.”
I mourn every loss
What is Success?
For a seemingly super strong woman, it is almost near impossible to imagine Hilda in tears or low, for which she reiterates, “I am all kinds of ‘good crazy’. I can take on many, many responsibilities at the same time.”
My life is full now that I don’t have time to be stressed out at all.
“I do a lot of community work, a lot of church activities and lots of other passion-related projects. I love God. I acknowledge Him as King in my life, because I know I’m here because of His grace. I know that everything I’ve ever achieved in my life has been because of that grace.”
At the mention of her achievements, I wonder how many awards she has won as regards her businesswoman hat:
There’s nothing like an ‘aha-moment’ for my success, at least not in my perspective.
“Life is an experience. I don’t take any of it for granted and no matter what the world may perceive as ‘success’ in my life – children going to great schools, living in a big house, having an established company – I just look at them as opportunities to show God’s glory in my life.”
You Want Me in Your Corner
I love to build people and it doesn’t matter how many awards I’ve won or will win, I don’t dwell on people’s validation of me.
“I did participate in the Business Woman of the Year once only to lose to someone I was later asked to coach – that’s still a sour point. Apart from that, I love, respect and build people. I’m a good person to have as your support.”
Adding onto what makes her one to have in your corner, she adds: “I am a huge philanthropist. I buy glasses for underprivileged kids who can’t read well in class, because of eyesight problems and the list goes on. I do it all in the background. I don’t do it for the optics.
I always ask myself; do I want worldly acclaim for doing good to others or do I want to be hugged by Jesus when I get to heaven? The latter is my motivation.
“I do it all like I do it for Jesus, because if people clap for me today, Jesus won’t clap for me in heaven.
“I helped Gazza win a Chanel-O music award with his song – ‘Mokasie’ – and The Dogg with ‘This is My Time’. A lot more people win awards year in and year out in different facets of life because of my help, and they aren’t things I go to bed thinking about because I don’t mind being in the background.”
I love being a support master, if you will.
While still picking my jaw from the floor, Hilda adds, “Look, I’m only on this earth for just 70 years – be it before or after that age-mark, it is for just an average of 70 years that I’ll be on this earth. So I have to make the best of it, except, my focus is on the life I live after this. As such, I want to live these 70 years with dignity and as Karen White sings, ‘I’d rather be alone than be unhappy’.
I’m only on this earth for just 70 years
“If you want to be in my life, act like it. If not, don’t act, say it. I’ll be happy to let you leave, however painful the experience may be. I refuse to stay in toxic relationships no matter from which circle it comes.”
If you want to be in my life, act like it. If not, don’t act, say it
People who have this kind of wholeness are rare, and it must take a certain level of consistency in keeping ‘garbage’ out of one’s personal space to stay this level-headed, if you will. So I ask what type of content she indulges in: “I don’t read filth. I don’t read or watch porn. I don’t read or watch ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’-type things. I don’t indulge in funny little, inappropriate pictures that my kids might stumble upon. My kids have access to my life and I pride myself in being an exemplary mother. Don’t send me unsolicited pictures or content. Respect my boundaries.
I don’t read or watch ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’-type things
“There’s sanctity in my private space. It is the space only reserved for those who have passed ‘the test’ – I have to trust you first before I allow myself to love you.”
I have to trust you first before I allow myself to love you
Crazy ‘ole Me
As soon as she mentions her four sons, I wonder what kind of mother she is; “Oh, girl, I’m a different kind mother – typical soccer mom who screams at the top of her voice during my boys’ games. I understand a lot about soccer because of my boys. I was typically made for those boys. I have two biological sons and my sister’s son whom I’ve brought up since he was a baby, and my step-son who currently studies to be a doctor in Australia.
I listen to Tupac and still believe he’s alive, hiding somewhere
“I am multi-faceted – Oh yes, I can rap like very few people can. I listen to Tupac and still believe he’s alive, somewhere. I listen to the far right and far left kind of music. I love Chris Brown and pray for him like I personally know him. I once attended his concert in Cape Town with my kids and the following day while returning home, my boys and I spotted him at the airport and before they knew it, I yelled, ‘Hey, Chris Brown, super awesome show last night. I enjoyed it so much!’ He yelled back my way, past his security detail; ‘Thank you, ma’am. I’m glad you had a good time!’
I love Chris Brown and pray for him like I personally know him
My kids were like; ‘Oooooh! Ma, you just spoke to Chris Brown!’ I was like; ‘Yeah, impressed with your mama yet?”
Before I react, she continues; “I don’t like Kanye West much, though. There’s something about him that unsettles me. I adore the Smiths. I subscribe to Jada Pinket-Smith’s ‘momminess’, aside from the scientology part of things, of course.”
We laugh before she adds, seriously: “I cry easily – I can’t see poor kids or old people suffering. Kids and old people shouldn’t suffer. I’m hard on young people because no matter what circumstances they may find themselves in, most of it is because of personal choices.”
I cry easily – I can’t see poor kids or old people suffering
Lady of Many Hats – I Am Because He Is
Hilda hosts and facilitates national galas and debates of the National Budget Speeches, she interviews presidents and other high profile individuals on her political television show, discussing government matters and how to forge the way forward at national level. This, besides her baby (company, Oxygen Communications), amongst lots of other projects.
I mourned the late Reverend Miles Monroe for year
She is BFFs with the First Lady of the Republic of Namibia, and she is, you would say, the late Miles Monroe’s God-daughter. How does she manage all her ‘hats’, I ask?
“Can I just say that I mourned the late Reverend Miles Monroe for year? I loved the man so much that when he died, my friends kept it from me for so long, fearing how I’d react. It was not until last year that his son visited us here that I found closure and finally let Reverend Monroe go.”
I’ve never believed I have ‘arrived’
Regarding her engagement in several on-going national building projects, Hilda affirms: “I’m privileged to have the platform I do in this country, and I don’t take any of it for granted, because I’ve never believed I have ‘arrived’.”
Then she promots: “I do not abusive this platform. As such, I manage all my relationships and respect each subject as they come. Take the First Lady, Monica Geingos for example; we’ve been friends since before she got married to the President. However, I treat her with the respect a first lady deserves.
I cannot take my relationship with you for granted, because I know God has brought you into my life for a purpose
“Inasmuch we’re still friends, I can’t just call her whenever I want. I don’t disrespect or respect people based on what they have or don’t have. For instance, I cannot take my relationship with you for granted, because I know God has brought you into my life for a purpose. The purpose may not always manifest itself immediately but if I take you for granted, I may miss the eventual plan God had for my life when He planted you in it at this particular time.”
She adds: “I might have met someone 20 years ago but 20 years later they get to make so much sense in my life. In other words, had I taken their presence in my life 20 years ago for granted, I wouldn’t recognize their purpose in my life 20 years later and I would have missed out on God’s plan and blessings for me through them.”
I spent better part of my early career life as a typically young, angry black woman
Having been appointed as the first black senior (female) executive manager in a parastatal in this country (at Nampost) at a very early age in 1995, Hilda admits to “spending better part of my career life as a typically young, angry black woman, with a great deal of sense of entitlement. I thought being an educated Namibian, being black didn’t matter.”
What makes me so special that God elevates me to the levels He does in this country, if not for grace
“I felt I deserved respect. However, I knew I had to advance myself in studies and training. I had been at nbc for a couple of years and left because I felt nobody took me seriously.
“My departure came before approaching the senior management at nbc and asking them for a promotion, because I was very good at what I was doing as a senior producer and needed more challenge.
I felt I deserved respect. So I demanded instead of command it
“However, there was no growth plan within my line of responsibilities at nbc at the time. So I quit and then began to call every company I had connected with over the years while at nbc, asking for vacant positions. Before long, Nampost answered to say they had a senior executive management position, which had just been turned down. They asked if I was interested, and bam! I had a new PR job.”
Then her sense of entitlement within the first two years of her career after nbc became even more dangerous. “The question should have, all along, been: ‘What makes me so special that God elevates me to the levels He does in this country, if not for grace?'”
Oxygen for life
I was inspired and encouraged by my loving, supportive husband to want to be more
Fast forward to 2005, Oxygen Communications was born to cater for different media clients. “It is part of many things I do. It’s only one compound.
“After five years at Nampost, I decided to leave because at that point, I was married to renowned businesswoman, Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun’s brother, and needed a bigger challenge. Being married to a business-minded family, I was inspired and encouraged by my loving, supportive husband to want to be more.
I burnt out in early 2000s and needed a break
“I soon approached one of the top advertising companies here in Namibia to buy its 37.5% shares. I stayed with it for five valuable years. That experience taught me how to be a leader. I learnt how to take care of not only myself at work but also of colleagues who were now also my employees.”
After this period, and quite frankly, overdoing things a bit, “I burnt out in early 2000s and needed a break. My children were only babies and I just couldn’t keep up. A few months into my sabbatical, PwC asked me to join its team instead of staying home. This door opened after PwC helped me get my fair share from the advertising agency following my leave.”
Hilda says she created such an enviable relationship with PwC that three months after her five-year stint with the auditing company, the management still reserved her packing space, hoping she’d change her mind about leaving and return to its team.
“That goes to tell you how good I am at managing my relationships. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Self-development – Becoming me
’Independence’ is an illusion. No man is an island of its own
But what does she think about going ‘all out’ to ‘be possible’, loving oneself from the inside out and pursuing independence, I wonder?
Before I met my husband, I was full of nonsense. I had to deal with it
“’Independence’ is an illusion. No man is an island of its own. But that doesn’t mean I can dump my baggage on any and everybody who comes into my life.
“Before I met my husband, I was full of nonsense. I had to deal with it – I had to learn to respect me first in order to know how love and respect and how to receive it from him. I had to deal with past hurts from previous relationships, which believe me weren’t many, because I’m picky as heck with whom I share my time and heart with.”
When you don’t harbor any negative emotions from your past, you’d be caught dead saying things like, ‘All [wo]men lie… All [wo]men are dogs
“I had to forgive and let go. It all starts with forgiveness. Without it, life is a cycle or revenge and retaliations, fueled by resentment, bitterness and emotional poisons you don’t need or deserve. Hadn’t I dealt with mine, I would have easily made my husband pay for other people’s mistakes.
“When you don’t harbor any negative emotions from your past, you’d be caught dead saying things like, ‘All [wo]men lie. All [wo]men are dogs…’. Question is; have you been with ‘all’ [wo]men?
“I believed I could be all I wanted to be before I met my husband, but after meeting him, he encouraged and inspired me to be more. And I believe I am and have. While already with my husband, I learnt how to love and respect myself, as well as give and receive love from him and others. That was all grace, I tell you.
if you’re going to live with other people, as we have to as humans, you cannot be hang up on being independent
I loved myself from the inside out and then shared what I exuded. When you love like that, you don’t dwell on being independent. I’m a strong-willed person, alright, but I live with him and our children. We’re interdependent. We need each other to do life. We’re a team.
When you’re a team, you consult each other on decisions, you work for not against each other. You vouch for each other because you love each other enough to want to see other shine.
“In other words, if you’re going to live with other people, as we have to as humans, you cannot be hang up on being independent. Even loners need people.
When you’re a team, you consult each other on decisions, you work for not against each other
You can’t even say Namibia is independent when our currency is pegged to the South African rand. Do you see where I’m going with this?”
I do, so I let her go on, “I don’t do ordinary, a day in my life. I don’t love ordinarily. I love hard. I risk hard and don’t settle.
I don’t do ordinary, but to stay sane amongst it all, I indulge in little pleasures like zumba, palatis and soccer. My team, Chelsea, lost the other day and I’ve been brooding since. I’m one of those soccer fans.”
I don’t do ordinary, a day in my life
. I am phenomenal!
With such passion about life and all that it carries, I ask what irks her: “I detest ‘cute racism’.” Cute racism? “Yes, cute racism. It’s when someone, mostly a white person, might say something like, ‘Wow, your child speaks very good English. Where does she go to school?’ It is [apparently] meant to come out as a complement, but really, it isn’t. I mean, should my child not speak proper English at a young age because s/he black?”
Life begins at 40
I enjoy what money can buy. But it comes with sweet and salty tears
And what about getting older, has 40s come with any wisdom? “Oh, honey, as you grow older, you definitely begin to see life differently. Life becomes less about chasing after the next buck versus what matters most. None of it comes easy, and don’t get me wrong; I enjoy what money can buy. But it comes with sweet and salty tears.
I am hot. This is all hotness right here. I revel in being a woman
“I’ve learnt not to act so tough, because I’ve realized the world doesn’t need it. Trying to be a man, as my friend the First Lady says, or hiding who Hilda is underneath it all is a waste of oh-so beautiful Hilda. I’ve picked on a bit of weight but, girl, I AM hot. This is all hotness right here. I revel in being a woman. I get to wear heels, wear my hair down or up, I can swing my hips when I walk on sunny days and flip my very good hair when I laugh. Oh, I am a woman, beautifully made.”
I swear I could hear the late Maya Angelou’s voice as Hilda spoke her last words that resonated with Maya’s classic poems that celebrate women. I thought, “We are women, phenomenally.”