The Sports life of Tjongarero

By Michael Uugwanga

MINISTER of Sport, Youth and National Service Agnes Tjongarero has opened up about her childhood, profession, love for sport and how her late husband, Daniel Tjongarero, a former deputy minister of information and broadcasting and former managing director of the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) influenced her career path.

Tjongarero’s appointment as the new minister of sport should not be seen as a stumbling block towards the development of sport but rather a blessing in disguise due to her vast experience as a sport leader at the highest level, thanks to the influence of her late husband, who was a formidable footballer at Black Africa Football Club in Windhoek.

Born at the coastal town of Walvis Bay, Tjongarero was a tennis player during her childhood years and prior to entering politics, worked as a nurse and nursing college lecturer.

“My late husband and I played tennis together and have been sports fanatics since our youth days. I would say he inspired me. We opened platforms for children in the location to be able to play tennis, soccer and so forth. I was a tennis player. In our time ‘non-whites’ were not allowed to be part of the national team, even if you were the best.

“In terms of balancing my family and work, I have great support from my family as they know that serving the community at large is my passion. Workwise I do have a great team who does their part. I’m not saying it’s a walk in the park but it is worth every minute.

“I am a mother of three grandmother of three, and an elder of the Martin Luther Parish. I am a nurse by profession. I studied General Nursing 1968-1970; Midwifery 1971-1972; Bachelor of Nursing Science (BA CUR) majoring in Nursing Management and Community Health Care; Diploma in Nursing Education 1974-1975; BA Honours 1991-1993.”

Before she was appointed as the new youth and sport minister, Tjongarero was deputy minister in the same ministry under then minister Erastus Uutoni, the current minister of urban and rural development.

Besides the two ministerial portfolios, Tjongarero has held numerous top sport administration positions, such as vice president of the Entertainment Tennis Club 1971-1972 vice-chairperson of Namibia Sports Commission (2006-2009); president of the All Namibia Netball Association, 1993-1997 and president of the Namibia National Olympic Committee from 1997 to 2015.

With President Hage Geingob an admitted sport fan, in 2015 he needed someone that can turn Namibia into a sporting nation, but the president went for Uutoni, which surprised many sport lovers including sport leaders, only for many to realize that Dr Geingob knew what he was doing and that the move gave time for Tjongarero to prove herself as deputy minister.

The biggest challenge before Tjongarero is to turn the country into a formidable sporting nation, just like the years before independence and early years after independence, but that will come with collective effort from all sport stakeholders, fellow parliamentarians, sport administrators, media, athletes and the general public.

Today, all sport activities in the country are on hold due to the COVID-19 till the virus is dealt with as all ministries and agencies are still waiting for the tabling of the 2020/2021 financial budget by the minister of finance later this year.

“In all honesty, I enjoyed all positions I held because for me it was about serving the community and had nothing to do about what position I held at the time. The 2019-20 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has swept across the globe in the last few weeks and months has not only had a significant impact on public health, society and the economy as a whole, it has also wreaked havoc to the sporting calendar.

“In a bid to stem the spread of the virus, many professional and amateur leagues across all continents and sports took the unprecedented step to postpone or suspend their seasons to avoid gatherings of large amounts of people.

“So, in all honesty it will be a colossal setback for the sporting fraternity. However, I urge all athletes to train during the lockdown period in order for them to be in shape when all is over, by God’s grace. We take cognizance of the current economic state of affairs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we will try by all means to convince the central government to get an improved budget. Youth empowerment is our mandate and sports are partaken by the youth. But let’s hope for the best,” Tjongarero said.

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