17 May 2013

Namibia: Former Finance Minister Otto Herrigel Dies

INDEPENDENT Namibia's first finance minister, Otto Herrigel, has died at the age of 75.

Herrigel passed away in Windhoek on Monday, his wife, Karin Herrigel, confirmed yesterday. He had been ill with cancer.

Herrigel, who was an economist by training, with a doctorate degree in economics obtained at the University of Basel in Switzerland, became the first minister of finance after Namibia's Independence on 21 March 1990.

He served in the post for two years, until he resigned in a surprise move in early April 1992.

Following his resignation it was reported that his decision to leave the Cabinet had been prompted by differences of opinion over his strict fiscal policies and his disagreement with a decision to buy a jet aircraft for the use of the president at a cost of millions of dollars.

Herrigel was a full-time farmer after leaving his post at the helm of the Ministry of Finance.

He was happy to be a farmer, and was very successful as a stud breeder of Simmentaler and Simbra cattle, Mrs Herrigel said.

Herrigel sold his farm north-east of Windhoek in December 2011, she said.

National Assembly Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab, who was a personal friend of Herrigel, described him yesterday as "a very proud Namibian" who was highly professional, dedicated and principled - and "maybe stubborn about the things he was convinced of".

He regarded Herrigel as a brother, Gurirab said.

The Speaker recalled that when founding President Sam Nujoma decided to follow the advice of the late Danny Tjongarero and Niko Bessinger to appoint Herrigel as Namibia's first finance minister, he took the message to Herrigel at his house in Windhoek and convinced him to accept the appointment to the Cabinet.

Herrigel had joined the Swapo Party before Independence, Gurirab said.

"His death is a great personal loss to me, the country, and Swapo," he said.

He described Herrigel as a responsible manager of State finances who regarded development as important and felt that Namibia had to aim to balance its budget and not pile up unsustainable debts.

Following his stint as finance minister, Herrigel also served as a member of the board of the Bank of Namibia from 1998 to 2008, and was a member of the board of directors of TransNamib in 2001 and 2002.

Herrigel was born at Walvis Bay and grew up at Swakopmund.

He is survived by his wife, two foster sons, Simeon Shivute and John Nashongo, who were exiled Namibian children raised by him and his wife after they returned to Namibia from the German Democratic Republic at the time of Namibia's Independence, his mother, Henni Herrigel, who turned 100 years of age in December last year, and two sisters living in Germany.

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