Advocate Shakespeare Masiza: The faithful shadow
By Confidence Musariri
Shakespeare Masiza, one of the brightest figures the Namibian bar has ever had, passed away on Monday 15 February 2021.
We had just celebrated his 50th birthday on 31 January, virtually, as he lay in hospital, hoping to recover and come eat his cake. In fact, it was that night of his birthday that his condition began to deteriorate prompting him to be transferred to the ICU ward.
It is said that with his refined advocacy, strong sense of ethics and dedication, the court respected each word he uttered. Such was his stature. Reported case laws during this phase bear ample testimony to Mazisa’s legal acumen.
But I will attempt to capture his personality and spirit; to tell the story of the man, not the lawyer. For he was far beyond that. He is a man who had a quadrupled blueprint of life: spiritual, family, community and business.
The youngest matriculant of the Class of ’87 at Dobra RC High School, having arrived “fresh from the rural upbringings in Vaalgras” as his classmate Romanus Konjore would describe him, Shakes as many called him, was an ardent reader through and through. Each New Year, for the past 15 years, he would recommend to me which book to read during our religious 10 days of seeking the Lord’s grace into the year. Once at OR Tambo while waiting to board back to Namibia, he was glued to his book while I was amazed at the majesty of planes. He stood up and purchased ‘Soar’ by TD Jakes, “since you are amazed about flying, here is the real flight you need.” By the time we landed, I was almost half done with the book which I went to read thrice over the years.
This year however he said he would be reading something different but that I should read Rhonda Byrne’s new book, ‘The Greatest Secret’. He said he was busy trying to recover, having suffered a stroke last November. I only learnt later that he had been reading a book by Helen Kennerly and UdoKischka called, ‘Surviving Stroke: The Story of a Neurologist and His Family’.
We mourn his untimely death, but we celebrate the way he lived his life. So, devoted to his God, keen on life and yet not tied to religion. A Haggai Alumnus and International Facilitator with Bishop Wahl Abrahams among them, we are all his beneficiaries because his enthusiasm and exuberance were contagious.
Paps as I would call him, strove to do his very best, to live life to the fullest and to appreciate the richness of human experience. Very inquisitive about how others viewed success, what your vision was, what your plans with life were and fast to remonstrate wrong and offer advice. He never left anything to chance.
The former Walvis Bay municipality CEO, former Namport board chairman, and founding board member of Namdia was pivotal in moulding generations of students in his long and illustrious life. He had a bullish approach to what he wanted but was characteristically an unselfish, generous, and ever approachable teacher, having funded scores of young Namibia for their studies in the Western Cape, took care of clergymen’s entire livelihoods, as long as there was a shared vision—at some point personally funding the establishment of churches from building to equipment, not only in Namibia but beyond.
So far as I am concerned, the loss of Paps’ company is beyond expression. There were many unique things perpetuating our enduring and lasting bond. Apart from being my mentor, he was a very calming influence on me, whenever I faced any turbulence, be it personal or professional. At work he moulded many to indulge in legal abstractions, in society he trained scores to look at life with objectivity, spiritually, and he sought to serve his God.
Philanthropy was his dream for the latter part of his life, where you don’t work for money but for others’ welfare.
We had just concluded crafting Siyanceda Housing Micro Finance and waiting a deduction code from the Ministry of Finance. Siyanceda which means ‘We Help’ in Xhosa was meant to provide housing loans for the acquisition, renovation, maintenance, incremental building and expansion of decent, low-income housing to the financially excluded in Namibia. It was his ambitious N$1 billion project, “and you will agree this is most urgent now, given Covid-19, but we cannot kick start this in 2020 because some greedy politician will ride on it to get elected. Let’s start in March 2021,” he had said last October, as we brainstormed at Windhoek Country Club.
“The critical problem in Namibia is not housing the N$500k to N$2m market, which is the middle to high income market. The real housing dilemma is in the sub N$500k market, which is the low to ultra-low income housing market. This market is not attractive to the banks, because the margins are very thin. Micro finance, our solution Musa understands the concept and philosophy that wealth lies at the bottom of the pyramid, because of spread volumes at the bottom,” he enthused.
It was during the Mass Housing Campaign during President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s last term that he had found that the lure of money had turned the philanthropy into a business venture and he personally embarked on an MBA in Housing, researching the housing market in Namibia with the view to finding a sustainable housing funding solution for low-income earners which can deliver in caps, DE CENT AFFRORDABLE HOUSING to low-income earners, writing to the Ministry of Finance executive director Ericah Shafudah on May 7 2020; “I have decided to assist my government in providing financing for decent low-cost housing, currently it is low-cost housing which is not decent, in terms of hygiene and comfort.”
That’s just a small part of his quest for philanthropy. With Elia Shikongo, Gaenor Michaels et al, Masiza had established Lexna Insurance, whose objective is to ensure that justice is made accessible to all, regardless of social and economic standing. The fact that Namibians could get legal protection suitable for their budgets thrilled him.
Be it Joseph Raz, John Austin, Carl Schmitt, Kelsen, Pound, or Shakes would be able to provide deep insights about the philosophies of all these jurists in simple and lucid language, at 2am to a dozing me, only awoken by the sound of his wild laughs.
Christmas 2013 as the Hage Geingob administration was circling into power, Shakes had invited then Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba to officiate the inauguration of Erongo region’s first black owned law firm, along Nangolo Mbumba Drive in Walvis Bay. Now Vice President, Mbumba got caught up with work in Windhoek and asked someone to represent him. That night Paps would go on the phone, “Cde SG, you know very well that I am talking to Namsov over the fishing fiasco. You should not have sent (Bernhardt) Esau to officiate my building. He is the last person I expected to see. The specs don’t seem right for the future and for my client, (Namsov). Esau is a scam.”
Advocate Masiza’s greatest qualities were his sheer class as a lawyer and his integrity towards success. His repository of knowledge was accessible to every student of life of his, legal or not. He was always a telephone call away. Anyone who connected with him was immediately impacted.
A day before his 50th birthday he had texted, “My lungs are clear. I think I just did the right thing by coming to the hospital because on my own I really did not know how to treat this. I was becoming scared. I am now comforted knowing these medical personnel are taking care of me.”
I comforted him on how I had survived Covid-19 in January and all he wanted was the vaccines to come “at once because I just felt hopeless and very despondent. There must be a different way to live. I have to figure out what is that way.”
Only now I figure out that the way to live for Shakes was yonder, not in this life.
Days later, I expressed comfort in his teachings about philanthropy and perennial providence as success and a new way of life, but he seemed to have other things on his mind, “The main challenge remains we have families to feed and children to raise.”
In his last days, as he bravely fought the virus, international clergymen and motivational speakers sent audios in prayer and motivation, Overseer Dan Makuwere (UK), Bishop Washington Rupapa (Canada), Archbishop Ezekiel Guti (Zimbabwe), Mushangwe, Pastor George Rwizi (US), and Pastor Angela Sharpley (Namibia), among others. Periodically out of coma, the family would receive video calls from him where he narrated how the voices of Men of God were keeping him alive and feeding him spiritually and because his two doctors were also praying in the ward; he jokingly called them his guardian angels.
With his sudden exit, we are all left with nothing but deep disappointment, grief and sorrow.
Both by authority of reason and by reason of authority, Advocate Shakespeare Masiza was one of the greatest human beings and jurists ever produced in Namibia.
And as I am now reading ‘The Greatest Secret’, I discover the over-arching theme in the book is: All Is Well. All is well our faithful shadow, all is well. Lala Nkomo, lala ngoxolo.