Related Stories By Udo W Froese Published: 20120514
Tribute to a hard-nosed capitalist

The passing away of Uncle Harold Pupkewitz is the end of an era of, among others, grand patriarchal economic expansionism and archconservative labour relations.

The late Namibian Judge Joachim Berker said before his passing on that he would still see two major bankruptcies in Namibia before his death.

Berker was referring to Harold Pupkewitz and Werner List. Well, Berker was proven wrong.

Not only did both hard-core and ambitious entrepreneurs outlive him, they never went bankrupt. In fact, they grew from strength to strength.

Both, List and Pupkewitz left national and regional empires behind. And both empires seem to be geared for further growth beyond their death.

We admired Uncle Harold Pupkewitz for his focus and his fitness and his national success in business in our country, Namibia.

I must admit, I hardly knew Werner List, but I knew Uncle Harold.

I remember the footpath around his swimming pool at his home in Kasteel Street on Luxury Hill, Windhoek.

He ran his own marathon on a daily basis - in business and around his swimming pool.

Uncle Harold had a stubborn and very conservative attitude to business at large and life in general, always guiding the younger ones, if they did not agree with his general thinking on how capitalism should behave.

When in Johannesburg, Uncle Harold made contact with me here and there.

I once convinced him to accompany me to a business lunch, listening to speakers on South African politics.

He chose the wine, had one sip, and I drank the rest. Of course, he did not agree with the speaker.

At a later stage in my late dad’s life, he worked for Uncle Harold. He seemed to have a good time working there, always coming home with some story, which he had experienced at work at “M Pupkewitz & Sons”.

Uncle Harold Pupkewitz was later to tell me that that his surname meant, the “son of the doll-maker” – “Pupke”, doll-maker and “witz”, son.

In the German language spoken in Namibia, there was a humorous description of “Pupkewitz & Sons”.

“Pupkewitz und Soehne, grosse Tueten, kleine Loehne” … which translates to: “Pupkewitz & Sons – big bags, small salaries”, as salaries always play a big role in the lives of those who receive them.

I might just add that I was too glad not to be in the employ of Uncle Harold. Clearly, he was a tough businessman. 

But, Harold Pupkewitz was also a husband and father, an economist, a focussed - if not stubborn - lecturer to all who were prepared to listen to him and a leader on all levels.

His speeches seemed endless. They could be perceived as lectures.

On a more personal note, I recall the tender softness, the warmth and the kind generosity of Uncle Harold Pupkewitz’s wife, Auntie Ethel.

I also remember, as youngsters, my sister, Christa – living in Italy – and I called Uncle Harold and Auntie Ethel’s children, Meryl and Tony, our friends.

We seemed to have endless parties together, Meryl at one stage wearing seashells in her ears. Those are fond memories indeed of an era gone by.

Then, Meryl had to come to terms with a heavy loss, when her husband and son were taken from her in a terrible car accident many years ago.

Throughout, her parents and brother stood by her. To the best of my knowledge, her late husband was the heir-apparent of the Pupkewitz empire.

I also remember Tony, when in early 1984 he took the first pictures of a just-released Andimba Toivo ya Toivo.

Tony and I went to meet Comrade Toivo ya Toivo in Windhoek immediately after his release from Robben Island.

The photos and my accompanying article made front page in South African newspapers then.

Naturally, Tony would sell those photographs to the leading news agencies.

My family and I would like to express our most heartfelt condolences. As a father and grandfather, I would like to humbly say to you, Uncle Harold Pupkewitz, may your soul rest in eternal peace.

May you, his family, be strong as your head of family always was. You have our friendship. You are in our prayers.

• Udo W Froese is an independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist who was born and raised in Namibia and now lives and works in South Africa.