21.2.1960 – 7.6.2018
Frank Heger was killed in a tragic traffic accident on June 7th, 2018 on the road between Windhoek and Okahandja after attending a two-day executive meeting of NAU, the Namibia Agricultural Union. Not only was Frank a respected colleague, he selflessly dedicated his life’s work to hunting, to tourism, agriculture and to his home country, Namibia. He became an exemplary mentor to many of those who walked with him part of his way.
Frank was elected to the NAPHA Board of Directors in 1996. The following year he already served as Vice-President and chaired the Disciplinary Committee. He was at the helm of NAPHA from 1998 to 2005, first as President and later as Executive President, and led the association confidently and extremely successfully in line with professional principles. From 2007 to 2013 Frank was a member of the NAPHA Executive Board in an advisory capacity. His competent and trendsetting leadership helped NAPHA to gain an excellent reputation that resonated at national and international levels. Thus, one can rightly conclude that NAPHA experienced a golden age under the reign of Frank Heger and blossomed into one of the most effective associations in Namibia. The confirmation of Frank’s farsighted goals for the pillars of the always uncompromisingly defended principles to ensure the sustainable use of the country’s natural resources is Namibia’s currently undisputed lead in prestige and popularity over neighbouring South Africa as a hunting destination. Despite well-intentioned advice and warnings from the international and regional hunting community, South Africa has strayed from the internationally accepted standards of sustainable and ethical use. More specifically, “canned lion hunting” – later renamed “captive- bred lion hunting” – comes to mind as well as selective breeding of animals for the hunting market, producing the entire Smartie collection in a range of colour mutations, and the systematic breeding of extravagant horns.
Forging contacts and building bridges were goals which Frank Heger pursued consistently and persistently: during the presidency of Ronnie Rowland close contacts were established with PHASA, which led to NAPHA’s participation in the African Advisory Board (AAB), a body that represented all professional hunting associations in southern and eastern Africa. It was a platform where they met with SCI and where pioneering guidelines were developed, such as the Code for Ethical Sport Hunting for Africa and the definition of “fair chase”, i.e. ethical hunting. A visit by the NAPHA board to the first president of independent Namibia, Dr Sam Nujoma, at the State House and the subsequent membership of the President, an enthusiastic hunter, made NAPHA socially acceptable in the political arena. When Europe was hit by a recession in the mid-nineties, NAPHA started to promote Namibia, the hunting destination, at hunting fairs in the US. While Namibia saw a mere 42 American hunting guests in 1997, the number had already increased to 1500 US hunters ten years later. Both American clubs, SCI and Dallas Safari Club, have not only become generous supporters of NAPHA but also strong partners and advocates of ethical and sustainable hunting in this new market.
Frank’s in-depth knowledge of club management, finances, computers, negotiations and exerting pertinent influence on various legislation with significant results regarding the MET Wildlife Act, new leopard regulations, national ethics code, statutory body = professional association, NAPHA statutes and NAPHA code of conduct, conservancies in Namibia, Weapons and Ammunition Law, VAT Legislation; discussions with various insurance companies to ensure adequate but cost-effective hunting liability insurance for NAPHA members, NTB legislation. It should be noted that Frank’s negotiating success led to a once-off payment for the registration and the annual levy for hunting farms, and he was instrumental in advising and obtaining legal counsel in the dispute over land tax (valuation roll).
Frank served on various committees. Among others, he represented NAPHA at the NAU Executive Board from 1998 to 2005 and again from 2010 until his death. As a member of the Advisory Commission on Land Reform he rendered immeasurable services to the farmers of this country. Especially in that capacity, he will leave a gap that is hard to fill.
NAPHA President Danene van der Westhuizen at the funeral memorial service: “Frank was such a gentle gentleman. He would stand up from his chair, look you in the eye with the kindest possible gaze and with one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen, and greet you ever so sincerely. But then he would sit down again and put his ‘gloves’ on. He was never there to waste anyone’s time. He was always serious, always giving his everything, but most importantly, he was always right. He had the very rare ability to portray the most incredible clarity, knowledge, objectivity, and mostly, intelligence.”
The multi-cultural composition of the huge funeral congregation at a memorial service held at the Safari Hotel was evidence of how much Frank Heger was appreciated and acknowledged by his Namibian fellow citizens as somebody who was serious about his intentions to work for Namibia so that all the inhabitants of this country could look forward to a better future. His extensive knowledge and outstanding commitment will always be remembered with gratitude and awe. (Reiner Ling)