Karl Auguste Offmann
In days when secondary education was not free, his family could ill-afford to meet the costs of education for seven. Thus, when he completed primary school education Karl Offmann chose to compete for a scholarship in order to pursue his studies further. He won the Mechanical Engineering Apprenticeship Scholarship awarded by the Government of Mauritius in 1956 and secured a seat at the prestigious and elitist La School, later known as Royal College of Port Louis, and the Technical College of Floreal. So as to acquire practical knowledge and experience, he was trained at the Mauritius Railways Department where he stayed up to 1963. In that same year he was approached by the team of the daily L’Express to work as a technician in the composition sector. He worked for the paper until 1979 when he was offered the post of Director of Imprimerie Père Laval, a company owned by the Roman
Catholic Diocese of Port-Louis and for which he worked until 1983. From 1983 to 1986 he was Director of the daily Le Socialiste, a publication which belonged to one political party. In 1975, he obtained the Diploma of Political and Social Sciences at Claver House, London.
His purely professional activities did not prevent him from being involved in social work for the benefit of the downtrodden. His sense of dedication and selfless devotion for many just causes threw him in the forefront of many social and political struggles for the rights, dignity and respect of the destitute. Joining the J.O.C.* movement in 1957, he was always ready to accept new responsibilities that were entrusted to him. This is how he became deeply involved in the overall strategy of the movement with regard to its information campaign and training program in favor of the working youth of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean Islands and on the African Continent as well on the international
scene since he was a member of the Executive Committee of this International Organization. Karl Offmann’s activities within the J.O.C.I gave him a better insight into and a deeper understanding of the very intricate and convoluted nature of the social problems facing the poorer classes.In 1964, he was selected by the Mauritian Branch of the JOC to participate in the first International Training Course of the JOCI. It was from that time that he became committed to fight illiteracy, poverty other social evils on the international plane.
On his return from this training course in 1965, he was appointed Member of the Commission of African Studies. From 1966 to 1968, he was responsible for coordinating JOC activities within the Indian Ocean Islands and from 1966 to 1969, Member of the African Team of the JOCI and of the Executive Committee of the JOC. It was only during the period 1966-1969, when he was Coordinator of activities within the Indian Ocean Islands that he took 2 years’ leave from his employer in order to devote himself fully to social and voluntary work. One of the highlights of this period — which President Offmann likes describing as most fascinating and unforgettable — was the Meeting of the JOC of the Indian
Ocean Islands in 1967 which was attended, among others, by a South African delegate and that, during the days of apartheid. Another significant event was the first and grand Meet of the African Continent in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 1968, which was organized exclusively by the African Team of the JOCI, composed of three African delegates – France Tévi Sedalo, Mathias Dossoumon, Reverend Father Frédéric Jean Njougla – and himself. For its preparation, he put in his personal efforts during three and half months, working in situ.
After his marriage in 1969, he left the JOC and the Bishop of Port-Louis
entrusted to him the Presidency of the “Commission of Lay Apostolate in
Mauritius”. While working in the daily L’Express, he contributed to the
promotion of the “Roman Catholic Diocese of Port-Louis”, being himself a Roman-Catholic. That was during the time of Vatican II. His position, though very favorable professionally and financially, did not fit his aspirations and his JOC experience. That is why he decided to join politics to better serve his country and his countrymen.
Former President Offmann was a full-time politician from 1976 to 2002. His first unsuccessful attempt to join Parliament in 1976 did not deter him from his political pursuits. He became member of the PSM (Parti Socialiste Mauricien) in 1978 and at the General Elections of June 1982 was elected 3rd Member of Curepipe/ Midlands. He remained an M.P up to 1995.
Karl Offmann served successively as Minister of Economic Planning and
Development (August 1983), Minister of Local Government and Co-operatives (1984-1986), Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions (January 1988-1991) and as Government Chief Whip from 1988 to 1991. From 1987 to 1991, he was General Secretary of the MSM (Movement Socialiste Militant) party which he helped to set up, and from 1996 to February 2000, he served as President of the party.
One of his first missions in Washington as Minister of Economic Planning and Development which was entrusted to him by the Prime Minister was to convince the World Bank and the IMF not to press for drastic reductions in the Civil Service Staff and not to do away with free education and free health services. His success in that mission had a decisive influence on the country’s take-off and some ten years later on the “Mauritian Miracle”. The country has, above all, managed to maintain social cohesion and harmony. Today, 44 % of the overall
wealth produced goes back to the people in the form of free education and Health Services, Social Security and other social services like Youth and Sports, Women’s Rights, Co-operatives, Housing, Arts and Culture etc.
In 1995, the party to which Karl Offmann belonged suffered defeat in the
General Elections of 20th December. Not a single candidate belonging to that party was elected to Parliament, not even the leader who was the then Prime Minister. The party was in a state of confusion and turmoil. When everybody lost confidence in the party and had no hope for it to make a comeback, Karl Offmann kept an unflinching faith in its future and believed in its revival. During the next four and a half years, together with two party members, he worked hard, sometimes struggling against strong opposition and facing bitter criticisms within their own ranks, especially on the part of those who had lost faith in the leadership of Anerood Jugnauth. Karl Offmann was unrelenting and stood his
ground when, with the support of his two friends and colleagues, he drove home the fact that the leader of the MSM was still the man who would lead the party to success and to victory in an election. Subsequent events proved him right, since at the General Elections of 15th September 2000, the MSM regained control of power through an Alliance with the MMM. After the victory of the MSM at the General Elections 15th September 2000, Karl Offmann offered to stay at the National Secretariat to keep things going because most of the party’s top officials were in government.
In February 2002, he was elected President of the Republic, office which he held until October 2003.
Karl Auguste Offmann is married to Marie Rose Danielle Moutou and they have two sons, Gilles Bernard and Hans Erick. Both are married.