Heroes’ Acre Raises ‘Tricky’ Questions

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By Staff Reporter WINDHOEK A leading academic says Namibia should as a matter of urgency set up a committee that sets the criteria on heroes and other national matters. Selecting a person as a hero, who should subsequently be buried at Heroes’ Acre, should be a collective decision that stands the test of time, said Dr Joseph Diescho last week. He was commenting on the funeral of former Speaker of the National Assembly Dr MosÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Tjitendero who was buried at Heroes’ Acre on Saturday. President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week conferred the honour of national hero on the late Tjitendero and also directed that a State funeral be held in his honour. A statement issued by Minister of Presidential Affairs, Dr Albert Kawana, said that the President conferred the honour under the powers vested in him by Article 32, Sub Article (3) (h) of the Namibian Constitution. Article 32 Sub Article (3) (h), states: “Without derogating from the generality of the functions and powers contemplated by Sub Article (1) hereof, the President shall preside over meetings of the Cabinet and shall have the power, subject to the Constitution, to confer such honours as the President considers appropriate on citizens, residents and friends of Namibia in consultation with interested and relevant persons and institutions.” Diescho said the nation should exercise caution with the way it honours its fallen leaders, which necessitates a national council to be established with the powers and mandate to do that. “It is too dangerous in the absence of clear guidelines, criteria and collective understanding that result from an agreement,” Diescho said. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary describes a hero as “a person, typically a man who is admired for their courage or outstanding achievements or a person of superhuman qualities, in particular one of those whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek legends.” Diescho said heroes were people who sacrificed to save the lives of others and by virtue of that they are people who border on martyrdom. He said Tjitendero was a man of great intellect, one of the country’s moral leaders and someone who contributed immensely to Namibia’s liberation struggle who deserved to be called a hero in terms of his leading the national Assembly with great diligence for 15 years. He said this gives the nation an opportunity to reflect on what to do to those who brought the country this far and how to give them a proper burial. As far as Dr Diescho is concerned, the former Speaker should have been given a State funeral in Ovitoto, amongst his community “where his light will shine for the people he helped lift up” and also where his family could visit and talk to him. “In the absence of such clear procedures and nationally agreed upon characteristics of who is a hero it becomes the whim of one person and when that person is not there anymore, it becomes a problem as other leaders would undo things that were done in the past,” he added. Taking the Namibian context in which many people were exiled and many government ministers have served for a long time in office, if there are no clear criteria, many would have to be buried at the national shrine, which has limited space as it is not limited to one particular regime. Diescho wondered whose decision it was not to bury Moses GaroÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚«b and Emil Appolus at Heroes’ Acre after their making so many sacrifices. “If we are consistent, we must not be carried away by the flavour of emotions as history requires collective decision,” he added. “We are stuck and we have ignored the democratic decision-making process,” he said, adding that the Namibian leadership should put its house in order by telling the nation who gets awarded medals and who qualifies to be laid at the national shrine. “Dr Tjitendero deserves to be respected and we ought to mourn him and give him a national burial, but the Heroes’ Acre is a bit tricky at the moment,” he said. Also having been vilified and having been “second on the list of agents of the enemy”, Diescho wondered, “How does he become a hero when he is dead?” Tjitendero is one of the few national leaders to be buried at Heroes’ Acre. The others are Lt. General Dimo Hamaambo, Maxton Mu-tongolume, Getrude Kan-danga and Reverend Markus Kooper.

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