Namibian Police Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga has urged traditional leaders to refrain from using hate speech, and engaging in personal attacks and name-calling, in an apparent reference to inflammatory comments made by a traditional leader.
Ndeitunga made the call following Tuesday’s broadly circulated audio recording in which Ovaherero Paramount Chief Advocate Vekuii Rukoro is heard saying the “current Owambo government is putting a middle finger in the Herero’s backside.”
“Be prepared to die for what is ours,” a voice believed to be that of Rukoro could be heard in the audio recording. His utterances were apparently provoked by the Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaningwa’s allowing a rival faction to host a commemoration at the disputed Erf 1755 at Okahandja. Shaningwa in a letter approved a request by Chief Tjinaani Maharero of the Maharero Royal House (MRH) to host a commemorative ceremony of paramount chief Samuel Maharero
this weekend at the plot contested by factions under Rukoro and the MRH.
Rukoro in the audio said Shaningwa’s decision was an insult to the entire Ovaherero community.
Ndeitunga said traditional leaders should do everything possible to ensure that words they preach do not bring discord and create tension among communities.
He said that to a certain degree Rukoro’s words could constitute instigating violence.
“It is clear in the audio that Rukoro is castigating the Tjamuaha, the Maharero royal houses and government, but I will not be drawn into that. What I am saying is let us refrain from all this and maintain the peace we fought for,” said Ndeitunga.
Ndeitunga said traditional leaders should strive to ensure there is peace for meaningful development to be realised.
Ndeitunga said the country belongs to all Namibians who deserve to live in peace and harmony.
“We have seen leaders trying to remain relevant by spreading hatred and insulting rivals but please refrain from this,” he pleaded. Ndeitunga said he advises both leaders to approach the court to solve their problems and he is still waiting for a court decision so that he can deploy his force to Okahandja to maintain peace.
“I have been reading on Facebook that some youngsters are saying the police can kill them if they want to, but I want to make it very clear that the police are not here to kill anyone, but are here to protect everyone,” he stressed. The Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) and the MRH have been at loggerheads over who owns Erf 1755. This is part of the land where Red Flag Commando 1 in Okahandja has been based and where most of the vigils and burial ceremonies for Ovaherero leaders, especially those associated with the OTA, have been conducted.Last month Rukoro instructed his people to demolish a corrugated iron house at night, which house MRH claimed belonged to it, so that the plot can be developed. Rukoro claimed the OTA bought the land in question in 2014 and is thus the legitimate owner, having already paid the requisite amount, although the Okahandja Municipality has not yet availed the title deed.
However, the MRH insists the sale is dubious. A MRH representative said they have been warning the municipality since 2010 not to sell Erf 1755 to the OTA as it would “derail” the traditional pilgrimage of the Ovaherero, which has been observed for the past 93 years.
This led to the intervention of Shaningwa who had a meeting with both groups in Okahandja recently. It later transpired that a ministerial investigating team had recommended to Shaningwa to disapprove the transaction between the OTA and the Okahandja Municipality. The OTA suspects foul play on the part of Shaningwa in this regard.