Over the past weekend Ovaherero, Ovambanderu, Ovahimba, Ovahakaona, and Ovazemba – descendants of the 1904-1908 genocide – converged at the shrine of the Otjikaoko clan near Kalkveld to pay homage to erstwhile traditional leader of the Otjikaoko Royal House, Kaupangua Mireti.
This year’s pilgrim on Sunday has been described as being in a league of its own for attracting hundreds, unlike many other pilgrims which had seen negligible turnouts because of the internecine rivalries.
That the pilgrim to Otjipaue, as it is also known among these traditional communities, would attract masses of people was not strange. The Otjikaoko Royal House has been adamant that given its sacredness and holiness, it must be devoid of the terminal internecine bickering among Otjiherero-speaking people, more often than not driven, fired and fueled by political strife.
Not only this but the decadence, very much the signs of the times of moral decay, even among usually traditional and thus conservative communities, has been a taboo at especially the Otjipaue pilgrim with the Otjikaoko Royal House and its foremost divine priest, Ngeke Katjangua, resolute time and again, and year in and year out, that all vices of decadence like alcohol are forbidden at this sacred shrine and its surroundings during this annual pilgrim. As much, those attending this pilgrim have been expected to show the requisite holy demeanour and etiquette befitting the sacred shrine, if only to show the deserving respect for those laid to rest there. So that in return the ancestors would bestow these traditional communities with the blessing they crave and have been craving. The reason for this pilgrim at Otjipaue, as is the case with many others to other holy shrines, is to appeal to the omnipotent ancestral spirits for their eternal strength and blessing in whatever endeavour their descendants are engaging.
The pilgrim this year seems to have attracted so many people simply because of the wide appeal to all and sundry by the descendants of the Otjikaoko Royal House, especially Katjangua, who extended an open invitation to all Otjiherero-speaking people, without any reservation and exclusion of anyone. His was a practical emulation of the proverbial Namibian house. Albeit in this regard seemingly limited to a certain cultural group by virtue of the cultural nature of the pilgrim but which nevertheless is open to all cultural inclinations and persuasions within Namibia.
But resonating strongly during Katjangua’s appeal to the ancestors at the burial shrine, was the call for unity, especially in the struggle and campaign for reparations. While many from the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu, Ovahimba, you name them, have been adding their voice to the call for reparations from their different cultural vantage points, and albeit the divine priests such voices as varied as they may have been, have never been in unison to become one. Hence the essence of his appeal to the ancestral spirits on Sunday. That the traditional leaders spearheading the campaign for reparations start to speak with one voice, in view of the fact that their quest is but for one thing, reparations.
The traditional divine priest’s solemn appeal to the ancestors, which surely the ancestral spirits must have been listening to with alacrity, comes at an important time in the quest for reparations. When genocide and reparation seemingly have reached the Rubicon. With the various interested parties apparently slowly coming to their senses in terms of all of them bidding to close ranks and rallying together behind one clarion call directed against the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. Thus, the president His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob, eventually meeting a section of the communities who are victims of genocide but who have not been part of the ongoing negotiations with the German counterpart. The second round of this meeting has been billed for this week. The outcome is at this stage just mere guesswork. But ala Katjangua, his people start to speak with one voice, it remains to be seen to what extent the traditional leaders of the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu, if they are genuine in the cause of their people for reparations, other than simply for their own parochial and egoistic cravings and agendas, shall heed the call of the likes of Katjangua, by speaking with one voice on this matter of genocide. If only to assuage the ancestral spirits so that they can divine upon both the Namibian and German governments to eventually clearly see the way forward. The traditional leaders can only ignore this divine advice at own peril and that of the people they are purporting to lead and whose interests they have at heart. But the divine appeal by Katjangua had hardly resonated with the ancestors on Sunday with some leading and eminent people within the community at their usual self of provoking fellows. As they say, a leopard never changes its spots.