Andrew Kathindi

It is highly unlikely that the Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero, Vekuii Rukoro, will be buried within the seven days as per the COVID-19 regulations.

Although Minister of Health and Social Services (MOHSS), Kalumbi Shangula, has not pronounced himself on the matter following a request from the Ovaherero Traditional Authorities (OTA) to extend the window in which Chief Paramount of the Ovaherero, Vekuii Rukoro may be buried, logistics are in a premature stage for Rukoro to be accorded a State Funeral by Friday.

OTA Secretary General, Mutjinde Katjiua, who wrote to Kalumbi requesting an extension, says he has not received any answer yet regarding the request but believes funeral arrangements for Friday would not work as both parties have not met to work on the programme and logistics. Katjiua is optimistic that an extension will be granted though he believes the preferred date, which is 18 July might be too far.

George Simataa, the Secretary to Cabinet informed the Windhoek Observer that he also does not know whether the extension was granted or not and made an inquiry with the Health minister this morning, but has not yet received a response regarding an extension of the burial date. He says they are currently busy with the funeral arrangements of Mburumba Kerina who was also accorded a state funeral.

The OTA argues that it is impractical to bury the Paramount Chief within seven days. According to the regulations that came into effect last week, Wednesday 16 June, “The burial of the deceased person must take place within seven days of the death or, where impractical, within such reasonable time as determined by an authorised officer.”

Shangula confirmed receiving the letter, but could not divulge whether the request will be granted or not stating, “I received the letter and I shall respond to those who wrote the letter.”

Rukoro died on Friday morning, 18 June, after testing positive for COVID-19 a few days earlier, and according to the current regulations would need to be buried by this Friday, which is seven days after his death has been recorded. “Since the 26 August 1923 when we reburied the remains of the of the second Paramount Chief, Samuel Maharero in Okahandja next to first Paramount Chief, Maharero ua Tjamuaha, it has become an established custom that all Paramount Chiefs are to be buried in Okahandja in accordance with set traditional practices and protocols,” Katjiua states.

“We are duty bound or in fact tradition bound to accord the same respect and bury the sixth Paramount Chief, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro at Okahandja after a suitable mourning period as befitting a Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero people.”

Katjiua says 18 July was also a symbolic funeral date as it is the date on which Chief Paramount Hosea Kutako died in 1970 further arguing that extending the mourning period to 18 July would allow the OTA to carry out all the necessary rituals as dictated by tradition and custom, in addition to engaging the whole Ovaherero polity across Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and elsewhere in the Diaspora.

A letter from the Secretary to the Cabinet, George Simataa, to the OTA insisted that the funeral should not exceed more than ten people with the exclusion of military personnel. President Hage Geingob, last week, conferred Rukoro a State Funeral.