Dispute over Herero ‘holy fire’ location postponed to Tuesday

WINDHOEK: A legal wrangle between two rival OvaHerero factions over the location of the ‘holy fire’ at the annual Okahandja Red Flag Day commemoration, was on Monday postponed to Tuesday.

The legal showdown was scheduled to kick-off before High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele this morning at 10h00, but the hearing was ordered to stand down until Tuesday.

The matter was adjourned in order to allow the two parties involved in the dispute to sort out some pertinent outstanding issues before the matter can be heard in court.

The Red Flag Day commemoration is held annually at Okahandja, some 68 kilometres north of Windhoek, when thousands of OvaHerero gather at the town to pay homage to their fallen heroes and heroines.

According to papers presented before the High Court, a faction led by the Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority (the applicants) is asking the court to declare it as the only entity with the right to establish and maintain a ‘holy fire’ at the Red Flag okomando site in Okahandja.

The respondents in the matter are the Red Flag Regiment and two other parties, which was led by late OvaHerero Paramount Chief Kauima Riruako.

Riruako died on 02 June this year and will be laid to rest at Okahandja this coming Sunday.

Earlier reports carried by the English daily Namibian Sun had it that in 2012, the friction over the holy fire resulted in the traditional Red Flag Day event, which attracts visitors and tourists to Okahandja on 26 August every year, being postponed for the first time in 89 years.

The main disagreement between the two groups is the location of the holy fire, and this resulted in the holding of separate ceremonies in 2012.

The faction led by the late Riruako allegedly moved the holy fire to where it is now, facing the sunset in the west, while the Maharero Royal House supported by members of the technical committee of the OvaHerero/Mbanderu Council on the Genocide (OCD-1904) insists that it should face east.

In 2012, police intervention was sought to maintain law and order at a separate commemoration held by the faction led by the late Riruako.

This was after Riruako had obtained a High Court interdict allowing them to go ahead with the commemoration.

The police had banned the event for fear of violent confrontation between the rival groups.

Advocate Theo Frank SC (senior counsel) is representing the Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority and its supporters.

Thomas Weilligh is appearing for the Red Flag Day Regiment and supporters.