Hypocrisy of Heroism and State Funerals [opinion]

I remember vividly the morning when I heard news that Chief Sitentu Mpasi has died in his sleep. There was an eerie silence everywhere I went. One common question lingering in everyone’s mind was: what is next? Sitentu was the father of Kavango. His role in the struggle for Namibia’s independence was awe – inspiring. Hompa Sitentu is one of the few traditional leaders of Kavango, if not Namibia at large, who involved openly and directly without fear in the liberation struggle for the independence of Namibia. During the liberation struggle Ukwangali area was a bloody battle field. Many lives of men, women and children were lost, many limbs were lost, and many residents were detained for long period in solitary confinement without trials, and plan fighters were more welcomed and assisted morally and materially in Ukwangali than any part of the region. Of all the chiefskings in Owamboland, Kavango and Hereroland who participated in the homelands administration, some as ministers, Sitentu was among a few who refused to participate. Ukwangali Palace was burned down twice and he escaped countless assassination attempts.

Hompa Sitentu joined the liberation struggle in Swakopmund in the late 1950s. He was inspired by the late Comrade Nathanael Mawilili in Walvis Bay. In the early 1960s he and Petrus Kashuku were nominated to collect funds for support which they took to Walvis Bay every weekend. Sitentu was a member of OPO. The South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo) originates from the Ovamboland People’s Congress (OPC), formed in 1957 by Namibian workers. OPC would later become known as the Ovamboland People’s Organisation (OPO) in 1958 which became a powerful worker’s organisation. Despite the fact that the majority of worker’s during this time originated from northern Namibia due to a desire to work on mines and farms as well as the fact that this area constituted the largest population of Namibians, OPO was actually representative of all Namibians, not only those from the northern Namibia. The aims and objectives of OPO was drafted by the late Emile Appolus, may his soul rest in peace. Appolus was not from northern Namibia. Therefore it is not an exaggeration to say that he was an OPO member, which later became known as SWAPO.

On 24 October 1987 Hompa Sitentu met Dr Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma in London and met again in Lusaka, Zambia in April 1989. After the meeting in London, only one month passed when the Sunday Republikein of 22 November 1987 had a headline article “SWAPO wil Kavango in oorlog dompel” (SWAPO wants to drag Kavango into war) with Sitentu’s photo on it.

After that he rushed to Windhoek and released a press statement, assisted by lawyer Hartmut Ruppel and Bishop James Kauluma. He acknowledged the meeting and pointed out that SWAPO is the only solution to the nation.

I remember the profound sadness that enveloped the mourners during the funeral of Hompa Sitentu. Many people were angry and saddened by the fact that Hompa Sitentu was not given a state funeral despite his heroic deeds. None of the SWAPO Party top-four attended his memorial service, and I am sure holiday would be conveniently blamed for their notable absence.

Even the SWAPO party statement of condolences was reportedly drafted at the last minute in Nkurenkuru by loyal cadres in an attempt to rescue the party. How on earth did the party headquarters forget to send a condolence message? Is this how selectively we honour the fallen members of SWAPO who have made profound contribution? Or was the bad treatment tribally motivated? Some mourners concluded that the late Hompa treatment was a punishment on how he dealt with the land issue under his jurisdiction. Ironically President Pohamba is a beneficiary as well as other senior national leaders. On the burial day Cde Pohamba was accompanied by a handful national leaders. One could hear people whispering what is wrong with our party and government?

In terms of the Conferment of National Honours Act, 2012 (Act No.11 of 2012) of the Parliament, the Act establish a National Honours Aisory Committee to aise the President of the Republic of Namibia when exercising hisher discretion to confer honours and to provide for incidental matters. In terms of the Act a ‘hero or heroine’ means a person who has done a heroic deed for public good or has made an outstanding contributions or achievement for Namibia, and honoured as such by the President.

The President has under Article 32 (3)(h) of the Namibian Constitution, the power to confer upon citizens, residents and friends of Namibia, such honours as he may consider appropriate and such honour may be bestowed upon such recipient during such recipient’s lifetime or post humously.

One would have expected the National Honours Aisory Committee to aise the President or the President could have used his prerogative power to confer Hompa Sitentu Mpasi a state funeral. It was the expectation of many people, especially all people in Kavango, that Hompa Sitentu’s public profile and standing within the community, the length of service to the nation and his personal achievement did qualify him to be conferred a state funeral. The faceless committee must come up with a list of the various categories of public officials who are eligible for state funerals and the levels of eligibility.

Sitentu’s death does not free us from the challenges confronting us, it deepens the need to look ourselves in the mirror, see the ugly face behind the mask of concern we wear, repent from our inconsistent sins and do the right thing. We are a nation of whose cup overflow with hypocrites, hypocrites who give heroes and heroines nothing but pain during their lives and mourn and groan inappropriately upon their deaths. It is painful to note that the state and the party discarded and forgot the contribution of our heroes before mother earth has accepted the bones of our hero.

The political script will not change anything but crocodile tears will flow plenty.

But seen from inside, it is clear that the problem of hypocrisy in our politic is a good deal more complicated. How many times have real freedom fighters and their kith and kin remain ignored, unrecognised, stuck in utter poverty and undignified making a mockery of their sacrifices, while those who dined with enemies are given awards and living large.

The hypocrisy of heroism and state funerals is sickening. An issue that is certain to dog the Honours Committee is their inconsistent approach to state funerals. The committee’s malicious and fashionable hypocrisy is unacceptable. Uncle Joseph Diescho was right when he referred to state funerals as the road full of lack of rules.

It is indeed a jungle of injustice. It is time for us to revisit the act and maybe end state funerals and reserve it to Head of State and former Head of State only because this inconsistency is more painful and might damage our party in the long run. Most people I met succumbed to the temptation demanding a clean – up, or clean – out, or at the very least some sort of permanent solution rather than simply carrying on going round in circles.

It is time for this selective morality to stop. Fortunately death does not discriminate and there are no bodyguards to prevent it. May the Soul of Hompa Sitentu rest in peace but our conscience will continue to be haunted by this blunder.

Source : New Era