Possible Settlement Over ‘Holy Fire’

The two factions of the Ovaherero community could reach an out-of-court agreement on the heated dispute concerning the correct location of the ‘Holy Fire.’

Lawyers representing the two factions, the Maherero Clan and the Red Flag Regiment, informed Judge Shafimana Uitele they are busy negotiating, but could not reach consensus and requested a remand till today. The Maherero Royal House Traditional Authority is represented by Aocate Theo Frank assisted by Aocate Natasha Bassingtwaite and the Red Flag Regiment by Aocate Thomas Wylie. The matter surrounds the location of the ‘Holy Fire’ which is at the centre of Ovaherero tradition and commemorations such as the annual August gathering to commemorate their ancestors and deceased leaders. According to court documents the ‘Holy Fire’ that has been situated at the same place for 90 years, has been unceremoniously moved to another location by The Red Flag Regiment under the leadership of Ismael Kamuhapita and Abisai Mungendje. They approached the High Court to declare that they have the sole right to establish and maintain a ‘Holy Fire’ at the premises known as Commando at Okahandja. It is claimed by the Maherero faction that they are the sole custodians of the ‘Holy Fire.’ After a new ‘Holy Fire’ was lit by Mungendje, who was responsible for the ‘Holy Fire’ at each year’s commemoration, the Maherero clan approached the court. According to a press statement issued last year the spokesperson for the Red Flag Regiment, Aocate Vekuii Rukoro said the Red Flag Association will “vigorously defend,” the legal action instituted by the Maharero Clan to “once and for all get clarity over who has legitimate authority the Okahandja commemorations.”

The Maherero claims that only a traditional priest who is a descendant of the Maherero clan can dedicate the ‘Holy Fire’ and that this ritual was not followed during the lighting of the new ‘Holy Fire’ at the new place. This was sacrilege, they claim. They want the court to declare that the new place to the west of the Commando building instead of to the east was in breach of their ancestral right to reignite and dedicate the ‘Holy Fire’ for the August commemorations. This is not the first time that the two factions are at loggerheads over the August commemorations as previous commemorations have also been disrupted over disagreements. The ‘Holy Fire’ is described as the foundation, assembly and union of the Ovaherero community and is at the heart of their existence. Certain rules govern the ‘Holy Fire’ including that the man is the head of the family and as the head he is the only one who can communicate with the ancestors. When he dies, his younger brother takes over the ruling of the ‘Holy Fire.’ The Maharero claim that they are the custodians of the ‘Holy Fire’ since Chief Samuel Maherero and that the Red Flag Association was only mandated to organise the commemorative events, but in close consultation with the Maherero Clan. This did not happen with the relocation of the ‘Holy Fire’ they claim. Should an agreement not be forthcoming today, Judge Uitele may refer the matter to a court accredited mediator to find a solution before the next commemorations take place in August.

Source : New Era