Court order stops separate Red Flag Day event

WINDHOEK: A separate event for the annual Okahandja Red Flag Day commemoration activities that was planned by one of the two rival OvaHerero factions for this weekend at the town (Okahandja), has been stopped.

The planned activities by one of the two rival groups- the Okahandja Red Flag Regiment and supporters- was stopped on Saturday (yesterday) following an order issued by the Windhoek High Court directing and instructing the leaders of this rival grouping not to go ahead with the commemoration activities until such a time they sort out the existing differences between them and other faction, namely the leaders of the Maharero Traditional Royal House and supporters.

As per court order issued by High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele on Saturday, no single activity or anything related to the annual Red Flag Day commemoration is being allowed to place at the town of Okahandja this weekend.

The members of the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) headed by the Police Commanding Officer responsible for Otjozondjupa Region Commissioner Joseph Anghuwo, were also stationed at the OvaHerero Commando Hall structure where the activities were scheduled to place as usual.

The area surrounding of the OvaHerero Commando Hall structure was also cordoned off by the police officers and no person or persons were being allowed to enter the area as per court order and instructions by Commissioner Anghuwo.

The group was further not allowed to proceed to the graves site of the fallen OvaHerero heroes and heroines as this was another directive that was issued by the High Court on Saturday.

This was evident when Nampa arrived at the OvaHerero Commando Hall place in Nau-Aib residential area on Sunday morning at about 08h10 as the rival group has set up (erected) at tent on the northern side of the Okahandja Commando Hall structure.

Meanwhile, the rival group (the Okahandja Red Flag Regiment and supporters) was only allowed to go to the grave site for the official unveiling of the tombstone of the late Chief Tumbee Kavetumbu Fanuel Tjombe of the OvaHerero Traditional Authority (OTA) who was laid to rest at Ondoporo graveyard on 18 August last year (2014) at Okahandja.

This was only done after Commissioner Anghuwo, the Regional Councillor for the Okakarara Constituency Vetaruhe Kandorozu and other members of the rival group’s organising committee agreed to remove anything or detail that is considered commemoration from their program.

In the matter, on 07 August this year, the Red Flag Regiment based at Okahandja sent a letter to the leadership of the Maharero Royal House saying that they will conduct the commemoration activities on the weekend of 15 and 16 August 2015, instead of the weekend of 21 to 23 August this year.

The leadership of the Maharero Royal House claims that the changing of dates was done without their knowledge and said it is not in the interests of the majority of Otjiherero-speaking Namibians to hold separate events.

The changing of the dates by the Okahandja Red Flag Regiment and supporters (respondents) then forced the lawyers of the other rival faction – the Maharero Royal House – to approach the Windhoek High Court on Friday with an urgent application asking the court to issue an order to stop the Okahandja Red Flag Regiment from going ahead with the activities this weekend.

The application was brought before the Windhoek High Court on Friday afternoon and the hearing of the merits of the case started before High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele on Saturday morning at about 10h30.

The Judge issued the order on Saturday afternoon, directing the Okahandja Red Flag Regiment and its supporters not to go ahead with their planned separate event.

Windhoek-based lawyer Natasha Bassingwaite, who is representing the applicant, strongly argued that the Okahandja Red Flag Regiment and its supporters should not be allowed to go ahead with the annual activities because they are in breach of an out-of-court settlement which was reached by the two rival factions on 24 June 2014.

The settlement calls for unity and stipulates that the two rival factions should jointly hold annual Red Flag Day activities for the benefits of their communities.

However, Patrick Kauta, who is representing the respondents, said that there is nothing wrong with decisions of the leadership of the Red Flag Regiment to hold the separate annual Red Flag Day activities this weekend and asked the court to dismiss the application brought before court by the Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority.

In June last year (2014), the two rival OvaHerero factions were also at loggerheads over the location of the ‘holy fire’ at the annual Okahandja Red Flag Day commemoration activities.

The legal wrangle over the location of the holy fire only came to an end when the two rival factions – the Maharero Royal House and the Red Flag Regiment – reached an out-of-court settlement here on 24 June 2014.

As per the 2014 settlement, the much-respected OvaHerero ‘holy fire’ at the Commando structure at Okahandja was restored to its original position on the eastern side of the building, situated on Erf 1756 at Okahandja.

The annual Red Flag Day commemoration activities are held at Okahandja, some 68 kilometres north of Windhoek, where thousands of OvaHerero people gather to pay homage to their fallen heroes and heroines.

In 2012, the friction over the holy fire resulted in the traditional Red Flag Day event, which attracts visitors and tourists to Okahandja, being postponed for the first time in 89 years.