Red Flag Rival Factions Cross Swords

The dust never seems to settle between rival factions of the Ovaherero people over the Red Flag Day held these past three days at Okahandja.

This after the Maharero Traditional Authority took the Red Flag Regiment to court on Friday for apparently refusing to open the water and electricity supply and give them keys to the Commando No.1 in Okahandja.

According to Benhardt Kandjii, a member of the Red Flag Regiment, the Maharero Traditional Authority launched an urgent application in the High Court, which was thrown out.

Kandjii said the Red Flag Regiment waited for the Maharero Tradional Authority at 10h00 on Friday to open the Commando but senior traditional leaders present apparently refused to take the keys and said that they were waiting for Chief Tjinaani Maharero who was seemingly in Windhoek at the time.

“In the meantime they had gone to open a court case in Windhoek,” he said.

He further narrated that the Maharero faction accompanied by the police forcefully opened the Commando with a grinder on Thursday, but the Red Flag Regiment apparently put back the lock and key on that same day.

He said the settlement agreement stipulates that the Maharero Traditional Authority shall ignite a fire by the Friday morning of the weekend that the commemorations take place at Okahandja, but that does not mean before the Friday.

Tensions between the two groups have been flaring so much that the Red Flag Association called on all the Ovaherero people to boycott last weekend’s Red Flag Day commemoration in Okahandja, citing that the Maharero Traditional Authority has blatantly violated the High Court order and spirit of the settlement agreement.

In the settlement agreement the High Court ordered that the Maharero Traditional Authority shall ignite a fire by the Friday morning of the weekend that the commemorations take place at Okahandja and that the fire shall be east of the structure currently on the erf known as the Commando where it was, prior to it being removed.

In accordance with the agreement, the Red Flag Regiment shall be responsible for the organization of the annual Red Flag Day commemoration.

But the statement by Ismael Kamuhapita, General Field Marshall of the Red Flag Association stated that the actions of the Maharero Royal Traditional Authority are a blatant disregard and contempt of the High Court order.

This, according to the Red Flag Association, stems from a press release by the Maharero Traditional Authority that was broadcast on the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NBC) Herero radio service on Wednesday, in which numerous “inaccuracies, wrong assumptions and incorrect averments were made with malicious intent to mislead the Ovaherero people.” Kamuhapita said that Chief Tjinaani Maharero claimed to have issued the press release on behalf of the Maharero Royal Traditional Authority and the entire rank and file of the TjamuahaMaharero Royal clan, but he does not enjoy the support of the majority of the Tjamuaha clan.

“Chief Tjinaani Maharero further claims that a holy fire was desecrated at Okahandja. This is vehemently denied on the grounds that the Red Flag Regiment and the other respondents maintained throughout that the fire lit at the Okahandja commemorations is a warrior fire and not a holy fire and that the fire was never desecrated,” reads the statement.

The Red Flag Association further argued that the settlement agreement between the parties was specifically worded in that manner to accommodate the two different interpretations.

According to the association, Maharero incorrectly interpreted the settlement agreement to mean that the “holy fire of the TjamuahaMaharero royal clan” is restored to its original position, while no such wording exists in the court order.

“The court order specifically states that the fire will be restored to its position prior to August 2011 and shall be so lit in accordance with the traditions and practices followed prior to August 2011,” said the statement, adding that Maharero and his followers have now deliberately changed the practices and traditions to fit in with those of lighting a holy fire.

But Phanuel Kaapama, descendant of the Maharero Traditional Authority said that they rightfully restored the holy fire to its original place, facing east as per court order and performed rituals to that effect.

He said that now that the holy fire has been restored, they would light the fire today and different rituals would be performed for that occasion.

Kaapama said that the court agreement is referring to the holy fire and not warrior fire as claimed by the Red Flag Regiment.

Last year, the Namibian Police cancelled the Red Flag Day amid rivalry between the Maharero Traditional Authority and the Ovaherero Traditional Authority over the shifting of the holy fire, which a faction led by late Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero Kuaima Riruako apparently relocated to the west.

The Maharero Traditional Authority has maintained throughout that the fire must face east.

The Red Flag Day has been commemorated every year on the Sunday nearest 23 August to pay respect to fallen chiefs of the Ovaherero, which involves a three-day gathering and procession to several graves of the deceased chiefs.

Source : New Era