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Confusion over Mpasi's state funeral 'snub'

2015-01-06  Mathias Haufiku

Confusion over Mpasi's state funeral 'snub'
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"By Mathias Haufiku WINDHOEK- The presidency yesterday heaped praise on the late Ukwangali Chief Daniel Sitentu Mpasi, but was at pains to explain why the traditional leader was not accorded a state funeral despite his decorated contribution to the country’s liberation struggle. Dubbed a serious error of judgement by government, the snub has infuriated sections of residents in the two Kavango regions who believe the widely popular traditional leader deserved a befitting final send-off. State House yesterday conservatively shed light on what might have been the reason of the perceived omission, with Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana saying the chief’s death came at a time when key government offices such as Cabinet were closed for holidays. Some sections of the two Kavango regions continue to decry government’s decision not to accord Mpasi a state or hero's funeral, saying that the chief’s public profile and standing in the region coupled with his length of service to the nation qualified him to be conferred such honours. Mpasi died last month in a hospital in the Kavango West Region following a long illness. He had ruled as chief of the Ukwangali for 35 years from 1979 until his death. Kawana said President Hifikepunye Pohamba has the power to accord ""any Namibian or a friend of Namibia who has done something exceptional for the country in pre- and post-independent Namibia"" a state funeral. Hinting that Mpasi might not have received a state funeral because he died at a time when Pohamba, Prime Minister Hage Geingob and the entire Cabinet were on leave, Kawana said: ""I suspect it is because it came at the most unfortunate period when my boss [Pohamba], Dr Geingob and Cabinet were on leave."" Kawana acknowledged Mpasi's contribution to the country's liberation struggle but indicated that the prerogative to accord a state funeral lies solely on the shoulders of the Head of State. ""Some of us are aware that Hompa Mpasi was one of the few traditional leaders who were the pillars of the struggle because they stood firm. He was even one of those who would travel inside or outside the country to meet the Swapo leadership to assure them of his support,"" narrated Kawana. Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Honours Advisory Committee Ambassador Hopelong Ipinge said the Committee can only advise or recommend to the President who should be conferred a certain national honour if requested to do so by the Office of the President. ""It was upon the President to accord the chief a state funeral or not,” he said. “The committee only advises when requested to do so, we cannot just start making recommendations just because someone has passed on unless we are asked to do so. We have to abide by the powers that are in place,"" Ipinge said. While some in the Kavangos continue to vent their apparent anger over the type of funeral their leader received, the Ukwangali Traditional Authority says it is satisfied with the state's assistance from the day Mpasi passed. ""We received a letter of condolences from State House and one from the Founding Father [Dr Sam Nujoma] and the support from government has been tremendous both in the form of financial and moral support,"" said Ukwangali Traditional Authority's Senior Councillor Johannes Kandjimi. Kandjimi said despite public outcries because a state funeral was not accorded to Mpasi, the traditional authority remains grateful for what government has done from the day Mpasi died until the day of his burial."
2015-01-06  Mathias Haufiku

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