WALVIS BAY - What was meant to be a well organised and befitting send-off for the late Topnaar chief, Seth Madawa Kooitjie, was turned into a ranting platform by the Ovaherero Traditional Authority chief, Vekuii Rukoro, against the government with regard to the artefacts of the late captain, Hendrik Witbooi.
Rukoro, who arrived with his entourage during Kooitjie’s eulogy, although was not on the programme of speakers was given an opportunity to deliver a message of condolence to the Nama clans and Kootjie’s family. However he used the opportunity to tell the Witbooi clan not to allow the government to keep Hendrik Witbooi’s whip and Bible but should demand that it be released in their possession. Chief Hendrik Witbooi’s Bible and whip will be returned to Namibia by the German government within the next few days whereby a delegation from Germany will make a symbolic visit to Hornkranz on February 27. These historic artefacts will travel to Gibeon on March 1, where they will officially be handed over to President Hage Geingob. A certified copy of the Bible will also be handed over to a designated elder of the Witbooi clan after being donated to the Linden University in 1902.
Rukoro added that the Ombalantu ritual stone was returned to its people, hence it was only fair that the government sees to it that Witbooi’s possessions be returned to their rightful owners. “Therefore I fully support and urge the Nama people to fight the repatriation of these items unless they are returned to the Witbooi family,” Rukoro said. He also told the Witbooi family to put their differences aside and unite for the sake of dignity of their family.
This did not sit well with some of the mourners and pastors, leading the funeral service director to make it clear that the funeral should not be used to settle scores or cause conflict among people, but rather be seen as an opportunity to console the family and the Topnaar community that lost a visionary leader.
However Chief Petrus Simon Kooper when he took to the podium said that they want government to keep the artefacts for now or at least until the internal squabbles between the Witboois are settled. He however made it clear that the artefacts belong to the Witbooi family and should be returned to them.
Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse- Himarwa, however set the record straight, saying the government does not intend to keep the artefacts. In fact a Hendrik Witbooi memorial museum will be built in Gibeon where these artefacts and other items related to the iconic leader would be exhibited for future generations. She then told mourners that a certified copy of the Bible will in the meantime be exhibited at Gibeon, and that the Witbooi family has been consulted to that effect.
“There is no need for squabbles and it is so boring to witness them among our traditional houses. I am ashamed of it as it reflects negatively on us as the Nama people. Let us look at the bigger picture and realise what the late Hendrik Witbooi was and how important he is to the Namibian nation. Only then will we progress,” she said.
Hanse-Himarwa added that the fact that government is taking the official handing-over to Gibeon is the ultimate honour, recognition and respect to the Nama people in their entirety and the /Khowese and Witbooi clans