Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro will be remembered in different circles as a youth activist during the liberation struggle from his days in student politics at Döbra until he entered national politics as Swanu’s youngest secretary general. He moved on to become his party’s president. Advocate Rukoro then became one of Namibia’s founding parents when he, among other stalwarts, developed the constitution of Namibia. When the constitution was adopted, he served as the founding deputy minister of justice, a position from which he became Namibia’s second attorney general.
He was the founding member of the Namibia Black Students Organisation (NABSO) and became its second president after Reverend Zedekia Kapirikirue Mujoro. In that capacity, Vekuii Rukoro attended a meeting of progressive youths who were committed to fighting the South African apartheid system in Namibia. His very eloquent speech and ideological clarity at this meeting amused many elders – the likes of veteran Hitjevi Veii and Sondaha Kangueehi.
In time, he joined Swanu – and in 1975, he was elected as its secretary general, a position he took from my late father Pastor Seth Kaimu, which he held until 1980. Rukoro then left for the United Kingdom to study law at Warwick University.
In 1984, he was re-elected secretary general, a position he held until 1988.
Advocate Rukoro was operating in a very fragile political environment that was very partial from the United Nations, which resolved that Swapo Party is the sole and authentic representative of the Namibian people.
Based on that, he was the only secretary general of a liberation movement that was operating in Namibia, with no money or financial assistance from outside and inside, because money from the international community was given to Swapo exclusively – while in Namibia, it was given to DTA.
Furthermore, he was the only secretary general of the liberation movement operating in Namibia at the time. During this time, the international situation was polarised by the fact that Swapo was recognised as the sole and authentic representative of the people of Namibia, while there were other parties such as Swanu.
During this time, traditionalists like reverends Tjirimuje and Karuaera, chiefs like Maharero, Tjamuaha, Kameeta and Witbooi joined Swapo. I shall remember him as the youngest political leader who presented Swanu’s position to the Western Contact Group when they came to Namibia on a fact finding mission in anticipation for Namibia’s independence in 1977, notwithstanding the presence of veterans such as Sondaha Kangueehi. After these interactions and in view of the imminent independence thrust, the Federal Party of Namibia, under Advocate Brian O’Lynn and the National Independence Party, led by Charlie Hartung, joined forces with Swanu and other parties to form the Namibia National Front ( NNF).
Advocate Rukoro became the Secretary for Publicity, a position he held from 1977 to 1980.
Advocate Rukoro had cut his political teeth at the feet of veterans Sondaha Kangueehi and Hitjevi Veii, who had been steadfast in the fight against the inspired vigilantes of South Africa and the Turnhale Neo political dispensation since 1975. In 1980, Advocate Rukoro was arrested alongside David Kasume for defending Adolph Kangootui and Ruvao Nunuhe, who were members of both Swanu and NNF, and were arrested by the South African police.
Through the Council of Churches in Namibia, they were able to get the best legal defence and won the case. During the same time, the CCN organised a scholarship for him – and that is how he got to study in the UK.
While he was in the UK, Swanu’s legendary Uatjindua Ndjoze died. The SWANU/NNF revolutionary groups in the UK dispatched Advocate Rukoro to attend the funeral in Namibia at Orevia village, Aminuis constituency.
In 1984, he was assigned to, alongside his comrades Kuzeeko Kangueehi, Nora Chase and Jefta Tjozongoro, participate in the exploratory consultations for Namibia’s independence, organised by President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka.
At Namibia’s independence in 1990, Advocate Rukoro was appointed by president Nujoma as deputy minister of justice. He subsequently became the second attorney general of Namibia.
In 2000, Advocate Rukoro decided to enter the private sector. He joined Sanlam Namibia as managing director, First National Bank as CEO and as chairman of Namibia’s national carrier, Air Namibia. He also served as first patron of the Okakarara Trade Fair Society. This is where our association commenced in 2007; in 2009, he attended my wedding at farm Onse Rus near Kalkfeld. In the same vein, I was one of the few people who attended his mother’s funeral at Okaumbaaha in the Daures constituency, Otjohorongo district. During the funeral of Ombara Eerike Zeraua, we had light moments in the company of Samo Mbapaha – and these are not for public consumption.
In 2014, we both served on the funeral arrangement structures for Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako and he nominated me to read the eulogy.
During these developments, I was one of the senior members of the Ovaherero leadership. As such, I was involved in the selection process for the successor of Paramount Chief Riruako. I co-facilitated the selection of Advocate Rukoro as the next paramount chief – through my influence among constituents of Okakarara, where advocate Rukoro had assigned me to lobby for his selection. Advocate Rukoro and I had personal and official relations – and through these, he had introduced me to President Hage Geingob while the latter was minister of trade and industry.
These are the many contacts and interactions that moved me to write this tribute to Paramount Chief Rukoro.
Like many others, I believe in dialectical and historical materialism – which is a theory that says: ‘the world is one’. Whether you are together now and tomorrow separate, the truth must be told about the integrity of the person.
So, even though we had some political differences, he had remained my rock, my role model, my friend and my paramount chief. Unfortunately, we did not make time to apologise to each other, and only time knows the best.
But due to the fact that I have the capacity to write this tribute before his funeral, I shall use this opportunity to apologise to him. Where he has wronged me, I shall forgive him – and where I wronged him, I am sure that his spirit will forgive me, as well as the entire Ovaherero nation. In the spirit of dialectical and historical materialism, I have shared this background for others to know. We must not forget that he is one of the few persons who have devoted their lives and their careers to national politics and the welfare of our communities.
He died on the service of Ovaherero people as their paramount chief. Go well, my paramount chief. Go and meet your first wife mamie Meriam Tjombonde Rukoro.
Join the likes of Imbu Uirab, Hitjevi Veii, Sondaha Kangueehi, Uatjindua Ndjoze, Kuaima Riruako, Clemens Kapuuo and Hosea Kutako. Kaende Nawa mukuetu; ami wina mekara nawa!