Namibia: Calls to Mourn Rukoro for a Month

CALLS have been made for the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) to ask the government to have their late paramount chief, Vekuii Rukoro, buried on 18 July.

This date coincides with the death of paramount chief Hosea Kutako in 1970.

Rukoro died at the age of 66 in a Windhoek hospital on Friday, days after the OTA announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

The traditional authority's secretary general, Mutjinde Katjiua, yesterday said they are set to meet the government today to finalise Rukoro's burial and funeral arrangements.

When asked about a succession plan, Katjiua said the position of paramount chief is an elected one, but for now, the traditional authority has a transitional arrangement with executive powers in place.

"Transitional arrangements will first be announced on Keetute (an Otjiherero radio station) tomorrow," he said.

Rirua Komeheke, who calls himself a first-hand mourner of the late chief, yesterday said the Ovaherero people want to give Rukoro a befitting send-off.

He said the Ovaherero people need to have sufficient time to mourn Rukoro.

"We are appealing to be allowed to bury him at a later date, and not within the seven-day period as set out in regulations. We need sufficient time to mourn him and we hope the latest would be by 18 July, coinciding with the death of chief Kutako," Komeheke said.

Komeheke further said there will not be any discussions on a succession plan for the rest of the year.

Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani said he will fondly remember Rukoro as a bold, forward and forthright leader.

In a statement on his behalf, Venaani extended his condolences to Rukoro's family.

Venaani and Rukoro often consulted on a solution to the atrocities committed during the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama people.

The paramount chief served in many different capacities, including as secretary general of Swanu in 1975, and became party president in 1989.

He was a member of the Constituent Assembly of Namibia, and was one of the main drafters of Namibia's Constitution.

He was also appointed as deputy minister of justice and served in this portfolio from 1990 to 1995.

He served as attorney general from 1995 to 2000.

Soon after, he became the managing director of Sanlam Namibia.

He was also the chief executive officer (CEO) of First National Bank, and then served as CEO of the Meat Corporation of Namibia.

In 2014, he was elected chief of the Ovaherero.

"However, it is truly his charge in seeking a respectable deal for the descendants of the genocide for which he will be best remembered . . ," the PDM's statement read.

Landless People's Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi in a statement said: "We are honoured and blessed to have known him, for he was truly a blessing to all of us."

Chief Johannes Isaack, on behalf of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association and the Nama nation, said: "He was crystal clear in his approach to the case of the genocide . . . he garnered considerable fellowship around the Ovaherero royal crown, which is something admirable to all people who were engaging with him."

STATE FUNERAL

President Hage Geingob has granted Rukoro the honour of a state funeral.

In a statement on Friday, the Presidency said the remains of the late Ovaherero chief will be interred on a date and place to be agreed to in consultation with his family.

"President Hage G Geingob extends his deepest sympathies to the bereaved wife, Mrs Dinah Jorokee Rukoro, the children, the entire family, the Ovaherero Traditional Authority, the Ovaherero people and the nation at large . . . His death is a great loss at this watershed moment in our country's history," the Presidency said.

Swapo party secretary general Sophia Shaningwa said when Rukoro became the chief of the Ovaherero people he inspired hope, pride and confidence, in addition to being a staunch activist on the genocide issue.

"The passing of advocate Vekuii Rukoro is a great loss, not only to his family and community, but to the Namibian nation at large, for he was a sharp leader who served his country and community with honour and integrity," she said.

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