The legacy behind Keharanjo II

Ovambanderu Paramount Chief, Keharanjo II Nguvauva was recently laid to rest at Ongango. His burial was according to his wish to trace his ancestral footsteps and lie beside his great grandfather, Tjozohongo Nguvauva. But in more ways than one, his departure has panned out to be more than just the return of a prodigal son to his ancestors.

Officially unrecognised by the Namibian Government at the time of his death, Keharanjo II in many ways than one died an undeniable Paramount Chief of the Ovambanderu, disputed seemingly by a handful unrepentant, unreformed and incorrigible traditionalists.

By the traditional rudiments of the Ovambanderu community, he was their traditional leader but by popular public acclamation he was even doubling up as the Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero.

How many more other cultural groups regarded him as their star traditional leader in the making, only themselves would know.

But there is no denying the fact that his youthfulness and charisma became infectious beyond his narrow tribal affinity.

Many, old and young, seem to enjoy worshipping the very ground he walked on.
His death testified the widespread appeal he enjoyed among both the Ovambanderu and Ovaherero people and beyond. The shock, the sympathy, the interest in the topic and sense of regret among those who learnt of the death, showed how much of a statesperson he had grown to become.

That he was a traditional statesperson in the making was evidenced by the sheer numbers who turned up at his funeral wake in Windhoek.

Those who turned up to share the bereavement with his mother, Aletha Karikondua Nguvauva, and his people, redefined the Namibian list of traditional, political, diplomatic and business personalities.

But there was more to this list than the naked eye could see.

Keharanjo II had many admirers who made their own separate and unique list of personalities of different hue and status. But leading the list of “Who is Who” was none other than the Head of State, His Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who visited the family the very Saturday after the fateful Friday.

Then followed other politicians including parliamentarians, of both houses of Parliament with the National Council Chairperson Asser Kapere, leading a delegation of National Council members.

Diplomats, traditional leaders, among them, the vice chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders took turns to express their condolences.

But there was a common thread running through these messages of condolence, some hidden, some explicit.

United in their common sentiment about a great loss as all seemed, the loss was not personal to the late Keharanjo II’s mother, and her immediate family and the Ovambanderu, but personal to most.

So it was not just a matter of sharing grief and bereavement but for most a sense of personal loss at losing a young-and-upcoming leader.

Ironically, none seemed more succinct on this score than the Vice Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders, and Chief of the !Gobanin Traditional Community of the Goreses Reserve, Stefanus Gariseb.

Not only was he personally saddened but also as deputy chair of the Council of Traditional Leaders because it was his, “vision and dream to have an educated young son to sit with us”.

Gariseb may perhaps have unconsciously revealed that sooner or later Keharanjo II was destined for the august house of traditional leaders.

He did not stop there but went on to inform the mourners that Council was busy having an office constructed to be known as the House of Traditional Leaders.

Once again his expectation, or their expectation, was for Keharanjo II as someone educated in customary law to be their source of understanding, assist them and advise them in this regard. Could one deduce from this that Keharanjo II’s was a fait accompli?

Reading from this and even the address and reference of Kapere to Keharanjo II as Paramount Chief, as much as a matter of protocol this may have been, especially for fear of offending the family and his people in their dark hour, it may not be an exaggeration to say official recognition was only a formality and that Keharanjo II was widely accepted, perceived and seen as the leader of his people.

In this vogue, Keharanjo II graced the Parliament Gardens where hundreds witnessed his memorial service. This mixture of sorrow and celebrations followed every step of the way of the last rite of the late Keharanjo II from Windhoek to his home village of Otjijarua in the Otjombinde Constituency in the Omaheke Region and back and then onwards to Ongango in the Kunene Region.

Every step of the way, the late Chief was met figuratively by a red carpet and hundreds of people lured onto the streets by not only sheer curiosity but a genuine sense of loss and regret as well.

Streets of usually sleepy towns like Otjiwarongo, Outjo, Kamanjab and Opuwo, came to an unprecedented hustle and bustle as adherents, worshippers, subjects and mere admirers of the late young chief lined up in standing ovations along the routes to respectfully and sadly bow as he was whisked to his last resting place.

In Opuwo, the last town before the hearse whisked the late chief away to the remote village of Ongango, offered him a hero’s welcome as the people thronged the Alpha area to pay homage to him.

In their thousands, people eventually converged in what could, for a long time, be the first and the last funeral of a traditional leader of its kind and magnitude. The Owozohongo valley, inhabited by Keharanjo II’s great-grandfather, Tjozohongo Nguvauva, hence the reference Owozohongo, meaning that of Tjozohongo, was full to capacity.

Chiefs, governors, ministers, members of parliament, councillors, gentiles and commoners paid tribute to a young upcoming star chief whose life was tragically cut short.

The funeral itself was a celebration of the life of a young man through speeches, 24 hour non-stop battle cries by both women and men original as can only be heard from the Ovahimba where culture has seen little erosion. Drills and a parade by paramilitary contingents of the green, red and white flags on foot and on horses and traditional dancers by women all ensured a funeral befitting a Paramount Chief.

Never has any chief ever united a people as Keharanjo II’s death and funeral. It’s a feat that will take long to surpass. Eventually through his death, the young chief has united the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu, Ovahimba, Ovazemba and all and sundry. He has left behind a legacy of unity that may never be paralleled in these times. PF