Red Flag honours General Kamburona for 41 years of dedication

By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
April 2013
For an entire weekend last month, the Berthold Himumuine Primary School was transformed into a traditional-cum-cultural rendezvous.

That Friday evening was just a curtain raiser. Dozens of men and women, adorned in their red traditional paramilitary garbs of the Red Flag converged on the school grounds. Figuratively, the school had been painted red a la the ‘Red Flag’ colours with the actual flag flying high at the tent, which had been pitched on the school’s sports field for the event.

Two fat cows were slaughtered for the occasion. It was a meaty affair as the crowd nibbled away the succulent traditional delicacies.

But the meat was not the only delicacy as much as it is a favourite in such cultural groups. Once the meat had been disposed of, attendants gathered for what resembled a dessert.

Dessert in this instance was nothing fancy a la the western urbanite dishes but the bones from the meat and the marrow that comes with them. And of course the fatty bones, traditionally referred to as Ozondua. Such bones are carved up stylishly by some traditional culinary experts to access their inner fat, which is a delicacy on its own. Sucking the fat from the bones has been done since time immemorial in the culture of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu, which has been associated with manhood.

Given the latest occurrences in Namibia courtesy of the unforgiving weather patterns induced by global warming, the crowd nevertheless gathered around the fire on Friday evenings for a fireplace relay of the folk history, which cannot be disassociated with the Red Flag history. Of course the part the guest of honour played in this history and that of the flag goes unabated.

This guest of honour was none other than General Field Marshall Festus “Majora” Kamburona. Indeed, this was his occasion courtesy of the Windhoek branch of the Red Flag, referred to in the Red Flag parlance as ‘Commando No. 2’.

In the hierarchy of the Red Flag, this is the second highest structure - second only to the first, which is ‘Commando No. 1’ in Okahandja. The honour befell General Kamburona for attaining that this year, 41 years of duty, dedication and devotion to the Red Flag.

All these years, he has never wavered from rising through the ranks until his current rank. General Kamburona served most of the years as a major to the extent that the rank has almost become his personal name. Most of the latter years were known more as “Majora” than Festus, which is his personal name.

The following day, which was a Saturday and the main day of the celebrations, the school could not be readier than it was as the paramilitary colours dominated the event with those who [the previous evening] might have been shamed to have their traditional uniforms. They now had to shed off their “plain clothes”, as that would be derogatory.

Proudly attired in their favourite colour of the red flag, they trickled into the school grounds one by one, each welcomed with a piece of meat. It was not until later that afternoon that the event got into full swing.

“Marinjanda Maripaka, Tara Erapi, S.M.M.P. (Samuel Maharero Mukura Punaete)” proudly pronounced the event as a Red Flag occasion. Literally translated, this means “In joy and in sorrow, the Red Flag is always there, Samuel Maharero God with us”.

The guest of honour entered the tent flanked by two escorts; Major General Kauari and General Field Marshall Asser Pezuua Tjikuua. The tent was a flash of attention with those in the traditional uniform offering the honoured General Field Marshall a special paramilitary salute.

The rest of the day was devoted to tributes as speaker after speaker re-traced General Kamburona’s journey of the Red Flag. Some of the speakers highlighted his pivotal role in establishing and sustaining the red flag, in particular Commando No. 2 as he is known today, and its hall at the corner of Ephraim Hei and Clemence Kapuuo streets in Katutura.

As joyous as the occasion may have been, it was not devoid of an ironic twist. The irony was that the celebrations did not take place at the traditional seat of the Red Flag in Windhoek, the Comamndo Hall No. 2, which is its second headquarters in the country. General Kamburona helped establish Commando Hall No. 2 almost singularly.

A substantial part of the 41 years of General Kamburona’s sacrificed time, energy and resources, in particular, was to see the sustenance of the Red Flag, culminating in the acquisition of a piece of land from the City of Windhoek in 1978 and the building of the Commando Hall as it stands today.

Years later, him and his fellows seem to be in isolation from the mainstream Red Flag and the use of the Red Flag Commando Hall, which he initiated himself.

The National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) and the DTA of Namibia political schism has impacted on the Red Flag to the extent that the traditional-cum-cultural edifice has of late seen a splinter albeit not down the middle.

Notwithstanding all the controversies, General Kamburona stretches out his hand of peace and co-operation to all adherents of the Red Flag, wishing that it is restored to its glory days when it was a symbol of unity and pride among these cultural groups.

The unpalatable manifestation of the political schism within these communities and the near abortion of the annual Red Flag pilgrim to Okahandja, which has religiously been undertaken for the last 90 years when the remains of erstwhile Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Samuel Maharero, were re-interred in Okahandja.

But last year, because of differences within the communities, which had obviously been fueled by political schisms, the Namibian Police, for fear of a violent confrontation by two warring factions of the communities claiming and counterclaiming ownership of the traditional shrine of Okahandja, banned the pilgrim. As such, it did not take place on 26 August as had been scheduled.

Thus, General Kamburona’s sentiments that many have since isolated themselves from the Red Flag activities were echoed by many who graced his 41st anniversary. Notable among them was General Field Marshall Asser Pezuuua Tjikuua of the Okakarara Constituency.

General Tjikuua said he had attended the occasion for one purpose: To see whether there were any political overtones or undertones for that matter. Since there weren’t any, he wished the way forward for the Red Flag. He said he and fellow general field marshalls in the Red Flag, notably Christoph Ngutonwa from the Erongo Region, Kazandu Kujendani and others, had vowed to rid the Red Flag of its political schisms and to restore it to its respectful traditional and historical place in the cultural communities.

But this is something that can only happen if those concerned can be civilised with one another. Thus, those who consider themselves the majority and/or the minority, must reach out to each another in this endeavour, General Tjikuua pleaded with fellow community members, especially the Red Flag adherents and followers regardless of their various political persuasions.

The event was attended by various Red Flag dignitaries as well as traditional leaders. In honouring him, the Red Flag awarded General Kamburona with a golden meritorious medal, a long service certificate and various gifts.

On the same occasion, General Tjikuua effectively proclaimed General Kamburona as a supreme leader of the Red Flag, thus elevating him as an equal among various generals albeit in a divided command structure as is the case currently within the Red Flag due to political dichotomies within the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu communities.

However, good authority within the Red Flag has it that there are active efforts to unify the Red Flag under one command structure and soon, normalcy shall be restored. PF