Pohamba’s Mandume remarks sparks outcry

The President is accused of overlooking critical chapters of the country’s history, as well as selectively paying tribute to those who died in the struggle against colonialism.

President Hifi kepunye Pohamba has been accused of being selective on matters related to the country’s colonial past, with an opposition politician criticising him in parliament and a foreign embassy disputing the remarks he made in Ohangwena Region last weekend about the late Oukwanyama King, Mandume Ya Ndemufayo.

While attending the Mandume Day commemoration at Omhedi Palace in Ohangwena last Saturday, Pohamba demanded that former colonial powers, especially those whose troops were involved in the battle of February 6, 1917 in which Mandume died, owe the country clarity on the whereabouts of Mandume’s skull.

Historical chronicles suggest that Mandume shot himself in the head as the British-supported South African and Portuguese troops advanced on him during a fi erce battle. The colonisers allegedly cut off Mandume’s head and took it to an unknown destination. On Saturday, Pohamba asked Portugal and Britain to come forth and reveal where the revered king’s head was taken, as he wants the skull returned to Namibia.

“We want his head back, just like we are demanding that the Germans give our skulls back,” Pohamba remarked on Saturday. His mention of Germany is a direct reference to the skulls of Ovaherero and Nama Namibians, which were taken to that country following a genocide perpetrated by the European power between 1904 and 1908.

“We know the Portuguese didn’t take his head, so the English must tell us where they put King Mandume’s head,” the President said, to a loud applause by those in attendance of the commemoration.

Pohamba’s remarks invited trouble from Swanu president and the party’s sole Member of Parliament, Usutuaije Maamberua, who said thousands of Namibians who perished in the German-led genocide between 1904 and 1908 have not enjoyed the same respect from government.

This is particularly so when it comes to erecting monuments in remembrance of the country’s fallen heroes and heroines, Maamberua said. He also made strong reference to plans to construct a remembrance site of Uukwambi King Iipumbu Ya Tshirongo, to which government through the Ministry of Veterans Affairs has allegedly committed N$14 million.

Maamberua charged that while Iipumbu was undoubtedly an icon of colonial assistance, his heroics cannot be equated to the killings of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama people during a genocide war declared on them by colonial Germany.

The Swanu leader was therefore dumbfounded by plans to construct the Iipumbu shrine, while the genocide victims did not receive the same courtesy from the Pohamba administration.

“I am not against the erection of a monument for Iipumbu Ya Tshirongo, but I think the genocide is critical and important for government to realise that it equally deserves to be treated with the highest respect and dignity it deserves, as thousands of Namibians perished,” he said.

“It will be an embarrassment for government to recognise a single leader by erecting a monument for him, while there was a genocide, which is to date the biggest historical incident in this country.”

Pohamba’s remarks at Omhedi also prompted a swift reaction from the British High Commission in Namibia, which said Britain was in no way involved in the battle and killing of Mandume.

“… the Commission consulted the UK Foreign and Commonwealth’s African Research Department, which confirmed that the occupation of South West Africa, and the campaign in which King Mandume was killed, was carried out by South African forces under the direction of the South African government (South Africa having become independent in 1910).”

“As the occupying power, South Africa was responsible for the administration of SWA (South West Africa, as Namibia was known), a position that was later formalised by the granting of a League of Nations Mandate.”

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