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Spotlight on state attendance at Omagongo Festival

Written by on May 28, 2024

Analysts have raised concern over possible state expenditure by ministers, deputy ministers and government officials who attended the Omagongo Festival over the weekend. They assert that to avoid accusations of favouritism or tribalism, the same courtesy should be accorded to all traditional events in regions countrywide.

Political analyst Joseph Diescho yesterday said the Namibian Constitution does not mention terms like kings or royalty.

“Monarchies cannot be sustained in a republic and a republic cannot survive under the authority of kings. Namibia is either a republic or a landscape of different autonomous kingdoms,” he said.

Diescho questioned the rationale behind government officials in their official capacity referring to traditional leaders as ‘your majesty’ or ‘your royal highness’.

He described this as the officials engaging in unconstitutional conduct.

He said the National Assembly should call the government officials to order.

President Nangolo Mbumba and some Cabinet ministers also attended the Omagongo Festival over the weekend, which was organised by the Ondonga Traditional Authority.

Diescho believes it is common knowledge that the number of executive officials would not have attended if the event was not held in the north of the country, and if it were not hosted by the traditional authority of the president’s tribe.

Press secretary Alfredo Hengari yesterday told The Namibian president Mbumba accords equal respect to all traditional leaders and Namibians, irrespective of race, ethnic origin, religion or creed.

“You will recall that since assumption of office, president Mbumba undertook visits to various regions of the country and introduced himself to traditional leaders in the south, the north, the north-east and east,” he said. Hengari noted that the late president Hage Geingob attended the San Cultural Festival at Gobabis in the Omaheke region, and also the Damara Festival at Okombahe in November 2023.

He further said president Mbumba will travel to the south in the coming weeks to attend events organised by traditional leaders in the southern regions.

“I should also add that vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah recently graced a number of memorial and cultural events in the south,” he said.

Meanwhile, Diescho said it is inconceivable that the participation of executive ministers, deputy ministers and regional governors did not cost the state money.

“These officials travelled in state vehicles, driven by state drivers and accommodated at state costs. Even presidential advisers were carried by the state. Now tell us, what functions these people performed at a Ndonga cultural festival to warrant taxpayer’s resources?”

Hengari, however, said several ministers and deputy ministers attended the event at the invitation of the president to showcase the diversity and inclusive nature of the Namibian government.

He said leaders from different regions of Namibia also attended at the invitation of the organisers. “President Mbumba believes in unity in diversity and the Omagongo Festival, which past presidents attended, is for the northern regions, but the organisers have always reached out to other regions of the country by inviting other traditional leaders,” said Hengari. He said Mbumba’s message reflected the unity of the ‘Namibian House’ and the importance of preserving Namibia’s cultural heritage in all its diversity.

In his remarks at the festival, the president said celebrating cultural festivals would allow all Namibians to gradually eliminate potential barriers, conflicts and stereotypes that may exist in society due to ignorance, and embrace each other’s cultural diversity, traditions and values as important unifying nation building blocks.

“Let us continue to promote and celebrate our cultural festivals as a means of fostering a spirit of unity, so that we all pull in one direction as a nation. Let us use culture as a means of ensuring that our ‘Namibian House’ stands on the solid foundations of unity and solidarity – a strong ‘One Namibia one nation’.

“It is only by sharing the unique aspects of our cultural identities that we can create an inclusive, open-minded and compassionate society,” said Mbumba.

According to Diescho, political leaders do not carefully consider the consequences of their behaviour and assume that they are correct by virtue of being in power.

He said this creates the impression across the nation that some tribes are more important than others.

“In all fairness, it is not strictly tribalism as such, but the exercise of unintelligent politics,” he said.

Meanwhile, political analyst Rui Tyitende yesterday said traditional authorities that align with the government’s policies and overall agenda will be treated more favourably compared to those that do not.

“Some traditional authorities are recognised and others are not, even though the reasons granted for approval or decline may be considered frivolous. People thrive on the politics of ethnicity and it will continue to be exploited by all sorts of ethnic and political entrepreneurs,” he added. Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah yesterday warned the government to be careful not to appear to have a favourite ‘child’, which will turn traditional authorities against each other, in the view that one is treated as more special. “There is no problem in sending ministers to traditional events for a long as you make sure equal delegations are sent to all the sister events,” he said.

Kamwanyah said traditional events are essential for unity and nation building and “should be embraced”.

The post Spotlight on state attendance at Omagongo Festival appeared first on The Namibian.

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