Nationwide tour of Geingob’s body opposed

CONTENT … Pres- ident Hage Geingob and first lady Monica Geingos. Photo: Namibian Presidency

Senior government officials are leaning towards blocking a proposal to fly president Hage Geingob’s body across the country to give citizens the chance to pay their last respects.

This could be a safety risk and logistical nightmare, they say.

“We understand the calls for sending the president’s body into the regions, but we must understand the risks are just too many,” a government source says.

The committee planning Geingob’s funeral was allegedly briefed on this proposal, but it seems the idea will not be entertained.

Executive director of information and communication technology Audrin Mathe yesterday said a media briefing would be held today at 13h30 to address all public concerns related to the late president’s funeral.

People calling for a countrywide tour are citing examples, such as that of the late Theo-Ben Gurirab and Mosé Tjitendero, whose bodies were taken to their home towns and villages before they returned to Windhoek to be buried.

Gurirab’s body was flown by helicopter to Usakos and Tjitendero to Okomakuara village near Ovitoto.

PRESIDENTIAL MOURNING IN OTHER COUNTRIES

In South Africa, when former president Nelson Mandela died, his body travelled through the streets of Pretoria before being taken to the Union Bulidings, where it lay in state for three days.

Mandela died on 5 December 2013 and was buried on 15 December at his home village Mcunu in the Eastern Cape province.
The government of South Africa at the time declared a 10-day mourning period.

Tanzanian president John Magufuli died in office on 17 March 2021, and his body lay in state at Uhuru Stadium on 20 March.
A state funeral service was held on 22 March, and he was buried on 25 March at his hometown of Chato.

Erongo governor Neville Andre. Photo: File

‘NEED FOR CONSULTATION’

Erongo governor Neville Andre yesterday said: “The information I was sort of aware of was that there would be regional commemorations or memorials. But flying the body for viewing I’m not aware of.

He emphasised the need for thorough consultation and information sharing.

The governor also mentioned the anticipation of official communications and planning meetings to arrange logistics for regional commemorations.

“Once we get the information, everything will be communicated,” he said.

CLOSURE

Former deputy minister of works and transport Sankwasa James Sankwasa yesterday said Geingob’s body should be taken to Oshakati, Rundu, Keetmanshoop and Otjiwarongo.

“He was not only the president of Swapo; he was the president of all Namibians. Just like those people in Windhoek, we in the regions also want closure,” he said.

Sankwasa said the transportation of a president’s body to various regions of a country is not new, and has been practised in neighbouring countries, like Zambia and South Africa.

He alternatively proposed that people be bussed to Windhoek, but this would pose a logistical nightmare.

According to Sankwasa, people in remote villages are worse off, since they cannot follow activities on radio or television.

Judea Lyamboloma constituency councillor Humphrey Divai, supports the idea of taking Geingob’s body to the regions.

“Many people are poor and cannot afford to travel to Windhoek for the funeral. So if that opportunity comes, we will welcome it so we can pay our last respects to our president,” he said.

TV ARRANGED

Divai has arranged for a television at Sachona village, so that residents can follow memorial proceedings daily.

“The only challenge is the language, but we try to translate. You can see the love they had for the president. It would also be good if we could have a book of condolence in the constituency,” he said yesterday.

Rebekka Nawases, an elder at Okahandja says it is her wish to see the late president for the last time.

“It is very important to take the body of the president to all the regions, even if they have to select central places where people can gather . . .

“We understand what the family is going through, but they must also understand he was the president of the people,” she says.
She further suggests that Geingob’s burial day be declared a public holiday.

Omatjete residents will hold ombimbi (traditional Herero battle cry) for Geingob this morning at the Zeraua Traditional Authority’s office.

Senior councillor and Zeraeua Traditional Authority spokesperson Fabianus Uaseuapuani says the event will be held according to the Otjiherero way of mourning.

“The ladies will be inside the house, and the men will be outside to have the rituali. There will be drilling and a horse parade. Schoolchildren will also come.

“We will then have a prayer and maybe a speech from the chief,” he says.

Uaseuapuani says touring with Geingob’s body may not be practical, but would bring closure to many.

Aletha Frederick

THE SOUTH

//Kharas governor Aletha Frederick says it is her wish that Geingob’s body be brought to the regions.

“Therefore my office is waiting to hear from the central government whether a decision has been taken in this regard,” she says.

“We understand that costs would be involved and logistics, therefore I do not think his body can visit every single region.

“However, if the regions could be clustered . . . that would help a lot,” she says.

Hardap governor Solomon April says taking Geingob’s body to the people would be the best option in light of the protocols that govern this particular funeral.

Geingob is the first president and sitting president of Namibia to die.

“If we look at safety and security, the rules and guidelines and the protocols, it becomes difficult to think everyone would be able to attend this funeral – especially in terms of the manner that we anticipate this funeral to be conducted.

“Therefore it would be best to bring the people’s president and set up venues for them to pay their last respects, as many Namibians may end up only following the funeral proceedings on their TV screens,” April says.

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