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Values of Giants

THE axe of fate is cutting at the roots of the giants in the Namibian forest of values and drains the springs of wisdom from which a nation should gain a collective strength of character.

Self-sacrificing leadership is such a rare quality that it is rarely appreciated in life and almost never rewarded, because there is a rare breed of leaders that expect neither, and feel awkward when acknowledged.

The recent and immense loss – only days apart – of two of Namibia’s greatest traditional leaders, the late senior traditional councillor, Peter Shimweefeleni Kauluma of the Aandonga and Chief Seth Kootjie of the Topnaars is a tragic reminder of Namibian values that only the most extraordinary are gifted with, and when their souls depart from the earth for which they sacrificed so much, because they cherished their people who walked on it, their people are poorer.

In death and on their departure from this earth, they remain a legacy and a signpost on the road to nationhood and the journey, to the destination of dignity unity, justice, equality and freedom that lies yonder.

In the storms of party- and factional politics the remarkable lives of Chairman Peter Kauluma and Chief Seth Kooitjie will be celebrated, because their devotion to unity and peaceful co-existence of Namibians – will guide many more generations to come.

Their ties with the living were severed, but the legacy of the two is the tie of service to their subjects that bind and mold communities hundreds of kilometres apart.

Chief Kauluma was a founding member of the Ovamboland People’s Organisation (OPO) and rubbed shoulders with Namibia’s and South Africa’s most notable struggle politicians since the 1950’s, but he never had the urge to boast or demand any recognition for his political credentials, because he was the rare breed that served and never expected to be served.

The rift between King Immanuel Elifas and the expelled headman must now be healed as a matter of pride as the ailing King himself and the Aaandonga deserved all the dignity they have earned since the beginning of time.

When he was appointed as Chairman of the Ondonga Traditional Authority, he acted as a bridge in the forerunner kingdom of its time, because before Independence, the Ondonga Kingdom was well established and recognised, while the Oukwanyama kingdom was still after Independence looking to re-establish its Namibian kingdom.

The role of Councillor Kauluma in maintaining the best relations between the two most copious tribes in Namibia and both front runners of post-Independence, peace and reconciliation can never be underestimated. History will judge Chief Peter Kauluma as a unifying force and a visionary.

His loyalty to his King Immanuel Elifas and his unbreakable self-constraint is a modern tragedy. When factional infighting hit the kingdom and when he was fired from his position as Chairman of the Ondonga Traditional Council, he abided by the decision, although deeply hurt and never questioned the king, because as servant he obeyed and respected.

He can rightly be regarded as one of the pioneers of unlocking the cultural tourism potential of his area by building a small, but luxurious lodge showcasing the traditions and culture of the Aandonga of which he was fiercely proud and only surpassed by his empathy for the poor and the downtrodden.

Cast from the same mold but far away in the unforgiving sand of the Namib, Chief Kooitjie also rose, not only as unifier of the small Topnaar community, but his leadership elevated him to the chairman of all Nama traditional authorities.

Years after the death of his legendary father, Chief Kootjie was challenged, because of a so-called lack of royal blood. He became living proof that a king is not identified by the colour of his blood, but by his bearing of nobility and leadership by example.

He too devoted his younger life to the political struggle for independence and could also claim some political standing, but always being the servant, he stayed amongst his people and their way of life that can be traced back 650 years to the harshest coastlines of the world.

Both these two remarkable leaders will be laid to rest the coming weekend amongst their fathers, mothers and families, and in their case, their royal bearing and humble lifestyles will not stir the pot of heroes that is being blurred by politics.

Because they were remarkable men, they will remain remarkable men and always a symbol of the best values that Namibians can showcase.

The sudden death of the two remarkable traditional leaders is again a lesson that Namibians should know each other better because there is the best in every soul.

When a few good men leave earth, it takes many more good men to take their place.

Chiefs Kauluma and Kootjie could not have grown up further apart and in more diverse environments and cultures.

They departed from their communities, but will arrive at the forefathers as Namibians whose values are a challenge to aspire to and a victory for humankind, if achieved by all.

Only then, will the world we leave behind have hope of being the better place.

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