Omukwaniilwa Immanuel Kauluma Elifas – The Paradigm of Difference

AN omundonga would say “ya vala oyiikutha molweendo” - loosely translated to mean he/she that has given birth has lessen his/her burden. As such, the late Omukwaniilwa Kualuma Elifas’s burden is not only lessened by his biological children. It also lessened by his extended children – the generality of the Aandonga people. In the Aandonga culture, conscious elders always made it a point to tell their children and grandchildren about their culture, tradition, norms, custom and leaders. 

It is for this reason that our great- grandmother, Kuku Gwanale Namupala gwaHamunyela yaShuumbwa made sure that we knew all Aandonga Kings from Omukwaniilwa Nembulungo lyaNgwedha to Omukwaniilwa Kauluma Elifas. Whatever was missed from her oral history was learned from several books of the late Hans Daniel Namuhuja, an Omundonga historian who was the first to obtain a university degree in the whole of Owambo. 

Kuku Gwanale’s interest in mainstream Aandonga affairs is not surprising. She was named Namupala, after Namupala gwaNehale – the daughter of the great warrior Nehale lyaMpingana. As a young lady, she lived with Kuku Amupanda gwaShiponeni – one of the greatest warriors of warrior Nehale lyaMpingana. She grew up under the care of brave men who had it not been for them, white people farms might have expanded all over the Aandonga land until just before Omaalala. We, therefore, understood her fighting spirit. Her grandmother, Nantinda yaAndapo, and her father Hamunyela yaShuumbwa took her to iitsali (the equivalence of olufuko) at Onambeke where Omukwaniilwa Martin gaAshikoto made her one of his seven wives joining Katrina kaLeonard, Nangombeya Namalenga, Iipumbu yaMushinda, Nantinda yaKaluwapa, Mpupa gwaNamupala and Shivunda shaKakangwa. These are the conditions that drew me closer and aroused my interest in the Aandonga history. 

Omukwaniilwa Kauluma okwiikutha molweendo, said let there be as many accounts and narratives on what the King represented to us - as individuals and as a people. Importantly, let these accounts and perspectives be documented for the safekeeping of current and future generations of Aandonga children and Namibians interested in the Aandonga history. Apart from the late Has Daniel Namuhuja, Tate Angula Ndjembo, Tate Petrus Amakali, Tate Kwela kwaArmas and in recent times Kuku Nkandanga and Jekonia Akuunda (Ndjeke yaMalimba), subsequent generation of Aandonga have dismally failed in documenting the Aandonga history through books and popular culture. It remains to be explored whether this is by own volition or a result of what Ngugi wa Thiong’o described when he submitted “the language of my education was no longer the language of my culture.” Let much blame be to ‘educated’ Aandonga youth. Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, a Zimabwean decolonial thinker, understands. Listen to him; “many educated African people distanced themselves from their indigenous African languages and ancestors whom the Christian missionaries disparaged as ‘demons’. This harm that was imposed on African people cannot be reversed unless African people deliberately embark on the painstaking process of learning to unlearn in order to re- learn.” As Omukwaniilwa proceeds into ancestry, from where he will continue to look over us, let us reflect beyond weeping. As advised by Prince Mashele, “the children who refuse to leave the graveside after burying their father who was a breadwinner are bound to succumb to starvation. It does not matter how violently you sob, the dead will never return.” 

Omukwaniilwa represented many things to many people over the 86 years of his life. For me he represented the Paradigm of Difference. Indeed, he is an embodiment of the Paradigm of Difference. He took over the kingdom in 1975 after the death of his brother Omukwanillwa Fillemon Shuumbwa Elifas, who was brutally killed at the peak of the liberation struggle, he managed to navigate the kingdom during the troubled times and held it together for more than 40 years. He is one of the longest serving kings in post-colonial Namibia. In the Aandonga history, he is counted amongst the longest serving kings joining Omukwaniilwa Nembunga lyaAmatundu who ruled Ondonga for 60 years between 1750 and 1810. Such is a Paradigm of Difference that characterised Omukwaniilwa. While many black communities are fighting over land and who should occupy land in their respective kingdoms, Omukwaniilwa distinguished himself as accommodative of other black communities. It is for this reason that many actually confuse villages such as Ongula yaNetanga, Omayi, Otanana and many others, although part of Ondonga, as part of Oukwanyama given that majority of the residents in these villages are Aakwanyama natives.

In some instances, the headmen are Aakwanyama and village names are also in Oshikwanyama. Kadhila Ndalyakoshi Amoomo, an Omundonga youth, once attended a meeting at Onamungundo palace and was shocked to observe some of the traditional leaders whose language is only Oshikwanyama. This is generally unique to Ondonga and Omukwaniilwa. Such is the Paradigm of Difference that characterized Omukwaniilwa. Most traditional authorities are either integrated into mainstream national politics or polarised by the same politics. In some worse and sickening cases, politicians draft statements against their opponents and had them released on letterheads of traditional authorities. Omukwaniilwa is not recorded to have integrated into mainstream politics or polarised his people in the name of politics. Both Nahas Angula (SWAPO), Jesaya Nyamu (RDP), late Andreas Shipanga (SWAPO-D), late Phillemon Moongo (DTA) and others were never ostracized by Omukwaniilwa and the kingdom leadership on account of their political choices. Despite the ruling party and its uncouth exuberates that always sought to project an exclusive proximity to the Omukwaniilwa, the king never differentiated his subjects on the basis of politics. Such is the Paradigm of Difference that characterized Omukwaniilwa. 

What will happen to Omukwaniilwa’s Paradigm of Difference? Will it be abandoned or inherited? Will Ondonga remain above politics, treating all subjects equally despite political affiliation? Will Ondonga continue to be accommodative and a beacon of moral traditional leadership? Will it continue as the most stable kingdom in Namibia? These are tough and troubling questions that can only be answered in the fullness of time. We cannot, however, lose hope for it is the only formidable pillar in the state of being alive. Hope cannot fade, even in our beloved Ondonga wherein confidence is wounded and trust impaired. We need to overcome, by any means necessary. Tatekulu Omukwaniilwa, Mwene gwOmakuya, will proceed well into uukwampungu. He will remain part of our community as per the dictates of Ondonga spirituality. He will be reunited with his uncles including the brave Nehale lyaMpingana; ondje yekombo, Nehale lyaNdengu naNuukongo who will be happy to learn from Omukwaniilwa that he inspired a generation of youth who continue to relentlessly fight for the land as he did. 

*Job Shipululo Amupanda is an Omundonga youth and a decolonial scholar and activist from Omaalala village in northern Namibia. Email: shipululo@gmail.com