Covid-19: Ovaherero traditional authority disputes burial protocols

04 February 2021 | Health

ESTER KAMATI



OTJIWARONGO

The Ovaherero traditional authority has disputed the Covid-19 burial protocols implemented by the government, claiming they are unconstitutional and out of line with international best practice.

In a letter addressed to President Hage Geingob on Tuesday, the traditional authority said their communities were appalled when confronted with the protocols enforced by the health ministry. Community leaders have supported the government through the fight against Covid-19 and, according to them, encouraged their communities to adhere to protocols.

“We further encouraged that our communities review their centuries-old rituals and practices, for example, at funerals, weddings and other cultural events so as to be compliant with government’s health protocols.”

The statement, signed by the paramount chief of the Ovaherero, Vekuii Rukoro, expressed disappointment in the limited role of the deceased’s family in a Covid-19 related death, where only a handful of relatives are allowed to view the body at the mortuary, while only 50 relatives are allowed to witness the funeral from a distance of 50 to 100 metres.

Meanwhile, transportation of the remains for burial to any place other than where the deceased died is only allowed when the state is given permission to cremate the body, which “is totally foreign and unacceptable to the culture and religious beliefs of our indigenous people”, the statement read.

Violation of our rights

The policies rolled out are in violation to people’s rights to be treated with dignity, humanity and respect, it said.

The Ovaherero traditional authority further discouraged the inconsistent application of these regulations.

“We have observed a lack of uniform application of the protocols and the regulations by both government and its Covid-19 task force burial team.

“In burying high-profile fatalities, the team relaxes the protocols and allows family members to participate fairly closely in the burial of their loved ones, while this basic right continues to be denied other Namibian families,” it said.

The letter calls for the uniform application of the regulations without regarding the political affiliation or economic status of the deceased.

They additionally called on the president to restore the rights of the people, which Rukoro said the constitution prohibits from being suspended - even during a state of emergency.

“These include the right to human dignity in article 8 and the freedom to practice one’s culture, tradition and religion in article 19.

“We strongly recommend that the government immediately amend those provisions and practices in the protocols and regulations which are not scientifically necessary for fighting the coronavirus.”



- [email protected]

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