Olufuko detractors lashed

Those who have over the years criticised the Olufuko festival received a tongue-lashing from several political heavyweights.

31 August 2018 | Cultural

Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa, Founding President Sam Nujoma and Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba were among those who delivered strong statements in defence of the Olufuko festival currently taking place at Outapi, in a bid to silence critics.

Also weighing in were Omusati governor Erginus Endjala and Ombalantu Traditional Authority chief Oswin Mukulu.

Critics have labelled Olufuko satanic and evil, saying the girls who undergo traditional initiation are being exposed to old men for the purpose of sexual intercourse.

Detractors also claim these initiates are being prepared for child marriage, which has been categorically denied by the festival's organisers and supporters.

During the official opening of the festival this week, which ends on 4 September, Shaningwa used the platform to tongue-lash those who are opposed to the event.

She questioned why Namibians should be limited to following practices derived from western cultures and not those handed down by their own ancestors.

“Other countries have their cultures; why should we not embrace our culture? Our culture will not be killed by people who come from wherever they come and want to stop us from practicing the culture set by our forefathers,” Shaningwa said.

“They say we are preparing the children to go and sleep with men, but we say they are being taught about their tradition, and after they are done with the initiation they should go back to school and study to become doctors and thereafter do as they please. I unconditionally jump onto the wagon and endorse the initiative that Olufuko must go forward.”

Nujoma, who is the patron of the festival, said there is a difference between initiation and marriage, and detractors should not confuse the two.

Nujoma said countries worldwide are celebrating their cultures and Namibians should celebrate theirs, without fear and regret.

“Let me make it categorically clear that initiation is not marriage, but the rite of passage from childhood into womanhood or adulthood. We are mindful of our young girls, the initiates, who are taking part in this process. Many of them will be future leaders and have to be educated in various fields,” Nujoma said.

“Countries worldwide are celebrating their cultures and traditions, unlike those people who do not want to decolonise their minds and are simply delighted to continue promoting foreign cultures, while shamelessly looking down at their own.”

Mbumba spoke on the legality of Olufuko, saying as far as he knows, the initiation festival is in line with the country's constitution.

“To the best of my knowledge, Olufuko operates under the constitution and the laws of the Republic of Namibia, which clearly prohibits and outlaws child marriages and similar decadent practices, which may erode the constitutional, fundamental human rights of our children,” he said.

“Therefore, to my knowledge, harmful ancient cultural practices, such as traditionally marrying off underage young girls in Namibia, are not part of Olufuko's aims, objectives and modus operandi.”

Mbumba said child marriages are not allowed in Namibia and should therefore be reported to the police for immediate action to be taken against the culprits.

This year a total of 40 girls took part in the Olufuko initiation.

KENYA KAMBOWE

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