Celebrating the life of Dawid Goreseb

Celebrating the life of Dawid Goreseb

Exactly 40 years ago, the Paramount Chief of the Damaras, Dawid Goreseb, died on 25 October 1976 at the Katutura State Hospital at the age of 85. He was buried at |‡gomeb (Okombahe) in the King’s Acre with the biggest homage yet to be bestowed to a black leader in Namibia during those years.

Paramount Chief Dawid Goreseb led the Damaras all over in what was then known as South West Africa for 27 years until his death. He was described by Damara King Justus ||Garoeb as the champion of modern-day Damara tribal and party politics due to his involvement with the formation of the Damara Tribal Executive Committee and in later years the Damara Representative Council.

Therefore, it was befitting that in honour of their departed king, a monument was erected by the then Damara Council under the leadership of King Justus ||Garoeb to annually commemorate and celebrate the great leader of the Damaras.

Goreseb’s monument decorated with the name plaques of many other fallen Damara leaders. Ambassador Josua ||Hoebeb and Damara Elder Albert Maru ||Hamaseb described him as a visionary and fearless leader for establishing his most-talked-about “Council of 10 Men’’, to assist him with the broader administrative matters of the Damaras, on 31 January 1958 during the formation of the Damara Tribal Executive Committee (DTEC) at Fransfontein. Headman Lot !Owos-Oab was the first leader of this new party and was succeeded by Headman Oscar !Kharuxab in 1964 and Gaob Josephat Xoasa !Gawa-!nâb in 1968.

At the tender age of 17, Goreseb started work as a translator of German and Otjiherero languages for King Cornelius Goreseb. He also worked as an evangelist under the San Community at Tsumkwe, as a pastor for the Roman Catholic Church and later as a school teacher at |‡gomeb. On the 23rd of January 1949, he was elected by 315 Damaras to the positions of Headman of |‡gomeb and King of the Damaras during the tombstone unveiling of King Hosea Goreseb to succeed the latter.

In 1953 after a four-year delay due to disputes about the Damara kingship, Goreseb was appointed as the King of the Damaras on a 12-month probation. On 16 October 1954, during the Annual General Meeting of Damara tribal leaders, he was officially inaugurated at the then Palace of King Cornelius Goreseb in |‡gomeb. !Oe‡gân Elder and now retired Speaker of the Namibian National Assembly, Dr Theo Ben Gurirab accompanied his parents and witnessed the festivities that took place at Anadi !Gâos at the time.

On 8 March 1955, the appointment of Goreseb as the Paramount Chief of the Damaras was finally approved by the then South West Africa Administration. Two years thereafter in what was seen by many as a turnaround, the office of the Chief Native Commissioner in Omaruru elected Reserve Board Members (traditional leaders and the two headmen) to resort directly under the white administration in Omaruru. These men were given powers to decide on and collect fees and taxes from natives under the traditional leadership’s jurisdiction. Goreseb perceived this as a total disregard for his authority and confinement of his powers to only ceremonial events.

ith his Council of Ten Men, which comprised advisors from all the major towns in Namibia, he bravely countered the interference by the apartheid white administration. They were; Otto !Gawa!nab in Walvis Bay, Lot !Owos-oab in Atsas (Otjimbingwe), Oskar !Kharuxab, Kefas Conradie and Fritz Gariseb in Windhoek, Markus ||Garureb in Gobabis, Wilfried !Naibab in Tsumeb, Gideon Geiseb in Otjiwarongo, as well as Bethuel Haraseb and Martin ‡Neib in Okahandja.

During the 1959 Old Location Uprising, the Council of Ten Men brought Goreseb to Windhoek to help resolve the situation of the Damara people at the Old Location. Frederick !Howae Gariseb accommodated the chief at his house but the house was stoned by the then security forces during the night and the following day he was transported back to |A‡gomeb for his safety.

Goreseb was thus never able to meet the white administration to help resolve the conflict and in no way instructed the police to shoot at the boycotting masses, as was alleged. In 1962, a United Nations delegation led by Dr De Alpa and Carpio was assigned to investigate the living conditions and social welfare of the inhabitants in South West Africa. Local newspapers reported that Goreseb refused to meet and co-operate with the UN representatives when they visited in |A‡gomeb.

However, according to Headman Gideon Geiseb, the United Nations delegation arrived on the wrong date than was earlier communicated and also came with their translator, who could not speak either the ‡Nkhoe gowab, Herero or German languages in which Goreseb was conversant. This resulted in misunderstandings between the two parties.

Hastily, the Council of Ten Men then organised another meeting in Windhoek where Goreseb met the United Nations delegation where the misunderstanding was cleared, and a formal report on issues affecting the Damaras was presented to the UN representatives.

Despite heavy protests from the community in |‡gomeb (Okombahe), Goreseb was moved to Khorixas at the ailing age of 82 years by the Bantu Administration, who wanted to strengthen and garner support for the creation of the new homeland system.

This would allow for the implementation of the Odendaal Plan of 1964 under which 223 white farms were purchased in the western, north western and south western parts of Namibia that were historically known for poor rainfall to resettle all Damaras there. Despite their opposition, this plan was implemented and resulted in deep divisions among the inhabitants of the then South West Africa.

In September 1976, Goreseb fell ill and died on 25 October 1976 in the Katutura State Hospital. He was born on 18 September 1891 and was buried on 6 November 1976 at |‡gomeb. Goreseb was the grandfather of Gaob (king) Immanuel |Gâseb, who is the current leader of the !Oe‡gân Traditional Community and who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders in Namibia.

• Theophelus Gurirab is the offspring of the Goresen Royal House. E-mail address: theophelusgurirab@gmail.com

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