INSTEAD of subsiding, the phenomenon of duplicate traditional leaders, chiefs and/or authorities is becoming if not a dubious fashion somehow a misguided and retrogressive hobby. And there is more to this phenomenon than meets the eye.
Because it is not simply a matter of superficial rivalries between those vying for the honour of chiefs and the attendant stipends and whatever benefits that come along with such honour, if one can really call being a chief something honourable in view of the deep-seated divisions that, these days, seem to be integral to our traditional structure.
Underlying this organisational edifice, which should ordinarily be a convenient and advantageous addition to our democratic dispensation to ease governance, is nothing but communities rising up against one another and being torn asunder. In fact, if one speaks of traditional authorities in Namibia today, it is not unusual to equate such with chaos, rivalry, division and a syndrome akin to dog-eat-dog.
Once somehow revered and respected, these traditional structures have today become synonymous with anarchy and unprecedented strife bordering on suicidal internecine wars that sooner or later would extinguish our traditional communities, some of which are already in the first phase of their extinction, dysfunctional.
This is as a result of the mushrooming and duplication of traditional leaders in any given traditional community.
Only last weekend this phenomenon reared its ugly head in the Otjohorongo communal area in the Daures Constituency of the Erongo Region, when two traditional leaders were inaugurated to preside over what has hitherto seemed to be a monolithic and united traditional community under the Zeraeua Traditional Authority. This authority now sees Raphael Kapia and Manasse Zeraeua, both of whom were installed by their respective communities but which are essentially just one community laying claim variously to such authority.
How functional this would be is anybody’s guess but the unpalatable and undesirable precedents have already been seen in other areas, and the experience to say the least, has been a standstill if not retrogression in terms of development and other attendant matters.
One can only think of the Epukiro Constituency where members of the Ovambanderu community have been for about seven years now figuratively, if not literally, each other’s throats.
In the process development in the area has been suffering, if it has not come to a complete halt altogether. It thus cannot but pain one to see the same meaningless rivalry and strife that has basically rendered the Ovambanderu community in Epukiro, and elsewhere where they may be, dysfunctional, repeating itself in the Otjohorongo traditional community where the late Christian Zeraeua had relatively masterminded peace, harmony, tranquility and the attendant developmental progress.
Before Otjohorongo the Aminuis Constituency has also been torn asunder by traditional rivalries among the Ovaherero traditional community, with the another group not only challenging the Ovaherero Traditional Authority under Chief Berthold Tjiundje, but also establishing a rival and competing authority of their own under Chief Jonathan Tjijorokisa.
This has as much affected development in the constituency leading to two equally rival development organisations, the Aminuis Development Committee and the Aminuis Development Foundation. To what extent each of these two instances can genuinely claim to be championing development in the constituency remains dubious.
As much because of the repercussions of the rivalries within this traditional community, one of the instances that have been doing a sterling job in terms of keeping stock theft in check, has since been rendered inoperative with its account frozen.
Lately in the south in the Karas Region there have been commotions among the Vaalgras community with a rival group to incumbent chief, Joel Stephanus, purporting to have elected its own traditional council with Reverend Andreas Biwa as the chief. However, Chief Stephanus has been insisting that he remains in his traditional seat.
Most disheartening is that the rival group seems to be buoyed in its bid to unseat the incumbent Vaalgras chief by a High Court judgment, among others.
Also the /Hai-/Khaua clan has been entangled in a palace revolution that has also had a sequel in the High Court with a group challenging the legitimacy of Chief Johannes Goliath.
The list of traditional communities entangled in palace revolutions with sequels in the courts of law is endless. As much as judgments in the courts of law have proven no lasting solutions in the Ovambanderu dispute, one wonders to what extent the courts may eventually help in any way resolve the Vaalgras dispute?
Increasingly, and for some inexplicable reasons court verdicts seem increasingly to be fuelling emotions and further drifting communities apart than providing amicable solutions and bringing these communities closer together.
The Ovambanderu, despite numerous court cases and thousands of Namibian dollars expended, remain as divided as ever with little beacon of hope of ever burying the hatchet. It is increasingly becoming obvious that traditional communities cannot expect any solace from the courts of law. Why that is the case remains mystifying.
Despite the courts’ inability in showing these communities the way forward, many of the disputes, like the Vaalgras one, which has already had a run and likely to have a re-run in the courts, as much the /Hai-/Khaua one, and lately the Otjohorongo’s, which by all probabilities may end up in the courts sooner or later, strangely communities seem hell bent on turning to the courts of law for a solution. For some reasons the institutions of traditional communities and their authorities seem under some kind of siege.
Time and again various public figures have been in unison in their chorus of worrying about the increasing phenomenon of communities seeking recognition, and its omen of splitting up these communities. Seeing and given the irreversible path of destruction on which our traditional communities seem headed, is it not axiomatic that the recognition and/or non-recognition of traditional communities and their chiefs needs serious review?
Because somehow, somewhere things are not working the way they should. If telling only by the recent recognition of one of the chiefs in Otjohorongo by the government or the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing, while well in the know-how that there is a succession dispute within the Otjohorongo traditional community.
Not only this but the special advisor to the very minister is most familiar with the situation in Otjohorongo to have advised the ministry to process the recognition of one of the chiefs laying claim to the chieftainship. If something is not somehow wrong with the communities themselves, certainly with the Ministry!