Battle for the Soul of the Ovambanderu

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By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro WINDHOEK A section of the Ovambanderu that has come to be known as the “Concerned Group” has totally rejected the axing of Ovambanderu Senior Chief, Erastus Kahuure, from his position. The Ovambanderu Paramount Chief, Munjuku II Nguvauva, on Sunday announced that Kahuure, who in terms of the disputed new Constitution of the Ovambanderu is a Senior Councillor, had been relieved of his duties. “I, Chief Munjuku Nguvauva II, Paramount Chief of the Ovambanderu Royal Authority, hereby announce that Mr Erastus T. Kahuure, former Senior Traditional Councillor of the Rietfontein/Otjombinde constituency, has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect,” reads an unsigned e-mailed press statement issued on Sunday 26 March. In the statement, the Paramount Chief further states: “I have endorsed this decision taken at the extra-ordinary meeting of the Ovambanderu Supreme Council at the Authority’s headquarters in Omauezonjanda of the Omaheke Region on Saturday, 25th of March 2006.” The statement adds that the “fate of 10 traditional councillors of the Ovambanderu Royal Authority was also decided at the said meeting,” pointing out that these councillors are five from Riet-fontein/Otjombinde constituency and five are from the Aminuis constituency. “The decision follows repeated and wilful failure by councillors to perform their traditional responsibilities adequately as per the Ovambanderu Traditional and Customary Laws,” the statement explains the reason for the relieving of the councillors. The “concerned group” at a mass meeting attended by close to 500 people at the Church of Africa in Katutura on Tuesday night was in unison and categorical that the Ovambanderu mass assembly is the final arbiter on such matters and as such, the Ovambanderu Supreme Council has no unilateral right to unseat Kahuure without first consulting the people who elected him in that position, namely, the entire Ovambanderu community. The meeting was in agreement that the Supreme Council cannot be a substitute for the Ovambanderu community and labelled the decision to unseat Kahuure without consulting the “people” who elected him as “poor judgment”. Procedurally, the decision is also flawed in that Kahuure and ten other councillors from the constituencies of Otjombinde and Aminuis who have been unseated together with Kahuure have not been afforded a right of reply as no disciplinary measures have ever been instituted. As much as the Supreme Council has the right to take decisions, the Ovambanderu community, the meeting felt, must endorse these decisions. It submitted that the Paramount Chief of the Ovambanderu and neither the Supreme Council had appointed Kahuure. Equally, it could not be the one to dismiss. The meeting questioned the bona fides of the Supreme Council that has become an entity “for all and sundry” and thus was no longer a legitimate body with legitimate powers. The meeting heard that the unseating of Kahuure and company has been dealt with as if in a Kangaroo court, devoid of all the important tenets of a fair hearing encompassing the rule of law, democratic principles and natural justice. Although this is a cultural matter, it was pointed out, the upholders of culture in Namibia, and in this case the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority, has a duty to observe democratic principles and uphold these principles as enshrined in the Constitution. The meeting further heard that the Nguvauva Royal House was not an entity in itself but exists courtesy of the Ovambanderu and is thus accountable and answerable to them. Its power is ultimately vested in the entire Ovambanderu community. The unseating of Ka-huure, the meeting was unanimous, should now speed the legal process whe-reby the “concerned group” is challenging the new Ovambanderu “Constitution” said to have been adopted by the entire Ovambanderu community at an Ovambanderu Community Assembly at Omaue-zonjanda last year. However, the “concerned group” has been disputing the purported adoption submitting instead that the process was aborted. They maintain, among others, that the consultative process whereby constituencies should have been familia-rised with the content of the document and given a chance to give inputs, was aborted and thus the “Constitution” could not be said to have been duly adopted. More than anything, the “concerned group” seemed to have been agitated by the scrapping of the position of Senior Chief within the new “Constitution”, a position that until the assumed adoption of the new “Constitution” was occupied by Kahuure. Kahuure sympa-thisers suspect this to have been masterminded by an anti-Kahuure group that these days calls the shots within the Ovambanderu community and seems to be the newfound blue-eyed boy of the Paramount Chief. With this new contingent of advisors, relatives and diehards forming a buffer between Kahuure and the Paramount Chief, Kahuure and company have literally found their access to the Paramount Chief barred. Thus to date their case against the “Constitution” remains unheard by the Paramount Chief and prospects of it ever being heard in the wake of the just-announced unseating of Kahuure and other councillors seem remote. The bottom line to all these, it is believed, is succession to the throne of the Royal House of Nguvauva. The anti-Kahuure group basking in the shadow of Senior Traditional Councillor, Gerson Katjirua, fears his closeness to the Paramount Chief may help him entrench himself for accession to the throne. This faction has thus been pulling out all stops to keep Kahuure at bay. Thus, the latest apparent unseating of Kahuure could be seen as the latest salvo by the anti-Kahuure group in the internecine war for succession that been simmering for some time now. Differences within the Ovambanderu community have lately come to be viewed through the spectacles of ambitions for accession to the royal throne with some labelled as genuine Ovambanderu behind the Paramount Chief, and still others suspected and are seen as no more than mere lackeys of Kahuure, and their intentions driven by nothing else but by Kahuure and his assumed quest for royal power. Everyone who dares expresses a different opinion on the presumed adopted “Constitution” finds her/him thrown in the same basket of power hungriness like Kahuure. The shuffling that has seen unabated and undeclared behind-the-cameras pitched battles for the souls and minds of the Ovam-banderu community, has not only pitted tribes people against one another but has played itself out on the political fronts with Swapo Party of Namibia members squaring up in the Otjom-binde constituency. This resulted in Swanu of Namibia running away with the spoils in this constituency in last year’s regional elections. During the Ovambanderu Paramount Chief’s visit to Tallismanus in the Otjombinde constituency which ended in split meetings early this month, some anti-Kahuure Ovambanderu taking advantage of Kahuure’s absence from the meeting held in the community hall, seized the opportunity to trumpet Kahuure’s throne ambitions making the audience believe that the “concerned group”‘s concern with the due process of adopting the “Constitution” was no more than a smokescreen for Kahuure’s ambitions. If the genuine concern of the concerned group is the “Constitution” could they not try to change it from within? The anti-Kahuure faction has been counteracting the “concerned group”‘s declared concern with the “Constitution”. Whatever the legitimacy of the cases of both protagonists, for better or worse, positions seems so entrenched that the legal process seems the only lasting solution.