Chief Wants to Be Recognized

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By Chrispin Inambao RUNDU Ben Ngombara, recently enthroned as the chief of the Khwe people at Mutjiku in eastern Kavango, says he wants the Government to recognise his chieftainship so that his tribe’s existence could be restored to its former glory. Elected last month at Omega One by an assembly of Khwe tribesmen, the traditional leader succeeded the late Chief Kippie George who died upon his return from self-imposed exile in Botswana where he fled with hundreds of others. “We want the Government to recognise our chieftainship,” he told New Era over the weekend at his tribal headquarters at Mutjiku some 200 km outside Rundu. The assembly tasked Ngombara to lead and to represent the Khwedam-speaking people living in the area between the Kavango and Kwando rivers. He was elected to lead the tribe for life after his subjects had been without a leader since the demise of his cousin Kippie George five years ago. In terms of the election that elevated him to the chieftainship, Ngombara can only be ousted from his position in case he engages in activities that may bring ridicule on his community and such removal will only be effected with a two/thirds vote. Thousands of Khwedam-speaking people live in ten villages dotting the west Caprivi within the Bwabwata National Park between Divundu and Kongola and though there are scatterings of other tribes the Khwe are in the majority. Upon taking over the chieftainship, he had said: “I am proud to have been elected chief. My priority is to unite the Khwe people, and help them to develop economically. My people need clear leadership, after so many people have tried to mislead us, and deny us our basic human rights.” His election was observed by Floris Farmer from the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) who at the time said the process had been free and fair and that the result was democratic. Before being elected, Ngombara served as a community activist. He also served as the founding chairperson of a development trustee benefiting his tribe through money generated from trophy hunting. It seems the Government through the Minister of Regional, Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, is finally going to recognise their chief. In correspondence issued in April, the minister had stated: “The designation or election of the chief of a traditional community is the sole responsibility of that community … the Khwe community are part and parcel of Namibia. “They have the right to benefit from any political, social or economic development, and are free to practise their culture, customs and language,” he said. In a development related to the Khwe, Ngombara says the Government should extend a scheme whereby communities at Mashambo, Mashashani and Mangaranganja were given donkeys to plough their crop fields. He feels the extension of the project will improve food security and wean his people from leaning too heavily on government food aid. Ngombara suggested the committee appointed by the Government should look into the tribal tensions putting his subjects at loggerheads with the neighbouring Mbukushu of Chief Erwin Munika Mbambo and make its findings public. He made the assurance that he will not victimise other tribespeople living in his area.