An Error of Judgement

0
9

Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro On Tuesday morning this week, the NBC Otjiherero Language Service current affairs programme, Keetute, brought home the news of the long-running unrecognised Traditional Authority of the Ovitoto community, under the chieftaincy of Chief Vipuira Kapuuo, having been thrown out of a meeting in Okahandja last weekend. Omatako Constituency Councillor Issaskar Kaujeua understandably called the meeting to discuss the implementation of the registration of the 20-acre land policy. Despite an initial invitation to this traditional authority, its delegation found itself out in the cold. Representatives from the Kambazembi Royal House Traditional Authority from the Ovitoto communal area were more than welcomed at this meeting, I gather. The barring of the Ovitoto Traditional Authority from the said meeting confirms the fears of some inhabitants from the Ovitoto community. For some time, adherents of the Kambazembi Royal House in the Ovitoto community have been clamouring for its own traditional leadership. However, a section of this community have been apprehensive of this move lest it divides the community. Moreover, the move has been viewed by some community members as a manoeuvre by the incumbent Omatako councillor to have a traditional authority that is in favour of him apparently facilitating development in the area in the process. To some, this has just been seen as political trickery to have a pro-Swapo traditional authority, real or imagined. One thing led to another and eventually the wishes of the Kambazembi people were fulfilled when a councillor for the Kambazembi Royal House Traditional Authority was traditionally inaugurated by a section of the Otjiherero-speaking traditional community a month or two ago. There is nothing wrong with any cultural group having an organised leadership or a traditional authority for that matter. More so, there is nothing in the Namibian constitution, or legally, that precludes any cultural group from organising itself wherever its members are to realise their cultural objectives and advancement. An Aandonga community, or any cultural group for that matter, has as much a right to advance its cultural interests in an organised way if it, for instance, finds itself in the Epukiro Constituency of the Omaheke Region in recent colonial history a traditional area of the Ovaherero/Ovam-banderu. Vice versa an Ovambanderu or Ovaherero community has as much an equal right to organisation if it finds itself in the Karasburg Constituency in the Karas Region, traditionally the seat of the Bondelswarts. Aan-donga and Ovambanderu/Ovaherero may be asymmetrically dissimilar in their cultures from, for instance, their fellow host cultural groups like Ovaherero/Ovambanderu and Bondels-warts, for argument’s sake, to warrant not only own cultural organisation but also an own traditional authority in the areas of jurisdiction of their hosts, should they so wish. The same cannot be said with authority with regard to cultural groups that have the same historical origin, affinity and whose cultures may have some symmetrical similarities. In the case of the latter, it may be within the right, yes, of any such group, if it so wishes, to organise culturally but not to have an automatic right to an own traditional authority without any enquiry. As an illustration, there is no way a section of the Ovam-banderu community or Ovaherero community from the Aminuis Constituency finding itself in the Epukiro Constituency, can axiomatically constitute an own traditional authority that can assume an administrative status of its own, as much as it has the right to culturally organise itself. There is already an Ovambanderu Traditional Authority in the Epukiro Constituency that may take care of this group’s interests, cultural and otherwise. The same could be said of the Ovaherero section from Aminuis Constituency finding itself in the Epukiro Constituency save that, as is currently the case there is no Ovaherero Traditional Authority on the Epukiro Constituency. However, by the extension of the same logic there’s no reason this section could not be accommodated under the current Ovambanderu Traditional Authority in view of the historical origin of the two groups, mindful of course of the divergences that may exist between the two. The latter postulation has been my understanding of the quest of the Kambazembi Royal House descendants. They are a sub-structure of the Ovitoto Traditional Community that is predominantly Otjiherero-speaking and this authority can duly take care of their quasi-administrative interests, granting of course their legitimate right to take care of their own cultural interests. But as things seem now from the last weekend’s development, it looks like at the quasi-administrative level, unless the Government intends to one day recognise the Ovitoto Traditional Authority, we are heading for duplication of responsibilities in the Ovitoto community, one official and one unofficial. This has all along been the fear of a section of the Ovitoto communal people. Not that per se but also that such eventuality being a recipe for division within the community. That time, it seems, has finally arrived or is imminent, relegating to history the harmony and unity among the Ovitoto community that has all along been putting community interests above parochial political interests. It must be clear the Kambazembi Royal House has the full right like any other royal house to have someone in the Ovitoto community to represent their interests as far as these interests are strictly own to the descendants of the Kamba-zembi Royal House and cultural in nature. However, this does not mean the right of imposing one traditional authority over another. That is my reading and understanding of the Local Authorities Act. We must not loose sight of the fact that somehow, besides for representing cultural interests, such traditional authorities are quasi-administrative bodies. They somehow represent the Government on the local level beyond purely cultural matters. This is why we must avoid duplicating such authorities in any area, the path we seem to be heading for in the case of Ovitoto. I do not know who may have been responsible for kicking out the delegation of the Ovitoto Traditional Authority from the said meeting. But whoever it was, if the reason for such barring is the one we are hearing, then I must say whoever may have been responsible is grossly guilty of poor judgement. As much as the Government is called upon to be meticulous in selecting who partakes in development initiatives, such meticulousness must also pay due regard to their administrative implications as far as the implementation of development initiatives is concerned. After all such initiatives are not intrinsic to the Government and its civil servants but in the interest of the communities. In the case of Ovitoto a substantial section of the community has been alienated. Is the essence of independence not that the people chart their own destiny? Are the people in Ovitoto not the very same people being alienated vicariously if their leaders are not allowed to be part of the process to chart their destiny? Administrative justice in this regard means not unduly excluding a legitimate representative group of a section of a community from taking part in the shaping of the implementation, and implementation of whatever Government policies and plans. Any traditional authority may not have been recog-nised by the Government but this does not mean that its community is not entitled to development. Neither does it mean that others who are recognised must solely define and decide on their development needs. Whoever abrogates herself/himself this right must know her/his limit. One would also have expected whoever has been entrusted with such discretion to decide on the participation of recognised and unrecog-nised community leaders in development, to have near to impeccable non-political judgmental capability. After all, the yardstick of whether anyone is a community leader or not is not so much whether she/he is recognised by the Government or not but whether she/he enjoys the confidence and support of his/her community. Government recognition is ONLY a formality. Sooner or later the Government would have to come clean, especially on when a cultural group can duly become a traditional authority in a community where a traditional authority already exists. I would challenge anybody inclined on making the nation wise that the Traditional Authorities Act allows for duplication of traditional authorities, except allowing cultural groups to organise themselves culturally and to make their voices heard on this score. Granted that members of the same cultural group may choose to accentuate their cultures, having separate traditional authorities for the same cultural groups is sowing divisions among communities on a grand scale. What the Government’s interest may be in such a division only boggles the mind.