Herero Chief Dies in SA


By Mbatjiua Ngavirue Windhoek Herero chief for the Otjozondjupa region, Chief David Tuvahi Kambazembi, died suddenly in the early hours of Friday at Lephalale (formerly Ellisras), South Africa. He was 74. Kambazembi was in South Africa on a mission to repatriate the remains of his grandfather Chief David Kaunjonjua Kambazembi from Lephalale. Kaunjonjua Kambazembi was one of the noted commanders of Herero troops at the battles of Waterberg and Ohamakari during the Herero-German war of 1904. He received special mention, along with Zachariah Zeraua and Michael Tjiseseta in Paramount Chief Samuel Maharero’s letter to Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi urging Witbooi to join the war. When the Hereros lost the war at the battle of Ohamakari, Kaunjonjua went into exile with his cousin and fellow commander Samuel Maharero. They first fled to Botswana and then to the northern Transvaal province of South Africa, now Limpopo province, where they settled for a considerable time. Both Chief Tuvahi Kambazembi and his late father Vizembua, the son of Kaunjonjua, were born in exile in Botswana. Tuvahi Kambazembi came to Namibia in the late 50s to stay with his uncle Chief Josaphat Kambazembi. When Chief Josaphat Kambazembi died in 1960, he had stated in his will that his own son Julius, or David (Tuvahi), could succeed him. But since the two men were both young, he decreed that his cousin David Tjatjitua should act as regent until the two were mature and experienced enough to assume office. When Tjatjitua died in 1984, Julius had predeceased him, leaving David Kambazembi as the only heir to assume the chieftaincy. There were however political obstacles during the period of the South African-backed interim regime, with a faction of the Hereros opposing his assumption of the chieftaincy. There were protracted political and legal battles before then Administrator-General, Advocate Louis Pienaar, eventually appointed him chief in 1989 – the last year of the South African colonial regime in Namibia. Chief David Kambazembi was one of six Herero chiefs officially recognised by the government of independent Namibia. Although he missed out on formal education, he enjoyed a traditional Herero aristocratic upbringing, which gave him both self-confidence and strong leadership qualities. Like his warrior grandfather, Chief David Kambazembi was a courageous fighter for what he believed in. Having fought hard for his own recognition, he jealously defended royal prerogatives. This was probably why his five colleagues chose him to be their chairperson. While he was a Swapo party member, he regarded himself as a chief and leader of all those who fell under his jurisdiction. Political leaders from both DTA and Nudo testified to this on his death. He is survived by his wife Vetiraije and a number of children and grandchildren.