Tribes Clamour for Recognition

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK An upsurge in applications for recognition of traditional authorities each year has become a disturbing trend for the country’s hard won peace and stability. Due to the slow process, many traditional authorities have to wait long for their applications to be considered and approved by the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development. Furthermore, increasing numbers of different ethnic groups in the country are seeking recognition from government. However, such a situation prevailing every year poses a threat for the prevailing peace and harmony in the country. These sentiments were expressed when the Prime Minister Nahas Angula officially opened the 9th Annual Meeting of the Council of Traditional Leaders in Windhoek on behalf of President Hifikepunye Pohamba yesterday. “We should be concerned that the values of unity that characterize our unitary state are at stake. There is a need to identify the reasons for this fragmentation in order to advise government on how best to reverse the trend,” he told over 80 traditional leaders and senior councillors at the annual meeting that lasts until Friday this week. Angula added that for the sake of reform there is a need for the Council of Traditional Leaders to instil unity not only between tribes but also within tribes. Echoing the sentiments, Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders King Immanuel Elifas said this worrying situation of different ethnic groups applying for recognition has also been brought to the attention of the council. “This state of affairs is very disturbing and might become a threat to our national unity and harmony, because more and more communities are applying for recognition, divorcing away from their main traditional communities,” said King Elifas. The council also called upon government to revisit the allowances it currently provides to traditional leaders, as they do not meet the current high costs of living. “One need not elaborate on how difficult it is to survive on these allowances because prices of goods and services have skyrocketed to the extent that our members are no more able to afford the basic needs and commodities,” added King Eliphas. Other concerns centred around the low level of funds generated by the Community Trust Fund due to poverty, unemployment and HIV/Aids and for government to revisit the Traditional Authorities Act, which in its present form is “too soft particularly on issues of qualifications and criteria to be met before a particular traditional community is recognised by government”. The five-day annual meeting for traditional leaders is currently being held in terms of Section 2 of the Council of Traditional Authority Act 13 of 1997. This Act provides for the establishment of such a gathering to advise the President on the control and use of communal land and other important matters related to traditional issues such as conflict management and resolutions among various traditional communities in the country. During the opening session, traditional councillors and chiefs were called upon by the Premier to contribute meaningfully to the country’s development by being accessible and responsive to the people’s needs. “We are morally bound to put in place workable systems that will improve the lives of our people and for the benefit of our future generations. This will require us to look beyond our individual and tribal interests,” said Angula. In his welcoming address, Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development John Pandeni said when looking at the application of traditional authorities as part of the reform process there needs to be a “set time frame when to complete this”. He also added that the continuing disputes between communities over issues of recognition are not pleasant. It was therefore hoped that traditional leaders would continue working with government “in resolving current disputes in many traditional authorities and in so doing also assist in identifying their root causes and propose strategies in order to prevent and avoid disputes from occurring in future,” explained Pandeni. Topics under discussion will range from reports of the investigating committee on the application and recognition of the Khoe and the Simon Kooper traditional communities; feedback on the applications for the recognition of the Aodaman, Namidaman and Dauredaman traditional communities; cooperation between the Namibian Police and traditional authorities and the possibility of deploying police officers at all towns and settlements; the mining sector and its benefits to various communities as well as the allocation of fishing quotas.