Tribal Hostilities Threaten to Escalate

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK Khwe Chief Ben Ngombara has appealed to government to mediate and urgently find a long-term solution to hostilities between his tribe and its powerful neighbour, the Hambukushu – lest the two’s hostilities degenerate into conflict. If existing hostilities between his tribe and Chief Erwin Munika Mbambo’s Hambukushu are to escalate into conflict, the government should take responsibility for ignoring the warning signs, as his subjects are tired of being treated as inferior beings, he warns. He noted his subjects are disheartened by attempts by certain people to thwart attempts by the Khwe to have their chieftainship recognized by government by distorting the truth, claiming his tribe only settled in Namibia after fleeing from the conflict in Angola. Ngombara insists this is not the case as historical records and other material evidence clearly indicates the Khwe, despite their nomadic, hunter/gatherer lifestyle, were among the first inhabitants of Namibia, Angola, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia. Ngombara said – as a matter of fact – that his tribe’s ancestors, despite the Khwe’s chieftainship not yet being recognized, were among the first inhabitants of Namibia as their arrival even predates the movement into Namibia of all Bantu-speakers namely the Wambo, Herero, Himba, Gricku, Hambukushu, Kwangali, Mayeyi, Mafwe, Matotela and the Masubia. Ngombara says it is wrong for people in an independent Namibia to start raising the issue of the origin of one particular tribe, as it is a well-documented historical fact that all the Bantu-speaking groups distinct for crop farming originated from East and Central Africa. His tribe, he narrated, has been in existence before the Bwabwata National Park, and its forerunners were proclaimed by previous colonial regimes and it is beyond his comprehension that attempts would be made to deprive his chieftainship of recognition. Ngombara says he was reliably informed that opponents of his chieftainship informed the Investigating Committee appointed by the Council for Traditional Authorities to make a negative recommendation of his recognition on grounds his tribe originated from Angola. “Our ancestors had already been living for centuries in western Caprivi in the area between the Kavango and the Kwando River before this area was proclaimed a park in 1940. They were hunters and gatherers and there was no nature conservation officials,” stressed the chief. He stated the area where the notorious 32 Battalion of the then SWATF occupational forces set up a base at Buffalo has an indigenous Khwe name “Dingagoma”, which loosely translates as an area of many hills and on the other hand this could also refer to some roots bush-doctors prescribed as a remedy for various ailments. The former community activist, who ascended the Khwe throne after it fell vacant following the death of his cousin Kippie George who died several years ago, noted his opponents argue his tribe’s collaboration – as trackers for both SWATF and Koevoet – are good reasons to deny them recognition. He counters that members of other tribes were also conscripted or recruited into the various units of the occupational army. He cited the 101 Battalion established by the South African Defence Force in 1980 and that recruited mainly Oshiwambo-speakers, and that this has not been used to prevent the recognition of the chiefs in those areas who are known to have collaborated with the colonial force. Commenting on the issue, the chief liaison and public relations officer at the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Frans Nghitila, says the recognition of chiefs for the various tribes is not based on whether they collaborated or not but that the Act mainly looks at whether a tribe has a specific area of jurisdiction. “That is immaterial. We don’t look at whom you supported (during the struggle). We look at whether you meet the prescribed requirements. If they have met the requirements, I don’t see any reason why their application should be refused,” he explained. Nghitila also confirmed the Khwe have made a formal application for recognition and that it is up to the Council for Traditional Authorities to make a favourable recommendation so that the ministry could immediately recognize their chieftainship. He stressed that recognition is not automatic as the applicants first have to make an application. Once the application makes the grade, it is granted a letter of recognition. On the chief complaining about some people saying his tribe originates from Angola, Nghitila responded: “People are always entitled to their opinions but as far as we are concerned, we haven’t received an official opinion from the Council saying otherwise.” Other tribes are also jostling for recognition.

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