By William Mbangula
An alleged self-enrichment scheme, involving traditional leaders in Uukwambi district benefiting from stray animals, has been unearthed.
The alleged activities involving the very custodians of culture, tradition, law and order is said to have paralysed the fight against stock theft due to squabbling among them over possession of stray animals.
It is said that headmen and their assistants are currently fighting among themselves over the ownership of stray animals, accusing each other of unfairly taking more animals for themselves than others.
At the centre of the dispute is Johannes Kambonde Amukugo, who was appointed by the Uukwambi Traditional Authority (UTA) to collect stray animals and bring them under the control of the traditional leaders, with the purpose to give them back to the owners after identification.
It is claimed that Amukugo and other senior leaders in Uukwambi have become a problem than a solution to the issue of stray animals.
Amukugo stands accused of improperly acquiring six stray cattle from the homestead of Ruth Petrus at Othingo village in Oshakati West early this year.
Petrus made an announcement over the radio for anyone who had lost animals to collect them at her house. Two hours later, Amukugo arrived at Petrus’ house to collect the animals, saying it was his duty to ensure that all stray animals fall under his control before handover to owners.
He took the animals to his home village of Oshihenge, some 3 km outside Oshakati town. Amukugo took the cattle without consulting the village headwoman Justina Gabriel and the Senior headman of Otuwala, Abner Amupini Nuule. This did not go down well with the leaders who feel this was an invasion of their territories.
Another incident involves three cattle from Ombonde village, which were found under the care of herders authorised by Amukugo to take them to his village of Oshihenge. The herders were found with a letter (seen by New Era), dated April 23, 2007 signed by Amukugo.
Approached for comment, Amukugo confirmed he was authorised to look after stray animals by the Uukwambi Traditional Authority. He admitted that he had collected only five and not six head of cattle from Othingo village. The cattle have since gone missing, he claimed.
He could not explain how the animals went missing and why he collected them from Petrus’ house if he could not look after them.
In total, nine cattle are said to have disappeared without trace, but reliable sources told New Era that some of the cattle were taken to the house of Amukugo’s brother-in-law at Ombonde.
Amukugo’s accusers say he has hidden the cattle for himself. But despite failing to account for the cattle, Amukugo accused some traditional leaders in Uukwambi of stealing stray animals. According to him, some of his accusers are the real culprits who need to be brought to book.
Said Amukugo: “I want my accusers to explain what has happened to stray animals which were found at the houses of Hiskia Shigwedha at Oniimwandi, Ugwanga Ndoongili at Oshihenge, Maria Shigwedha at Onamula, a certain Ndjwaju at Onendongo and those taken to Senior headman Nuule’s farm at Opuwo, as well as those cattle which were shared among traditional leaders at the house of Iipinge IiIundu at Olupumbu.
“Again I have information that the suspended former headman of Ombonde village Lucas Johannes Tolondongele has hidden some cattle at his farm near the saltpan (Ekango Iyomongwa) of Uukwambi.”
Two stray animals which were under the care of Ndahafa Petrus from Onegali village in Elim constituency are now reported missing.
During the monthly meeting of the Uukwambi Traditional Authority at Uukwangula on May 30, 2007, the matter of stray animals was brought up by agitated headmen of Otuwala district, who wanted to know why the Chairman of Uukwambi Traditional Authority Chief Herman Iipumbu had sent Amukugo to the area under their jurisdiction to collect stray animals without consulting them.
The matter stirred controversy among prominent leaders in Uukwambi, who did not want it heard at that meeting. The matter was deferred until further notice.
Also under investigation is the secretary of Uukwambi Traditional Authority Maria Angungu, who is alleged to have collected one stray cow from Amukugo’s house at Oshihenge village; and newly reinstated headman of Olwani village in Elim constituency Shumba Endjala, who is reported to have collected cattle without properly accounting for them at his village.
Fingers are also pointing at the disputed headman of Othika, Abraham Kamutsheetha Iipumbu, who was in the news recently after some residents claimed he was imposed on the people of Othika village by his relative Chief Herman Iipumbu.
He is accused of taking cattle from Kembwa Shilunga’s house at Othika.
The allegations are not confined to Uukwambi alone, but have also been reported at other traditional authorities. The areas are Ondonga, Uukolonkadhi, Ongandjera, Uukwaluudhi, Oukwanyama, Okalongo and Ombalantu.