By William Mbangula
Disgruntled Senior Headman of Okelemba in Ohangwena Region Lucas Shihepo Shinedima has vowed to fight his suspension by the Queen of Ovakwanyama Martha Nelumbu.
Battle lines are now drawn between the suspended headman and the Queen amid political campaigning and manipulations behind the scenes by parties like Swapo and RDP whose fate is at stake within the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority leadership set-up should one of the parties in the dispute (Queen and Shinedima) lose the fight.
In an interview with New Era, Shinedima complained that his treatment by the Queen and her henchmen is totally illegal and unfair. Apart from seeking a legal opinion on the matter, he will also discuss the matter with the Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders and King of Ondonga Immanuel Kauluma Elifas.
In terms of traditional practice, the aggrieved party can only proceed to the higher authority once given a letter of judgment by the court which presided over his/her case.
In this case, the Queen declined to give Shinedima such a letter. Shinedima, 82, was suspended on November 13 at a court hearing presided over by the Queen following accusations that he refused to settle the debts of his deceased elder brother Matheus Shinedima who died in 2005.
Matheus reportedly owed Lucas Nghiitwikwa, a former Nampost employee and resident of Oupumako in Oshana Region, 11 head of cattle lent to him in the 1960s. Nghiitwikwa started to demand his cattle from the suspended headman, who denied involvement in the deal after the death of Matheus two years ago.
Said Shinedima: “I have not inherited anything from the deceased. All his (Matheus’) estate was taken by his children and widow. Why should I pay for his debts? I was not part of the deal, neither did I benefit from it, why should they come to me? After all, I slaughtered four cows for his (Matheus’) funeral despite he having cattle currently under the care of the widow at Mangetti.
“I think these people need to explain in clear terms what is the motive behind their illegal action to suspend me. I don’t think it is related to the debts but I am suspecting their move to be politically motivated because I know them all in and out.”
He explained that one of Matheus’ cattle herders was summoned to the traditional court at Ohangwena and he also confirmed that the deceased’s cattle are still at Mangetti under the care of the widow.
Shinedima became village headman of Onhuno in 1966 and later senior headman in the early 1990s after former DTA MP Gottlieb Dan was removed by popular uprising following his direct involvement in political activities as a parliamentarian while the majority of his subjects were Swapo supporters.
As a result, elections were conducted in which Shinedima, Hangula Vatilifa Vaendwanawa and others participated. The process was repeated twice and at every occasion Shinedima emerged victorious.
Sources told New Era that Shinedima’s suspension was just a ruse to bring former DTA MP Dan, who lately re-joined Swapo, into the mainstream of the traditional authority in Oukwanyama.
Another contestant to Shinedima’s position is Vaendwanawa. He believes that he is entitled to be the senior headman since the position was previously held by his father Vatilifa before Dan took over.
Vatitilifa died in a landmine explosion during the colonial time at Omhedi. Shinedima then secretary to the traditional authority was the only survivor of the accident. Vaendwanawa who was Shinedima’s assistant has now been appointed acting senior headman of Okelemba.
New Era was also informed that efforts to bring Dan into the mainstream of the traditional authority is spearheaded by his wife Sipora Weyulu who recently took over from her brother Victor Weyulu.
Her brother who was also the Chairperson of Oukwanyama Traditional Authority and Minister of Education of the Ovambo Bantustan Administration before independence passed away in 2005.
Sipora is one of the chief advisors of the Queen. They grew up together in the house of Vilho Weyulu, Sipora’s father. Vilho, who was the son of King Weyulu of Ovakwanyama, was then senior headman of Ohaingu when Sipora and the Queen were in his house.
Apart from Sipora’s efforts to place her husband in a more strategic leadership position, New Era is informed that the Queen is being manipulated by some traditional leaders with political motives to purge some of the suspected Swapo members and supporters in favour of the newly launched Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) of Hidipo Hamutenya and Jesaya Nyamu, hence the suspension of Shinedima.
Some of the advisors to the Queen are the controversial businessman and Chairman of Oukwanyama Traditional Authority (OTA) George Nelulu who was recently involved in the land grab dispute with the Directorate of Forestry.
Nelulu was accused of fencing off land earmarked for a community project. It took a determined effort of the Father of the Nation Dr Sam Nujoma, then Head of State, to call him to order at Eenhana. The fence has since been removed.
New Era has been informed that Nelulu provided logistical support for people who went to attend the RDP launch rally in Windhoek. His business at Ondobe, known as Medu Letu Centre, was used as the assembly point for those travelling to Windhoek for the event on November 17. It is also said that one of Nelulu’s sons is the chief organiser of the RDP in and around Ondobe.
Another well known aide and key adviser to the Queen is the Councillor of Engela constituency and businessman Nghidinihamba Urias Ndilula, who was in the news recently. He is one of the councillors who were barred from attending the Swapo Congress because of the suspicion that he is linked to the RDP.
The Oukwanyama Queen is being criticized by some people for allowing herself to be influenced by failed politicians-turned-traditional leaders that surround her. A widow in her early 70s from Okambebe village in Ongenga constituency, she took over from her late uncle Kornelius Mwetupunga Shelungu who died in 2005. She was crowned in November 2005 with much fanfare at an event attended by among others the Father of the Nation Dr Sam Nujoma and current head of State Hifikepunye Pohamba.