Keeping it in the villages? I beg to differ

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The Namibian [newspaper] of June 16, 2015, reported that the Khomas Regional Council chairperson apparently remarked that traditional court hearings should be held at the villages because they are not welcome in the Khomas Region. He apparently further remarked that: “They must not come here and bring their traditional elements to the city where they are not recognised – they should keep them in the villages”.

Some of the problems we have in Africa have to do with the lack of a consistent identity and our failure to consistently proclaim, with boldness, our Africanness to the world without apology. In theory, we proclaim that we are proud to be Africans but in practice we do not want to associate ourselves with the core philosophies and values of an African and incorporate them in our institutions and systems.

And what is the core African philosophy? [It is] interconnectedness of community, communal resolution of disputes, “Ubuntu”, “menslikheid” and humanness. We must avoid the syndrome that some scholars characterise as an African having two worlds – the world of work, which is Western-conceived, and the world of home and community, which is African-values based. The syndrome of Africans stepping out of their culture when they go to work in the morning and stepping back into their own culture when they go home in the evening should no longer persist. This scenario creates confusion and a lack of consistent identity.

The issue of some community leaders imposing punishment on people and making money through settling disputes, and demanding compensation in the form of cattle in the name of their respective royal houses is wrong and should be discouraged.

However, this should not lead to a situation of creating a separation between elements that belong in the “village” (which are mostly based on authentic African values) and those that belong in the “city” (which is Western-conceived).

There is nothing wrong with incorporating good indigenous knowledge systems in a system to, for instance, mediate disputes in the community and preside over minor disputes, based on traditional court principles. In fact, this may relieve the already over-burned and expensive legal system, which only rich people can afford. The issue has to do with properly researching and setting up an effective indigenous dispute-resolution system, including in the city, to avoid some disputes reaching the expensive court system.

MM Ngwangwama,

Windhoek

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