President blasts traditional leaders

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Windhoek

President Hage Geingob took a hardline stance against some traditional chiefs on Monday, saying some want to be chiefs merely to get state benefits.

He also blasted them for wanting “to be taken care of by the state instead of their subjects as it was (the case) in the past”.

Speaking during a community meeting held in Gobabis, Geingob did not mince words. “Everyone now wants to become a chief because of the monthly allowance and an official vehicle,” he said.

“Chiefs are there to maintain our culture, not to make money. This thing of saying someone is from the royal family is also against our constitution because this country is a republic, not a kingdom.”

Geingob’s remarks were prompted after one of the community members who attended the meeting accused him of failing to meet chiefs to discuss traditional matters, claiming the constitution compels Geingob to meet traditional leaders.

“Nowhere in the constitution does it say the President should meet chiefs, it only says the President can call upon traditional leaders for advice,” Geingob said.

He also questioned whether the sudden urge of people wanting to be recognized by government as chiefs is not merely a money-making ploy. “People have lost respect for chiefs because chiefs want to be taken care of by the state. In the past chiefs were maintained by their subjects but today you [chiefs] want the state to take care of you.”
He reiterated past government assertions that land does not belong to traditional authorities but to the state.

“In other countries chiefs are maintained by their subjects, why not you, where are your subjects? You cannot have it both ways,” charged the President.

Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa yesterday also expressed concern regarding the proliferation of traditional authorities in Namibia.

“Yes I am concerned; the applications keep pouring in and we receive one application at least every second week,” said the minister.

The chief of the !Oe#gan traditional community and deputy chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders Immanuel

/Gaseb, yesterday also expressed concern.
“I do not think the President will recognize the new applications because there are not even jurisdiction areas left for additional traditional authorities.”

There are currently 50 recognized traditional authorities in Namibia and government is currently swamped with over 40 new applications for chieftanship.

Gaseb revealed that in some jurisdictions there are even more than three traditional authorities and this apparently is a source of friction and conflict.

“The upcoming council meeting in October will deliberate broadly on the issue of increasing numbers of traditional authorities; I do not want to comment on that before that issue,” said Geingob.

He said the traditional council would make recommendations to the line minister regarding the issue of jurisdictions and new applications.

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