Reacting to the remarks recently made by President Hage Geingob in the meeting with leaders of traditional authorities (TAs), allow me to deliberate on the same issues regarding these authorities.
First of all I thank the President for cautioning against an increase and mushrooming of TAs. I also agree with the fact that our country is a republic and not a kingdom. However, such titles as a king or queen need conceptual analysis.
There are two different kingships: kingship of human rulers and that of God. According to Hebrew, the word ‘king’ means ‘to reign’ or ‘to possess’. A king or a queen is normally anointed because of his or her intellectual and royal superiority rather than physical prowess.
The term no longer applies to only monarchical inference but has been instituted to the office of the king which may have evolved from that of the chief ‘elder’ or intellectual head of the clan.
In the Namibian perspective the terms king and queen are used. However, these terms are not used in majestic expression to imply a monarch.
Literally, our TAs adopted the use of the titles of a king or queen to refer to the royal symbolism of that clan, tribe or traditional authority. When we talk about the Oukwanyama queen, who is supposed to be named after her predecessor King Mandume YaNdemufayo and be called ‘Mandume II’, it does not mean this TA is predominantly sovereign. It is not independent from the central government of the Republic of Namibia. The same applies to King Kauluma Elifas of Ondonga. These authorities form part of the decentralisation program of government.
Some TAs, such as the Herero, Uukwambi, Ombalantu, Nama, Damara, etc prefer to designate their rulers as chief instead of king or queen. That depends on the sacred royal organisation of such TA – mostly influenced by their traditions since the pre-colonial and pre-independent Namibia.
What makes it difficult nowadays is when we use the terms in the Diaspora while trying to make a direct translation, mainly, into English. It remains the sole responsibility of the directorate of regional and local government and traditional authority coordination to review these titles.
My advice is that we had better use our local dialects when referring to the rulers of our TAs so that correct titles are used when addressing them.
Pandu yaShipena kOngenga
Researcher and Oral Historian