A war of words erupted in Keetmanshoop on Monday between Chief Sam Kambazembi and Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa at the opening of the 19th annual meeting of the Council of Traditional Leaders.
The incident occurred after a roll call to establish the presence of council members and three delegates that included Kambazembi.
Senior Councillor Ueriuuka Tjikuua and Annie Kahipuire from the Kambazembi royal house were also present, despite the fact the invitation was only for one councillor. This prompted Shaningwa to ask the third delegate, Kahipuire, to leave.
This apparently did not go down well with Kambazembi, who stood up to explain, but Shaningwa would have none of it and ordered him to stop talking and sit down.
The chief reportedly then asked Shaningwa why he was not been given the floor to speak freely, as the minister was, to which Shaningwa allegedly replied that she was speaking, as she was in charge.
This angered the chief, who responded saying: “I’m also in charge. This is not your office,” before taking a seat.
Kambazembi then told the gathering he would no longer be part of the meeting, as he felt disrespected.
He reportedly said: “We can’t let that girl disrespect us like that, we’re older than her.”
The chief allegedly informed his fellow chiefs that he would not be part of the deliberations, as Shaningwa had disrespected him in front of fellow chiefs and the public.
In a telephonic interview with New Era yesterday, Kambazembi said Shaningwa was disrespectful.
“The way she spoke to me was very disrespectful. That’s why I decided to opt out of the meeting,” he said, adding that he is a leader of dignity who would not allowed himself to be colonised by Swapo.
Contacted for comment, Shaningwa yesterday denied exchanging harsh words with Kambazembi, saying whoever said that did not get the right information. “I had no extra words that I used that might be seen as disrespectful. I never told him to leave, but he left for reasons known only to him.” She further said she was simply providing leadership, as per the rules, which stipulate that only council members can attend the session, saying: “This is a structure with registered members recognised by law, so you can’t just bring anyone to attend.”
Deputy chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders Gaob Immanuel /Gaseb said the council would deliberate on the issue and decide on the way forward. “It’s a total disrespect for the whole house and the minister,” he said of Kambazembi’s decision to walk out, adding that “we will never allow someone with such behaviour to be amongst us”.
The Kambazembi royal house has since the start of the year been embroiled in leadership disputes. Earlier this year the royal house elders suspended Chief Kambazembi, accusing him of maladministration and the abuse of traditional authority funds and of having brought the traditional authority into disrepute as a result of drinking excessively in public.
In an apparent attempt to retaliate, Chief Kambazembi suspended eight of his traditional councilors, including chairperson Vetondouua Maharero, Patengua Tjihokuru, Frans Mieze, Gotfried Uasukuani, Kahindua Uapimbi, Daniel Tjiuma, Zuree Kaveterua and Jeftha Kuhanga.
The case has since been referred to Minister Shaningwa’s office for further investigation. Shaningwa has repeatedly declined to comment on the issue.