Border disputes dominated the agenda of the 19th Annual Meeting of the Council of Traditional Leaders, which is currently underway here.
About nine border disputes were reported between about 15 traditional authorities countrywide and thus the deliberations on Tuesday and Wednesday were largely dedicated to hearing these disputes.
Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa said it is a worrisome situation, saying traditional leaders are fighting one another, instead of nation building.
Shaningwa expressed her concerns during a speech on Monday, in which she indicated that many traditional authorities seem to bring more problems than solutions to the table.
She said while government is focused on promoting unity and peace among various ethnic groups, there are those that are struggling to create complete peace, even within their traditional authorities.
She stressed that since she took office as the minister responsible for traditional affairs, she has never received any proposal, or any advice from any traditional authority that was aimed at improving the socio-economic condition of the affected communities and the country at large; a situation which, she said, is of great concern.
“Too many correspondences are about infightings and disputes and this is not healthy. Disunity and disputes are bad elements in our country, as we are trying hard to build a nation,” she noted.
She later told New Era that most of the border disputes arise due to the unavailability of archived documentary information that can be used as an accurate guideline to establish the original borders.
She said after the previous colonisers divided the Namibian people and established the borders, no documentation was kept that could be used as a guideline; a situation, she says, that has left many traditional authorities to rely only on what they were told by their predecessors, but without any written or documentary proof to substantiate their claims.
“This history is lost as to where the borders really were. This is where disputes arise, because you don’t have proof of where the border is,” she explained.
She further said the incumbent chiefs, who took over from their forebears, often did not have time to ask their predecessors about the precise borders. Thus, with no accurate documentation at their disposal, each traditional authority is left to rely solely on what they have been told, which is a problem, she says.
“They are following what they have heard, but there are no signs [to demarcate the areas]. This information is not archived, but is just in their brain, with no document to show for it,” she remarked.
Shaningwa is, however, hopeful that moving forward the traditional leaders will negotiate and agree on the mutual borders and land utilisation, saying they should start to think of how to help each other as Namibians rather than fighting one another.
She said despite being from different ethnic backgrounds, the common focus should be on building Namibia as a nation and not only one’s own ethnic group.