President dragged into Himba chieftainship feud

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Roland Routh
Windhoek

Judge Shafimana Uitele late Wednesday afternoon stayed the proceedings in a chieftainship battle to allow President Hage Geingob an opportunity to signify his intention on whether or not he will oppose an application to set aside the recognition of a Himba chief.

The judge reasoned that since the President is the one that implemented the decision by Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa to recognise Hikuminue Kapika, 82, as the chief of the Ombuku Traditional Authority, he should be involved in the matter.

Hikuminue’s younger brother, Mutaambanda Kapika, 62, is asking the High Court to set aside the decision by Shaningwa on 15 July 2016 to recognise Hikuminue as the acting chief of the clan or alternatively declaring the decision null and void.

Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) lawyers, Willem Odendaal and Corinne van Wyk, are representing Mutaambanda.
The respondents in the matter are Shaningwa, the Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders, the Kapika Traditional Authority and Hikuminue.

The first three respondents are represented by Margaret Malambo-Ilunga and Hikuminue by Elize Mutaleni Angula.
During the proceedings on Wednesday, Judge Uitele wanted to hear from the lawyers whether or not the President should also be cited as a respondent, as he was the one who gazetted the decision by Shaningwa.
Angula was of the opinion that it is not necessary to involve Geingob, as he only rubberstamps the decision made by the minister.

She said that it is the mandate of the minister to recognise traditional chiefs and the President does not have any part in the process, except to implement the decision.

Malambo argued that the President was not part of the administrative process and contended the application is not against the President, but against the minister.

The judge, however, did not agree and postponed the matter to 11 October at 08h30 for a status hearing and ordered the applicants (Odendaal and Van Wyk) to cause the pleadings to be served on the President and gave the President until 8 September to indicate whether he opposes the matter of not.
The dispute on the chieftaincy matter arose after Hikuminue changed his stance regarding the construction of the Baynes Hydropower Project near the Ruacana Falls.

While fiercely against the proposed project since the proposal of the project, he suddenly changed his tune after a visit to China and his joining Swapo Party, it is alleged in the court documents.

This, it is stated, caused a rift in the community of the Kapika clan and divisions were formed with Mutaambanda being elected as chief by disgruntled members of the community.

However, Hikuminue argued that he has served as the chief since 1982 when he succeeded his late father to the throne and remains the legitimate chief to this day.

He said in an affidavit filed with the court that during a meeting of the elders of the Ombuku tribe, he was confirmed as the chief with only two dissenting votes.

This, he said, shows that the community still considers him as their chief.

Mutaambanda in his affidavit claims that he was nominated and elected as chief when Hikuminue was absent for three months after his return from China and there was discontent among the community.
Malambo argued that the minister did not act in violation of the Traditional Authorities Act when she designated and recognised Hikuminue as the traditional chief of the Ombuku and, as such, the application must fail.

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