November 8, 2002

Dispute between Herero leaders raises issue of traditional authorities

A group of Herero traditional leaders November 6 threatened to assault any chief who is recognised by Government and is sent to their areas of jurisdiction.

Addressing a media briefing at the Herero Commando Hall in Katutura, the Herero leaders accused Government of marginalising them and vowed to fight any decision by Government to recognise other Herero leaders. The dissatisfaction stems from a court case in which 40 Herero traditional leaders sued the President and former Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing Dr Nickey Iyambo after Government recognised only four Herero traditional leaders in terms of the 1995 Traditional Authorities Act.

Subsequently, a full bench of the High Court unanimously agreed in a judgement in December that the Minister's decision not to recognise the 40 should be set aside. The High Court, however, declined to grant Riruako and his traditional leader colleagues their second request: to order the Minister to officially recognise the 39 as chiefs in terms of the Traditional Authorities Act. Government vowed to challenge the High Court ruling, with an appeal set for July 1. However, Government recently approached the Hereros, through their lawyers, and indicated they would like to settle the case out of court. November 6 the Herero chiefs were adamant that Government was set on pushing through the recognition of traditional leaders other than them.

Speaking on behalf of the recognised chiefs, Senior Chief Justus Maharero and Rudolph Hongoze said they were shocked that a Member of Parliament (Riruako) would encourage people to attack those protected by the laws he had passed. "Assaults? That's a dream that in a free and independent Namibia will never be realised. Not again," said Hongoze, who is chairman of the Windhoek committee secretariat of the recognised chiefs. He said the recognised chiefs were legitimate and Riruako and his group should not employ tactics that were used before independence to oppress the majority. Hongoze called on followers of recognised traditional leaders to remain calm.

Chief John Tjikuua of the Otjozondjupa Region said if Government sent recognised chiefs into areas of their jurisdiction, "we will fight them with our hands and if serious harm is done to them, the Government should take full responsibility". Hongoze said it was "shocking" to hear such statements from Tjikuua, who is Mayor of Okakarara.

Government recognised only four Herero traditional leaders - Tuvahi David Kambazembi of the Kambazembi Royal House, Christiaan Eerike Zerua of the Zerua Royal House, and Kunene Region Chiefs Kapuka Thom and Paulus Tjavara.

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