Political, judicial or traditional hegemony?

Whatever may have happened to the hegemony of traditional leaders, as far as traditional matters are concerned. One is compelled to think out loudly in view of what seems like the erosion of traditional authorities’ jurisdiction over traditional matters.

Even the Council of Traditional Leaders seems to have been of little, if any, consequence in this regard. Particularly given the endless palace revolutions within our traditional communities, which often end in equally endless court cases, but to which the courts rarely provide solutions.

On the contrary, the verdicts of the courts have led to greater polarisation within these traditional communities.
A typical case being the court interdict handed down in the Windhoek High Court by Judge Collins Parker last Friday in the matter between the Zeraeua Traditional Authority and Samuel Kumaaipurua Puriza.

The court order interdicted Puriza and company from paying homage to their ancestors at the Omaruru gravesites. This is despite the fact that on the previous weekend, that of October 2, the other section unhindered by their fellows paid their ancestors tribute.

This smacks of the run-in earlier this year in the High Court – incidentally or coincidentally, also before Judge Parker – involving the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority (OTA).

In that case the OTA approached the court to interdict Aletha Karikondua Nguvauva, the widow of late Ovambanderu chief Munjuku II Nguvauva, and her son, Mutima Rikarera Nguvauva, from laying a wreath at the late chief’s grave in Okahandja.

Judge Collins Parker eventually delivered the final verdict in August. This was to the effect that she could not do this without the permission and/or outside the realm of the annual pilgrim of the Ovambanderu to Okahandja under the auspices of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority.

Likewise the Ovaherero Traditional Authority has been at loggerheads with other kinship-authorities, particularly the Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority. Such consternation manifested itself lately in the dispute as to the rightfully ownership of a plot in Okahandja.

Perhaps not strangely, the Vaalgras community appears to have also not been immune to the internecine wars bedeviling the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu authorities.

The Vaalgras community is now divided between the Stephanus and Biwa factions and the dispute has also made the occasional turn in court, but to no avail in terms of a lasting solution. That is why one cannot but wonder what may have happened to the historical cohesion of these communities.

Sadly for this community, if not for the OTA itself, the discord within the Vaalgras community – as is the case within many others, like the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu communities – continues unabated.

Is there a political third force at play? Think of the many fact-finding missions sent by government in this regard, the recommendations of which are gathering dust on the shelves of the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development.
Let’s recall the one into the Ovambanderu, which was never implemented until one of the claimants to the throne, Paramount Chief Keharanjo II Nguvauva, untimely departed in 2011.

There has also been an investigation with regard to traditional leadership in the Epukiro communal area, with the Hoveka Traditional Authority claiming legitimacy. To date the outcome of the government investigation remains known only to the government itself.

It is because government’s findings following such investigations remain under wraps that communities have been turning to courts.

With the political and judicial interventions having proven as disappointing as they have, one cannot but wish for a hegemonic divine traditional intervention. It has been proven time and again that the court cannot adjudicate in a lasting manner on such matters.

Because it has been proven that many a time neither the lawyers nor the judges who seem now to have become the major players in such matters, are familiar with and sensitive to the intricacies and complexities of the issues at stake.

As a result, long-lasting solutions have been derailed. And for as long as the solutions thereof are expected from either the judiciary or the political realm, long-lasting solutions will remain not only elusive, but evasive and beyond reach.

October 2016
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