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Area of jurisdiction in the context of Traditional Authorities Act

2018-12-14  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Area of jurisdiction in the context of Traditional Authorities Act
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Hot on the heels of the official designation ceremony of the Royal House of Hoveka, and its chief Turimuro Hoveka on November 24 at Eiseb Block in the Otjombinde Constituency, a group of Eiseb Block inhabitants last week travelled all the way - about 400 kilometres - to Windhoek to descend on the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development.
They went there to petition the ministry over its recognition of Hoveka.

Notable about the petition is the submission that they are subjects of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority (OTA), with its seat in the Epukiro Constituency, but whose “jurisdiction” extends to the Otjombinde Constituency - particularly the rural areas of Eiseb Block and Otjombinde (Rietfontein). 

Back in 2014, yours truly wrote: “One cannot help but wonder what kind of a creature is it known as area of jurisdiction?” 
This question was prompted by obvious differences then between the then Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, and some traditional authorities, and among the traditional authorities themselves. 

The relationships between the authorities and their communities were as fluid and tense as could be, rendering cooperation between them impossible. Resultantly rural development suffered.  Just because of their fixation with “jurisdiction”. 
Fast track this to 2018, under a new administration and new minister, not mention different ministers in this portfolio in the intervening years, the situation cannot in anyway said to have improved. At best it has been worsening with the mushrooming of traditional communities and the attendant polarisation. 

And now enters the consternation among Eiseb Block inhabitants, which is no more than the old chicaneries between the Hoveka Traditional Authority and the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority (OTA). 

Lately as much there have been media reports of the demolition of a work-in-progress building in Otjinene belonging to a businessperson who intended to set up a service station. 

This demolition is nothing but a cause or/and an outflow of the continuing antagonistic rivalries between the Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority (MRHTA) and the Ovaherero Traditional Authority. 

“Jurisdiction” the issue for the businessperson obtaining permission to occupy (PTO) or whatever authority in this regard as it may from the OTA instead of MRHTA. Otjinene is ordinarily perceived and believed the “jurisdiction” of the MRHTA with the OTA perceived and believed to have “Jurisdiction” in the Aminuis Constituency.  

But the question begs if area of jurisdiction indeed exists in terms of the Traditional Authorities Act of 2000? It has always been the reading, understanding and conviction of this columnist that the relevant act speaks of no “area of jurisdiction” as opposed to “jurisdiction over a people”.  

That is why to some degree this columnist understands the position of this group of Eiseb Block inhabitants regarding the jurisdiction of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority over them as members of the Ovambanderu traditional community, thus subject to its authority. 
Because while the Traditional Authorities Act does not speak about area of jurisdiction, as opposed to jurisdiction over a people/subjects, the song that has all over the years been sung by both the government and traditional authorities alike, has been erroneously, wrongly and mistakenly, if not deliberately, one of “area of jurisdiction”. 

And this is precisely what this group of Eiseb Block inhabitants is seeking clarity on. Because all these years they have been fed on the staple diet of “area of jurisdiction”, and not only this, but also on the diet of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority’s having multiple jurisdictions, it seems, extending beyond Epukiro and overlapping into Otjombinde and Eiseb Block. 

This is as opposed to the reality and truth that the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority, as indeed any other traditional authority, have subjects all over the country. But this is and cannot mean nor interpreted any such authority having an area of jurisdiction wherever. 
Their jurisdiction is just over their subjects/people wherever they may find themselves all over the country.  

The reality in Namibia has been for traditional authorities and their communities to have overlapping subjects/people in areas where they necessarily have not been gazetted. 
Meaning wherever their subjects are, they have caretaking leaders from their respective communities/authorities This does not mean and should not have meant these representatives have any official authority above that of the authority gazette there. Grante yes they have authority over their subjects.  This is what must have been explained all along to the various people/subjects of the various communities/traditional authorities. Part II continues next Friday…

2018-12-14  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Tags: Khomas
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