President Hage Geingob has advised acting Ovaherero paramount chief Vipuira Kapuuo to ensure that customary laws are duly observed in the designation of the next Ovaherero traditional authority leader. Geingob gave this advice while responding to Kapuuo earlier this year. Kapuuo had written to Geingob, informing him of the succession dispute within the community following the death of paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro in the middle of last year.
“I found it disheartening that more often than not, leadership succession in some of our traditional authorities is riddled with squabbles, which lead to the polarisation of communities,” Geingob said in a letter to Kapuuo, signed by minister in the presidency Christine //Hoebes.
“I urge the OTA Chiefs Council to ensure that customary laws are duly observed in the designation of the next ombara of the OTA, and that the line minister is duly notified in terms of the prescribed legal process.”
Since Rukoro’s death, the Ovaherero leaders have been at odds over who should oversee the transition.
This led to the emergence of two factions, one supporting acting chief Kapuuo, who at the time of Rukoro’s death was the chairperson of the chiefs’ council, which is traditionally tasked with facilitating the transition process.
The other faction, led by academic Mutjinde Katjiua, feels that Kapuuo was not fit to facilitate such a process.
Katjiua has since been installed as the paramount chief by one of the factions. Kapuuo’s faction has called for a chiefs council meeting, scheduled for 7 to 8 April at Ovitoto in the Otjozondjupa region, a meeting which is expected to identify those willing to compete for the paramount chieftainship.
Katjiua on Tuesday launched an urgent court application, seeking to interdict Kapuuo from hosting the chiefs council meeting.
He further wants Kapuuo to be interdicted from diverting funds from the urban and rural development ministry meant for the OTA.
According to him, Kapuuo has since opened a bank account under the name “OTA Office of the Chairperson”, despite the OTA already having an existing bank account under its name.
“The first respondent (Kapuuo) has directed the second respondent (minister of urban and rural development) to irregularly transfer the allocated funds of the second applicant (OTA) to himself, under the guise of the office of the chairperson,” stated Katjiua, adding that Kapuuo’s actions amount to fraud. The application is yet to be heard.
Similarly, Kapuuo in early March filed an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the election of Katjiua as paramount chief.
In the court papers, Kapuuo was seeking an order declaring that in terms of Ovaherero customary law, tradition and protocol, the chairman of the Chiefs Council (Kapuuo) becomes the acting paramount chief of the Ovaherero traditional community upon the death or incapacitation of the paramount chief.
He further seeks an order indicating that he is the acting paramount chief, and that the court should declare the Chiefs Council meeting held in December at Onderombapa, Aminius that saw Katjiua being designated as the community’s paramount chief, null and void.
Commenting on the division within the OTA yesterday, political commentator and University of Namibia (Unam) lecturer in Rhetorical Studies and English Gerson Sindano said division in any society erodes social cohesion and harmony.
He said before independence, squabbles were not frequent among traditional authorities in Namibia. But after traditional leaders started getting pay cheques and cars from the government, the battle for power became an economic survival rather than for the interests of the community.
“Any division among the Ovaherero people will not be in the interest of the Ovaherero community as far as reparation negotiations are concerned. At this juncture, with reparation negotiations ongoing, the Ovaherero community can not afford further division,” he emphasised.
Sindano said traditionally, the Ovaherero community tends to gravitate towards unity.
“I’m confident and hopeful that wisdom will prevail among the different traditional camps to come together as one people. If the interests of their subjects were to be the centre of contention, then I do not doubt that the Ovaherero traditional authority will resolve the leadership impasse amicably, and possibly without court adjudication,” he added.
He said the focus of the traditional leadership, whoever emerges victorious, should be restorative justice.
“Any further division, going forward, will jeopardise reparation negotiations,” he noted.