The headman of the Omufimba village in Okongo constituency in Ohangwena region has evicted a 30-year-old widow from her matrimonial home, following the death of her husband last year.
The piece of land, including the traditional homestead, was reportedly sold by the headman for N$35 000 to a local villager.
According to relatives of the late husband, after their brother Eliakim Nghituninwa died last year, the headman decided to offer their sister-in-law another man to replace her husband if she wanted to continue staying in the house.
Olivia Nghidengwa, the mother of three, married Nghituninwa in August 2008. The couple built their home after getting married.
“The headman, who is the uncle to the deceased, allocated the land to the nephew the year they got married – just as customarily done in tradition that a married man can approach the headman to get a portion of communal land to construct his house.
After the allocation of the land, our brother then started paying the charges every year just like any other person,” said the deceased’s
The sister, who refused to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said they are furious as family members that their sister-in-law has no place to stay and went back to her mother’s house, a place she left 12 years ago. The widow is unemployed.
Their three children, aged seven, five and one, are currently living with relatives in Windhoek.
“We all understand that the widow is young and can get another man if she can, but our brother has four children of which three are from the widow. Where are our children going to be? If the house cannot go to the mother, why not to the children?” she questioned.
She further explained the family tried and exhausted all avenues to constructively engage the traditional authority of Okongo district, but no one is willing to listen to them. The widow explained she refused to accept the forced marriage to another man, saying it is against her culture.
“When I informed my family about the offered man, my parents refused; therefore, I cannot take that man. But when I refused, the headman told me to vacate the house as soon as possible,” she told New Era.
She said they worked tirelessly with her late husband to ensure they built a standard house.
“I can easily go back to our house. I am now staying with my mother but it is difficult to adapt in a house you left for many years,” she explained. Attempts to reach the headman proved futile, seemingly due to network problems.
The chairperson of Okongo district, Asser Mukumangeni, confirmed that the traditional authority is fully aware of the matter and a meeting is scheduled for 11 July to attend to the issue.
Chairperson of the Northern Traditional Authorities and Uukwambi chief Herman Ndilimani Iipumbu condemned the forced marital inheritance, saying it is in breach of the Traditional Authority Act.
“That is a thing of the past. No one has the right to force a widow to take another man. She can get a man of her choice. And again, procedurally, when the owner the house perished, the traditional authority has the right to give it to the widow or the children,” stated Iipumbu, who promised to investigate the matter further.
The chairperson of Ohangwena Regional Council, Erickson Ndawanifwa, confirmed the matter, saying it is an abuse of power and the traditional authority has no right to evict a widow for refusing to accept a forced marriage.
He denounced the move to evict the widow and he strongly feels the woman and her children need to be protected.