Zeraeua battle kicked out of court

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Zeraeua battle kicked out of court

The decade-long protracted battle over the reins of the Zeraeua Traditional Community came to an end, with the High Court dismissing the application of one of the factions. 

Judge Hannelie Prinsloo, in a judgement delivered on Monday, said former urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga considered all the facts, as well as the legal opinion. 

He said he made a decision in line with the relevant customary laws.

In 2019, Mushelenga approved the application of the eldest son of the late Chief Christian Eerike Zeraeua, Manasse Meundju Zeraeua, as Chief of the Zeraeua Traditional Community.

“The minister exhausted all the remedies available to him. He had multiple engagements with the disputing factions, and he fully engaged them on their view on customary law… the minister clearly engaged the institutional memory at his disposal to inform himself and consider the new information placed before him,” said Prinsloo.

She said the minister went as far as constituting an investigation team and reconciliation committee. Court-connected mediation was also attempted to resolve the matter.

Before dismissing the application, Prinsloo said it would not be prudent to refer the matter back to the minister for reconsideration, as “It would create an intolerable situation by dragging the uncertainty for this traditional community out even further than the current 12 years that it has been dragging on”.

Raphael Hijangungo Kapia, the claimant to the chieftaincy of the Zeraeua Traditional Community, approached the High Court, seeking an order to set aside Mushelenga’s decision to approve the application of his rival, Manasse, for chieftaincy.

In his affidavit, Kapia claimed the law does not permit the minister to decide on two competing designations, nor does the minister have the authority to appoint a mediation committee.

He further claimed there are two different clans; hence, the dominant clan, Tjipepa/Ovakweyuva, should make the designation. 

He said Mushelenga ignored the fact that the Tjipepa/Ovakweyuva clan designated him.

In addition, he was never given an opportunity to provide input on the legal advice Mushelenga relied on. 

Mushelenga also failed to head the recommendations of the mediation committee he instituted, Kapia argued. 

He further accused Mushelenga of favouring Manasse’s application due to their existing friendship.

In 2014, High Court judge Shafimana Ueitele set aside the minister’s earlier decision to approve the appointment of Manasse as chief.

At the time, Ueitele found that the minister misread relevant parts of the Traditional Authorities Act when he approved an application from the Zeraeua Traditional Authority to have Manasse appointed as his father’s successor as traditional leader.

Furthermore, the judge said the application for the approval of Manasse’s appointment did not comply with some of the requirements in the Act, as it, for instance, did not include some of the information required by law.