Chief Mpasi loses his cool in court
NANKUDU – The Kahenge Magistrate’s Court in the Kavango Region heard during an illegal grazing case that Ukwangali Chief Sitentu Mpasi opened a case of illegal grazing against a widow who had refused to marry him.
In the dock were 29 farmers from the Oshikoto and Ohangwena regions accused of grazing their cattle illegally on the tribal land of Chief Mpasi.
Defence counsel Norman Tjombe said the chief proposed marriage to Emilia Nghilundilwa after the death of her husband.
When she refused, he opened a case of illegal grazing against her. However, the Prosecutor General has withdrawn the charge against Nghilundilwa because she is of Ukwangali descent and is entitled to make use of the tribe’s communal land.
During cross-examination on Wednesday, the chief lost his temper and threatened to walk out of court, describing some of the questions as insulting.
He also said that he was being labelled a thief.
All the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The group had allegedly been grazing their cattle on Ukwangali land in western Kavango since 1992 without authorisation from Chief Mpasi. The group told the Police at the start of the investigation that they settled there legally and were paying annual fees to the Ukwangali Traditional Authority.
Chief Mpasi opened a case against the group in 2006, and the accused farmers made their first court appearance on December 3, 2006.
During cross-examination by Tjombe, the Ukwangali leader said he only gave land to two Oshiwambo-speaking individuals, a certain ‘Kishi’ and a woman called Elly Nghilundilwa.
Tjombe indicated that Mpasi signed three statements to the Police on November 3 2006, permitting one of the accused to graze cattle in the Ukwangali Traditional Authority area.
This was denied by Chief Mpasi, who said his signature was forged and there was no traditional authority stamp on the statement.
Tjombe also stated that Chief Mpasi made a case against one of the accused, Gabriel Nehange, because he accused the chief of stealing one of his cows .
Tjombe’s remarks angered the Ukwangali chief, who said he was being insulted. “Now my heart is telling me to leave and I’m requesting this court to please release me,” Mpasi said.
Although Tjombe produced a receipt proving that Nehange paid rent to the traditional authority for grazing his cattle in the Ukwangali area in 1992, Mpasi denied such a payment and said it was an old receipt.
Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa last week declined to prosecute seven other accused persons because they are of Ukwangali origin, entitling them to utilise the land. They are Erastus Sakaria, Emilia Nghilundilwa, Metumo Nghilundilwa, Eli Shinwalulu, Aktoffel Sakaria, Seth Kaukungwa and Juniors Hamana.
Tjombe stated during Monday’s proceedings that his clients have been prosecuted for six years based on sworn statements and further revealed that his clients have documents stating that Mpasi and then Ukwangali Chief Council member Rudolph Ngondo gave permission to the cattle owners to let their cattle graze.