Chiefs refuse to hear dispute involving Ombalantu senior headman

Isdor Kanelombe

A villager’s attempt to bring a trespassing complaint against a senior headman in the Ombalantu Traditional Authority was abruptly halted yesterday by the traditional authority’s council, sparking controversy and raising questions about fairness and the impartiality of the council.

The council consists of the Ombalantu chief and members of the traditional council.

Josephat Asino, from Olukulo village in the Okapanda district, under the Ombalantu Traditional Authority, accused Rehabeam Uugwanga, a senior headman councillor, of entering his homestead at night without permission last month.

He said he and Uugwanga, who is from Okafitu kaKafimbi village, are not on good terms.

Asino claimed Uugwanga’s visit left some of the lights at his house not working and left him fearing for his safety.

Despite summoning Asino to present his case, traditional authority spokesperson Isdor Kanelombe prevented Asino from narrating his story and accused him of “assassinating Uugwanga’s character”.

This was despite repeated attempts by Asino to explain his side of the story.

“You can’t stop me from speaking. Did you send Rehabeam to my house?” Asino asked Kanelombe.

Kanelombe then interjected, “Don’t mention people’s names. That’s an insult. If you continue to mention people’s names, this discussion will end here. We want everybody’s rights respected,” Kanelombe said.

Kanelombe, a retired diplomat, asserted that the authority lacked jurisdiction in the matter and directed Asino to pursue it through the community court, Outapi Magistrate’s Court or the police.

Kanelombe repeatedly cited the Namibian Constitution to support his position.

“Don’t proceed with your story. Just say you will go to the court or you will open a case with the police. Because you have assassinated someone’s character, this matter will not be heard here. Please go to the court or the police,” Kanelombe said.

“Why don’t you want these people, whom I have invited, to hear what I want to tell them? I want a dialogue with the council,” Asino said.

He asserted his desire for dialogue with the Ombalantu Traditional Council rather than legal action.

He also questioned Kanelombe’s neutrality, suggesting he acted as a spokesperson for fellow councillors rather than the entire Ombalantu Traditional Authority, and labelled him a “dictator”.

A police officer present at the gathering echoed Kanelombe’s advice and urged Asino to utilise the formal justice system.

The officer also threatened to remove the audience who voiced support for Asino during the heated exchange.
This has resulted in Asino’s complaint remaining unheard, leaving the alleged trespassing and safety concerns unaddressed.

Asino said the abrupt shutdown of the hearing raises concerns about the traditional authority’s commitment to impartial dispute resolution.

Speaking to The Namibian after he walked out of the gathering, Asino said he has also been applying for a certificate of registration of customary land rights since 2006, which he has not been granted.

He said he does not understand why the traditional authority has not provided him with the certificate of registration of customary land rights 18 years after he applied for it.

The Namibian enquired why Asino was not granted the certificate of registration upon which Kanelombe said Asino should enquire from the Omusati communal land board.

On why Asino could not be heard yesterday, he said the complaint needed to be heard by a competent, impartial and independent court.

“You will not be perceived to have gotten a fair, independent, impartial and competent court if you are heard by the council because the accused person is part of the council,” he said.

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