I am still kaptein – Witbooi in absence of court judgement

Ishmael Witbooi

Ishmael Witbooi is embroiled in a chieftainship battle over the Witbooi Traditional Authority with his nephew, Solomon Witbooi.

Ishmael says he is still the chief of the traditional authority in the absence of a supreme court judgement on his appeal.

Ishmael appealed to the Supreme Court last year over a decision taken by the High Court, which resulted in him losing his position as kaptein of the Witbooi Traditional Authority.

However, deputy chief justice Petrus Damaseb, alongside Supreme Court judges Dave Smuts and Rita Makarau, on Tuesday reserved judgement to a date yet to be announced.

“While we await this judgement, and up until that moment, Ishmael Hendrik Witbooi remains the kaptein of the |Khowese clan,” Ishmael said this week.

In his appeal, Ishmael wants the Supreme Court to overturn the judgement of Windhoek High Court judge Thomas Masuku in 2022 which nullified former minister of urban and rural development Peya Mushelenga’s decision to appoint Ishmael as the leader of the Witbooi Traditional Authority.

In his ruling, Masuku overturned the former minister’s designation of kaptein, which had been made in April and May 2019, and also invalidated the president’s recognition of Ishmael as the traditional leader in a proclamation published in August 2019.

Masuku’s decision was made in a case in which Solomon Witbooi, who is a former Namibian high commissioner to Zambia, and four members of the Witbooi community challenged Ishmael’s designation as traditional leader.

“That ruling lost its power and became null and void the moment the appeal application was accorded by the Master of the High Court. Thus my recognition will only be affected by the pending Supreme Court verdict,” Ishmael says.

The Supreme Court is yet to provide a date for the ruling to be delivered.

In his affidavit filed with the Supreme Court, Ishmael wants the court to stand by the result of the investigation committee and the opinion of the attorney general that he is the only rightful successor to the chieftainship as he is a direct descendant of the patrilineal side of the Witbooi royal family.

He says Solomon comes from the maternal side of the lineage, which disqualifies him from being designated, and was also born out of wedlock.

“A chief, according to the Witbooi custom, should not be born out of wedlock,” the affidavit reads.

Ishmael says the succession to the chieftainship was intertwined with the leadership of the AME Church, as he was requested by the applicant to join the AME Church to open the way for chieftainship, which he reportedly declined.

Solomon this week declined to comment.

He, however, said he was nominated by the authorised members of the clan to be the next chief of the royal house, and that members of the Witbooi Traditional Authority were notified of this, endorsing the application on his behalf.

He said Ishmael’s application was done by members of the Witbooi Traditional Authority who are not authorised members of the royal house.

He also said Mushelenga abdicated his responsibility by accepting the legal opinion of the attorney general, which discriminates against the offspring from the matrilineal side, violating the Constitution.

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