‘Remove unrecognised traditional authorities from genocide negotiations’

Johannes Isaak

Chief Johannes Isaak of the |Hai-|Khaua Traditional Authority has called on the government not to continue including unrecognised traditonal authority chiefs in the ongoing genocide negotiations with Germany.

Isaak says recognised traditional authorities are still willing to join the negotiations as per their slogan ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’.
Germany agreed in May 2021, when it officially recognised the Herero-Nama genocide for the first time, to fund Namibian projects with 1,1 billion euro (N$1,2 billion).

This was to be disbursed to existing aid programmes over 30 years.

However, this deal was rejected by Nama and Ovaherero traditional leaders, who argued that the government negotiated this deal with unrecognised traditional groups and factions favourable to Swapo.

Isaak made these remarks during president Nangolo Mbumba’s introductory meeting with traditional authorities at Keetmanshoop on Thursday.

“We believe politics should not interfere in the enactment of laws in this country. There are governors and ministers who collaborate with unrecognised groups and factions, thereby disturbing peace and harmony.

“And I want to know how long will government entertain these unrecognised groups which are sowing division and discord in government programmes,” he said.

The senior traditional councillor of the Vaalgras Traditional Authority, Martin Biwa, said the tribe was struggling to choose a successor since the death of chief Joel Stephanus in 2021.

“I am a leader without a chief. And people require leaders. We ought to have leaders. And so we find ourselves in a painful situation because most chiefs have died. We are facing challenges of economic emancipation, we need to be unified to prosper but all attempts have failed,” he said.

Witbooi Traditional Authority chief Ismael Witbooi said chiefs are born and not elected.

Ismael is currently embroiled in a dispute with Solomon Witbooi, his nephew, about the chieftainship.

After Ismael was sworn in as chief, the High Court ruled in a challenge brought by Solomon that his recognition should be nullified and that the state should gazette this.

It said the minister of urban and rural development at the time, Peya Mushelenga, abdicated his responsibility by not applying customary law.

This ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court, which sent the community back to conduct elections and choose between the two.

“This Supreme Court ruling was a blatant and flagrant disregard of the customary law . . . So I stand by my notion that chiefs are not elected, but born into chieftainship,” said Witbooi.

The !Aman Traditional Authority has announced that clan members would elect a new leader on 20 April at Bethanie Village.

Johannes Swartz, the !Aman Traditional Authority’s chairperson, said minister of urban and rural development Erastus Uutoni authorised the election to resolve a longstanding chieftaincy succession dispute.

Uutoni told the traditional authorities without chiefs to unite and listen to the ministry’s advice.

“Some of you we already communicated what is required of you, and others we are still in the process. But do that which we advise you to do and you will move forward,” he said.

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