Govt Aised to Control Traditional Authorities

THE Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) has urged government to consider limiting the number of traditional authorities if it wants to have better control of their operations.

According to the Council of Traditional Leaders in Namibia, there are currently 50 recognised traditional authorities in the country.

In a 2012 Working Paper on Issues Related to the Traditional Authorities in the Ovambo Communities, the commission aised the State to set up fixed structures to have more control of the number of traditional authorities as opposed to the current situation where new traditional authorities mushroom overnight.

The recommendation was made after consultations with several traditional authorities to identify traditional

forms of governance by traditional leaders, while comparing it with Malawian traditional authorities. Although the paper focused on

the Ovambo traditional authorities as a case study, LRDC chairman Sacky Shanghala said the recommendation serves as a possible remedy for all traditional bodies in the country.

Shanghala told The Namibian that government should take notes from Malawi’s traditional authorities which only has up to seven paramount chiefs, one for each tribe. He said that although Namibia’s traditional authority system was far more aanced than that used in Malawi, it does not have structures in place on the appointment of traditional authorities.

He further noted that Malawian traditional authorities’ behaviour facilitates community action, social order and cohesion and produces a variety of public goods that are considered developmental.

“What can be learned from the experiences is that perhaps Namibia should attempt to have fixed structures such as those under the Malawi system which has seven paramount chiefs for each tribe,” he says.

Shanghala stressed that attempts to unify and align the structures among the various traditional authorities would be conducted as a means to standardise certain administrative practices, rather than diminish the cultural value and unique quality of each different authority.

Senior headman of the Ondangwa district of the Ondonga Traditional Authority John Walenga said since Namibia has no existing laws against clans forming their own chieftaincy, the mushrooming of traditional authorities was to be expected.

“Random chiefs from different clans are all claiming chieftaincy and demanding to be recognised, which leads to confusion. However, I think it would be a challenge for government to reduce the number of the existing authorities as they are already in power,” he said.

Walenga said other African nations are able to control the number of their traditional authorities, especially those that are governed by royal families instead of chieftainships.

“The law has to be amended to regain control of traditional authorities, after all, these chiefs are funded by government,” he said.

Political commentator Phanuel Kaapama said the mushrooming of chiefs has been picking up speed over the years, a situation that has been lamented by President Hifikepunye Pohamba on several occasions.

“If the LRDC makes recommendations that will remedy this situation, they need to be thoroughly discussed. Also, if they are talking about a limit, it should be well-defined as to what the limit is,” he said.

Chief of the Oe-?Gan Traditional Authority and deputy chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders in Namibia, Immanuel Gacircseb, said placing a limit on the number of traditional authorities would only present itself as another form of colonialisation.

“They (government) should not try to colonise us. Prior to independence there existed single chiefs for each tribe, but this system was discontinued after independence, I do not support the idea of a single chief for one tribe only as this is a democracy,” he said.

Gacircseb however admitted that the mushrooming of chieftainships was creating disorder. “What is happening at the moment is chaos. We have random self-proclaimed chiefs who appoint themselves overnight, the situation is out of control. In some tribes, two different chiefs live a few yards from each other in one small geographical area. Drastic steps need to be taken,” he said.

He said that Namibia was not the only country faced with sub-dividing chieftaincies. “South Africa and Zimbabwe operate under a similar system,” he said.

Source : The Namibian