News and Information

'Duplicate' Mafwe chiefdom spreads confusion
August 5, 2004

GOVERNMENT yesterday added to tension among the volatile Caprivi tribal communities by recognising two chiefs for one tribe in contravention of the Traditional Authorities Act.

By late afternoon, the Ministry of Regional and Local Government Housing was scuttling around to try and pour oil on troubled waters, but it appears to have deepened the confusion and widened the schism.

Earlier in the day the Ministry had handed a certificate to Joseph Tembwe Mayuni recognising him as chief of the Mafwe Traditional Community - only for journalists to point out that the move violated the law as there was already a recognised Mafwe Traditional Community headed by Chief George Simasiku Mamili.

But Minister Joel Kaapanda insisted that "there was nothing wrong as long as any group seeking recognition fulfilled the requirements."

But by late afternoon, the Ministry's Public Relations Officer, Francis Nghitila, called to inform the media that there was a "serious mistake".

"You guys were correct... we can't have two traditional authorities with the same name," he said.

According to Nghitila, the Mayuni group will be called the Mashi Traditional Authority.

This was despite Chief Mayuni himself earlier claiming that his people were the "true Mafwe".

"The first group recognised as Mafwe cannot even speak the [Sifwe] language.

My people are the true Mafwe, they are the only ones who speak the language, nobody else," declared the Chief, shortly after receiving his letter of recognition.

"Historically they are correct, they are the true Mafwe but because we already have a Mafwe traditional community, we can't recognise them as such... it's an unfortunate situation which we have to live with," the Ministry spokesperson stated.

Maintaining that his people are the only Mafwe, Chief Mayuni argued that Mashi is not a group of people but an area where his community resides.

According to the Traditional Authorities Act of 2000, "where a traditional authority has been established for a traditional community, and a group of members of that traditional community establishes in conflict with the provisions of this Act another authority purporting to be a traditional authority for such group... any such act [or action] shall be declared null and void ...".

During the ceremony staged to hand over the recognition certificate to Chief Mayuni, Minister Kaapanda toiled hard as he tried to explain and to play down the possible confusion that could arise as a result of Government's recognition of two Mafwe traditional communities.

At one point the Minister seemed to suggest that Government merely acted on recommendations of the Council of Traditional Leaders, which, according to him, had conducted a "thorough investigation" of all aspects related to the legitimacy of Mayuni's recognition.

"The Council of Traditional Leaders is the highest authority in dealing with all traditional matters, so whatever they recommend in this regard will be implemented," he said.

"We, the Ministry, don't decide who should be recognised or who should not.

We only act as an intermediary," Kaapanda's deputy, Gerhard Tötemeyer, added.

Kaapanda asserted that the recognition of the Mayuni group, which, together with the recently recognised Mayeyi Traditional Authority, had been treated as subjects of the Mafwe, took long "because the issue was intriguing."

"The recognition Chief Mayuni is an act of good faith, we are doing this for the sake of peace and stability... I don't foresee conflict arising between the two communities.

We want to see them working together," he asserted.

The Minister then gave the journalists a marathon lecture on "responsible reporting" and cautioned them to guard against inflammatory stories.

"The media have a big responsibility in this regard to write to promote peace and stability, but not to inflame the situation.

If you decide to take another direction you would be responsible for the consequences," he warned.

Chief Mayuni, who, The Namibian learnt, is a staunch Swapo follower, pledged to co-operate with the Government and to rally his people in the fight against HIV-AIDS.

"I will ensure that there is no rebellion as happened in August 1999.

I will ensure that my community vote for leaders with vision," the smiling Chief promised as he received his certificate.


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