Contested Traditional Histories and their Impact on Developmental Projects

Prof. John Makala Lilemba

The Silozi Service of Namibian Broadcasting Corporation in the Zambezi Region introduced a programme, “ZaBuikumuso bwaka”, literally means, “My Pride.” This programme targeted entities like the members of traditional authorities in which they should express themselves on things and events which matter in their areas.

In some cases, the members of the traditional authorities are expected to relate the traditional histories of their khutas. As usual in the Zambezi Region, this has brought immense debates and disagreements even in cases where the histories are clear and straightforward. Whereas debates and disagreements are health, these should be conducted in a constructive and meaningful manner. Destructive debates are only a waste of time and obstructs developmental projects.Along the so-called Tar Road, it has become a common phenomenon, that in every village there are bound to be two factions vying for either dominance or recognition by Linyanti Traditional Authority.  This has stalled many developmental projects because one faction deliberately tries to frustrate the process. The traditional histories of the Zambezi Region, like other regions should be related, retold and documented. If it is not done, the region will be left out like what has been happening all along.

The bickering in the region seems not to come to an end but the Zambezi Region is not the only one in Namibia. It is a fact that where differences exist, ways and means should be sought to find solutions. It is really hard to comprehend whether residents have the interests of their children at heart as they should level the ground for them. Imagine that from Mafuta, Liselo, Maulukupeka, Sachinga, Kaenda, Kaliyangile, Sibbinda, Masida, Sachona, Lizauli and other areas are having conflicts among and within themselves.

These conflicts emanate from selfishness and a lack of respect for others. Namibia is a constitutional democracy in which case, if there is a traditional conflict, a voting mode should be employed to gauge the wishes of the majority. But alas, some members of these committees besides being schooled refuse to ride on this mode. Some of them insist that in traditional communities, voting should not be entertained, because succession has been through imposition of an incumbent. But the truth is that even in typical traditional scenarios, no imposition is entertained. Names are usually put forward and people or the inner circle of the khuta discuss and discern about few names.

A consensus when arrived at, the person who is favoured by the majority of the inner circle finally ascends the indunaship throne. But in the said areas, choosing an induna has become hey way and in some khutas, confusion has become the order of the day. This has led to some khutas not operating at all, denying the people of their traditional privileges.  What is equally surprising is the inability of the main khuta to deal with these cases. This scenario has led to prolonged hearings and postponements of such cases, which imparts on the patience and monetary aspects of the people waiting for justice. The usually undisciplined faction enjoys the circus as they twist the khuta to succumb to their demands. These rebellious factions deliberately take their time and use all forms of tricks to prolong and frustrate the main khuta. The worst-case scenario is that these selfish conflicts end up in stalling developmental projects as they are used by the rebellious factions to block such schemes.

Yes, we are living in a democratic country but the system has its own merits and therefore people should not abuse it. In deliberately frustrating the process of indunaship for contesting the traditional histories, it should be noted that it is the members of the community who end up losing on time wasted and the benefits both from the Central Government and the main khuta. Namibia has fourteen regions, but all of them have their own challenges and differences, but the situation in the Zambezi merits attention and durable solutions should be sought by residents of the region and if need be, apply for some assistance from other quarters.

Consequently, if one region or a traditional authority even a mere district is not at peace with itself, any developmental project will either be stopped or transferred to another place where it will be accepted. It has happened in the mentioned areas where intended projects have been transferred elsewhere because the initial beneficiaries were at loggerheads. The District Hospital building project for Sibbinda Constituency has been halted and it has been rumoured that it has been relocated elsewhere. The reason being that one member of the opposing faction in the indunaship contestation in the district called the Director of the line ministry to stop the project.

As a result, Sibbinda residents and their future generations have lost a valuable facility and service. Another valuable facility lost was the Correctional Service which was earmarked for Kongola Constituency, but because the residents were not in unison, the project was relocated to Ngoma. What the people of the former Tar Road miss to understand is that projects earmarked for their places, once refused will never come back again. As kinspeople, whatever differences people might have should not interfere with developmental projects. The current brood of community members will eventually make way for the younger generation, so if developmental projects are being frustrated by few individuals, they have themselves to blame when their areas remain underdeveloped.

Prof. Makala Lilemba


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