Opinion – Chiefdoms within a republic



Western colonial education introduced in Africa was based on certain educational principles describing a particular philosophy of life.

However, African communities themselves already had their own way of educating their young people based on a philosophy that emanated from the African worldview.

Therefore, when Europeans arrived in Africa, they encountered and disrupted indigenous states that had long established patterns of interaction within their cultural framework.

This is what Mungazi (1996) implies when he refers to Walter Wren’s surprise when he visited the coast of Guinea in 1566 and discovered that “Although the people are black and naked, they were civilians”.

Barker (1999) also states that education in traditional African society has certain specific and well-defined objectives which have been passed on to young people in the form of knowledge, wisdom and skills accumulated from the cultural group to ensure a smooth transition and easy towards adulthood. .

The ancient African philosophy of education emphasized social responsibility, the development of manual, artistic and intellectual skills, political awareness and above all spiritual and moral values ​​aimed at producing an honest, respectful, competent, well-behaved individual. informed, cooperative, well versed in the customs and traditions of the community and who have voluntarily conformed to the social model of the community.

At independence, Namibia was supposed to adopt the model of regulated dualism (weak or strong) where the state upholds traditional governance and African customary law.

In addition to the two parties enjoying their places, the political and legal systems are dual or plural systems with the state system on the one hand and a plurality of traditional systems on the other. In addition, traditional and African customary law represent officially recognized semi-autonomous social areas. Namibia failed to fall into this model, implying that even after independence, the country continued to disregard traditional and African customary law.

However, the new Namibian government proposed measures which in most cases did not conform to traditional philosophy despite the constitutional provision.

Articles 8 and 19 of the Namibian constitution allow for the enjoyment, practice and promotion of any culture, language or tradition, provided it does not conflict with the rights of a person. Article 8 emphasizes respect for human dignity and no one should be subjected to torture or degrading conditions.

Nevertheless, the authorities have played games of psychological torture on many members of some traditional authorities.

This game has led to the frustration of some traditional leaders and, as a result, has relaxed the maintenance of law and order in their communities. The state of anarchy in the country today can be attributed to the deprivation of the powers of traditional rulers.

Divide and rule

Contrary to what the nationalists fought for, the new rulers perfected the divide and rule system that the colonialists imposed on the people.

Instead of uniting peoples divided under the apartheid regime, the new elite embarked on a program of ethnic balkanization without following proper procedures.

It sparked old tribal rivalries that turned into skirmishes, which almost claimed lives in some places.

Politicization of traditional authorities

The rulers have been very successful in politicizing traditional institutions to such an extent that almost all traditional authorities yield to the pressure of political power.

The traditional authorities who dance to the political tune of decision always have a particular preference.

This is evidenced by the cordial relations between the leaders of political parties and the traditional authorities through regular and unannounced visits of the former.

The leader of the ruling party always honors the festivals of traditional authorities when invited, but will decline invitations from other institutions perceived to belong to the other side of the political fence.

This is contrary to the spirit of nationalism according to which every national institution should be given equal treatment.

Status of Chiefs

Namibia, as a constitutional democracy, should not harbor monarchical undertones. The status of chiefs in Namibia after independence leaves a lot to be desired, as many have been left in the doldrums.

Their authority has been undermined at the expense of political power. They no longer enjoy the powers they had before and during the colonial period, because they are only figureheads when the power is elsewhere.

Namibia is blessed with various cultural entities and this goes hand in hand with many traditional rulers. These leaders are given different names by the people they lead.

Certain titles insinuate on the total leadership of the regions in which they have recourse. What is surprising is that the power in place has remained silent on the titles of some leaders who consider themselves more superior than others.

In some corners, chiefs are appointed kings, which is not permissible in a republic, but the rulers fail to correct the situation. In some cases, some chiefs were humiliated for their role during the War of Independence, while others were greased with fishing quotas.

In extreme cases, the government had gone so far as to create new politically appointed chiefs, which the colonizers could not do.

This led to the puppetry of these ruling leaders and, in the process, failed to serve their communities as intended.

The colonizers were accused of including the leaders in the political system and rewarding them accordingly, but that is exactly what the current political regime does.

2021-12-16 Prof Makala Lilemba

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