Chief Mbambo out to prosecute his members

By Hilary Mare, Hertta-Maria Amutenya and Michael Uugwanga

THE chief of the Hambukushu Traditional Authority, Erwin Mbambo who was in 2018 overwhelmingly rejected by his members for a wide array of mismanagement issues through a referendum has resorted to guerrilla tactics, going after every member who signed a petition to oust him.

Confidente is reliably informed that in recent weeks, chaos has erupted in Hambukushu after Mbambo, under the alleged advice of his government legal representative, Jabulani Ncube ordered all the members who had signed for his ouster to withdraw their signatures or face prosecution.

Mbambo has been chief of the Hambukushu since 1992.

“As per that advice, the chief instructed all the traditional councillors to identify those people in their respective villages to withdraw their signatures or else they will face prosecution for signing the petition. As a result of the implementation of this advice, some people have already done so and as such there is serious unrest in one of the districts, Mbukushu, since last week where some people even ran away from their homes,” a source who refused to be named exclusively told Confidente this week.

Confidente is privy to some of the threatening letters that were sent to innocent villagers as well as members of the “fact-finding and dismissal committee of Chief Mbambo” that was established in terms of Section 8 of the Traditional Authority Act to fight for Mbambo’s dismissal through the legal system.

“Good day Sir, I’m Headman Muhembo and I am inviting you to meetings which will take place here at my place dated tomorrow 8 October 2020 at 0900, to discuss the issues of the people you have listed on the petition,” read one letter sent to terrified villagers by a headman in the Mbukushu district of Rundu.

Mbambo who is clinging on to power was taken to court earlier this year by his disgruntled members who accused him of not only being a dictator but also violating customary practices through the mismanagement of funds and community resources, resisting the push for gender equality, obstructing and harassing tourist establishments by levying and soliciting irregular payments and alienating land outside his jurisdiction.

Confidente reported that Mbambo’s detractors had asked the High Court to order the government to remove the chief on the grounds that the community has rejected his leadership.

A member of the Hambukushu royal family Cassius Mukennah who is also the chairperson of the fact-finding and dismissal committee of chief Mbambo and leading the application to oust Mbambo in the High Court told Confidente this week that he had, with dismay, learnt of the prosecution and advised members to report the harassment to the police.

“The members called me and that is how I came to know about the letters being written by their headmen to call upon the people who signed the petition to withdraw their signatures or they would face prosecution. I advised them to go open a case at the Divundu police station.

“They met up with two officers who told them to go back saying they cannot handle their issue and go back to where the issue came from.  That is what is happening to our people and mind you, this is not someone far from me, he is my grandfather (Mbambo) but it’s not right. I can’t really say much about the case since it’s in court. I don’t want to be going against the higher authority,” Mukennah said.

When quizzed by Confidente why he had given such advice to the chief, Ncube who is representing Mbambo in the ongoing case strongly denied these allegations refusing to comment further as the matter is before the courts.

“I strongly deny that allegation. I did not give such advice and the case is being dealt with in court so I cannot comment on it because it will become difficult for me,” Ncube said.

Mbambo acknowledged that prosecution was on the cards adding that he was not sure yet what kind of prosecution would be applied.

“Some of the people who were registered on the petition did not sign for themselves. People who were in town signed for them on their behalf without their consent. So those are the ones we are going after because the owners of the names want to also sue them. Yes they will face prosecution but we are still finalising what kind of prosecution this will be. As soon as we know, we will let you know,” he said.

In the matter before the courts, members argued that in a referendum held between September 1 2018 and November 8 2018 in Mbukushu district they voted with an “overwhelming majority” to remove Mbambo as their chief.

Confidente understands that of the 2 931 people who voted in that referendum, only 222 voted to keep Mbambo as chief.

Then Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Peya Mushelenga, as representative of the government is cited as the first respondent for failing to remove the chief or to notify President Hage Geingob, despite numerous written demands to remove the chief in accordance with the outcome of the referendum. The applicants say he was informed of the referendum result, but apparently failed to remove Mbambo as chief or to notify Geingob of the community’s wishes.

The applicants further cite as reasons for wanting his removal that Mbambo failed to establish a community court, as envisaged in the Community Courts Act, and moreover failed to establish a chief’s council, as contemplated in Section 9 of the abovementioned Act.

The community representatives argue that it is a well-established customary practice since 1947 that the chief may be removed by a majority vote should the community vote against them in a referendum.

Mbambo previously attracted the ire of the Rundu Town Council after he allegedly sold council land to private individuals, according to sources familiar with the case.

It is further alleged in the court submissions that Mbambo on numerous occasions alienated land in Samati’s area of jurisdiction. He also obstructed economic development in his area of jurisdiction by soliciting payments from tourism establishments, they further claimed.

The applicants are represented in the High Court by Appolos Shimakeleni.