Hambukushu sue to oust ‘dictator’ chief Mbambo

By Confidente Reporter

DISGRUNTLED members of the Hambukushu Traditional Authority have turned to the courts to oust their chief, Erwin Mbambo, whom they accuse of violating customary practices through the mismanagement of funds and community resources, by resisting the push for gender equality, obstructing and harassing tourist establishments by levying and soliciting irregular payments, and by alienating land outside his jurisdiction.

In court papers filed last week, Mbambo’s detractors asked the High Court to order the government to remove the chief on the grounds that the community has rejected his leadership. They argued that in a referendum held between 1 September 2018 and 8 November 2018 in Mbukushu district near Rundu, members of the Hambukushu community voted with an “overwhelming majority” to remove Mbambo as their chief.

The Minister of Urban and Rural Development 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 President Hage Geingob of the community’s wishes to remove the chief.

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

The minister was informed of the outcome of the referendum on 12 November 2018, according to papers filed by member of the Hambukushu royal family Cassius Mukennah, chairperson of the “fact-finding and dismissal committee of chief Mbambo”, and Angelika Samati, deputy secretary of the same committee.

They said the voluntary committee was established in terms of Section 8 of the Traditional Authority Act. Hambukushu Traditional Authority is cited as second respondent, with chief Mbambo the third. Mbambo has been chief of the Hambukushu since 1992.

The applicants 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.

“He failed to uphold, promote, protect and preserve the culture, tradition and traditional values of the community,” it is further argued. The embattled chief allegedly also angered his community by failing to promote gender equality with regard to positions of leadership.

The chief consequently finds himself at the centre of a public court battle in which he is alleged to be a “dictatorial” leader who abandoned traditional and cultural norms of consultation in the management of community affairs, including the appointment of headmen and women. All the traditional authority’s “gazetted traditional councillors are male,” said Mukennah and Samati in court papers on behalf the Dismissal Committee.

They also accuse him of not handling the community’s resources in their best interest. The community representatives argue that it’s a well-established customary practice since 1947 that the chief may be removed by majority vote should the community vote against them in a referendum.

Mbambo previously attracted the ire of 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 her area of jurisdiction by soliciting payments from tourism establishments, they further claimed.

The government is represented in the High Court case by Jabulani Ncube. The applicants are represented by Appolos Shimakeleni.