Zeraeua chieftaincy battle back in court

By Tracy Tafirenyika

THE protracted Zeraeua chieftaincy battle is back in court after one of the rival groups led by Raphael Hijangungo Kapia who has been fighting for the throne since 2012 took to the High Court again challenging former urban and rural development minister Dr Peya Mushelenga on his decision regarding the rightful successor to the throne.

In his founding affidavit filed in court recently, Kapia is asking the court to review and set aside the recognition of Manasse Meundju Zeraeua –cited as third respondent- as the chief saying the whole process of his crowning was unfair and is not in compliance with the Local Authorities Act.

Kapia in his affidavit states that he is the duly designed successor and chief of the Zeraeua community in accordance with their customs, laws and traditions.

“My designation was done in compliance with section 4 of the Traditional Authority Act while Manasse’s was not. The late Chief (Christian Eerike Zeraeua) made it clear while understanding that there are different clans that the dominant clan Tjipepa/ Ovakweyuva should make the designation. The clan designated me and the urban minister ignored it, or did not appreciate it,” said Kapia.

He further noted that the urban ministry did not give him the opportunity to make an input on the legal advice the ministry relied on.

According to Kapia, the ministry is not authorised by the act to make a decision on two competing designations.

“The minister made his decision on the wrong facts, wrong legal advice as well as a misperception of the applicable customary law.

“He was not authorised to appoint the mediation committee, he ignored the recommendations of the mediation committee he appointed by not resorting to expertise on customary law in the matter. He also misread the Act and did not properly exercise the power conferred on him in section 5 of the Local Authorities Act,” said Kapia.

Kapia went on to accuse the urban minister of being biased and being friends to Manasse.

“The minister’s decision should be set aside with costs. The conduct of this matter by the ministry as well as his predecessor had been appalling. It should be clear from the facts before this court that my designation complies with the late Chief’s directive and the applicable customary law.

“As a result l request that this Court is not inclined to do so, l apply that the issue of the applicable customary law and validity of my designation by the Tjipepa/ Ovakweyuva vomuzi clan be referred to evidence. In the alternative, l ask that the Court directs the ministry to initiate an effective dispute resolution process in terms of the Act.” 

Following lengthy and tedious negotiations last year in August, the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development approved an application by the traditional authority to have Manasse Zeraeua to be recognised as the chief.  He was sworn in and crowned in the presence of over 700 community members.

This is not the first time Kapia has taken the matter to court as in 2014; he successfully had the court set aside a decision by the same ministry to recognise the same person, Zeraeua as the successor to the throne.