• State dependence lamented
• Calls for a Ministry of Traditional Affairs
• Proliferation of traditional authorities a concern
• Revenue generation mulled
The Council of Traditional Leaders this week blasted traditional authorities for developing a dependency syndrome whereby they expect Government to take care of all their needs instead of coming up with ways to generate their own income.
In a no-holds-barred interview with this publication this week, the deputy chairperson of the Council Immanuel Gaseb spoke of power fights among traditional authorities and the need for a ministry specifically dedicated to traditional affairs-similar to the Ministry of Public Enterprises.
Gaseb said he is disturbed by the proliferation of traditional authorities in the country, saying the situation has prompted endless bickering which often ends in courts.
Government currently provides a N$1000 monthly fuel allowance to all recognized traditional authorities. Traditional leaders receive a monthly allowance of N$1800 while the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the council receive N$2500 and N$2300 respectively. “Since we receive those allowances, it is now up to us as traditional authorities to come up with budgets and initiatives to generate money. What kind of a traditional authority does not have a budget and a bank account? Such traditional authorities only want to rely on government. Some of them are even crooks, they park the cars and do something else with the money and then start crying that the fuel money is not sufficient,” he charged.
Gaseb echoed the sentiments of government.
“The money is just an allowance to help us do our work, it is not a salary. Therefore it can cease anytime and no one will have the grounds to complain.” Gaseb believes a dedicated ministry to handle the affairs of the council will help government to better account how chiefs spend the money given to them“ In Zambia and South Africa the traditional authorities have their own ministry, but here we depend on another ministry’s budget. It is not an easy arrangement because we cannot control our affairs, he said.
For now however, Gaseb urged traditional authorities to work on generating revenue to sustain themselves.
“Traditional authorities charge N$25 for land registration in communal areas, applicants then pay N$50 to receive the registration certificates. This is the money that traditional authorities must use to fund their operations and they must manage the funds well,” he said. According to Gaseb some chiefs even insist on driving the vehicles themselves despite not possessing a drivers licence.
“All of us received the cars on the same day in 2009 but today, some of those cars do not even move, they are skoroskoro’s now despite Government proving fuel and maintenance services for the cars. Our people must learn to take care of the state properties,” Gaseb said in response to calls for Government to buy new vehicles to for traditional authorities.
“Some of the chiefs never drove cars but when they got these cars from government they want to drive themselves,” he said.
Gaseb also alleged sabotage from some of the traditional authority that are aligned to opposition parties.
“People think government does not look after traditional authorities but it is not true. Of course the allowance we receive is not much, but we must meet government halfway by coming up with projects and approach the corporate world for support,” he said.
“All of us not from the same political backgrounds, some traditional authorities constantly challenge government just to make things difficult. They always question government affairs, calling for allowance increments while some even claim government is not supporting traditional authorities,” he said. Gaseb, who is also the chief of the !Oe#gan traditional community, noted that the endless disputes among traditional authorities contributes to calls for traditional authorities to be abolished completely. “We know of such talks, but we must remember that without traditional authorities we lose our culture,” he warned. Gaseb further dispelled calls from some council members to remove Council chairperson Kind Elifas Kauluma due to his inactiveness in Council affairs and his ailing health. “Some are saying he must be removed because he is not active….they must be crazy!” Gaseb added: “He[Kauluma]is the chair for life and he will lead this Council until his last day. In fact we have proposed for a chamber in our headquarters to host council meetings, the chamber will be named after King Kauluma.”
Gaseb also spoke about foreigners owning vast tracts of land in the country. “Of course this is not happening I communal areas but rather in commercial areas. Communal areas are reserved for our people. But overall, we do not agree with foreigners owning land in Namibia because many of our own people do not own land,” he said.
Gaseb said it is his hope that the Land Conference scheduled to take place before the end of 2016- as per the targets of the Harambee Prosperity Plan- will discuss land ownership. Traditional authorities have receive some flak in recent years, just last year President Hage Geingob lashed some of them saying some want to be chiefs merely to get state benefits, adding that chiefs want “to be taken care of by the state instead of their subjects as it was the case in the past”.
“Chiefs are there to maintain our culture, not to make money. This thing of saying someone is from the royal family is also against our constitution because this country is a republic, not a kingdom,” he said at the time. He also questioned whether the sudden urge of people wanting to be recognized by government as chiefs is not merely a money-making ploy. “People have lost respect for chiefs because chiefs want to be taken care of by the state. In the past chiefs were maintained by their subjects but today you [chiefs] want the state to take care of you.”