Ovambanderu 1st woman Paramount

By By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
July 2011
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As you are reading this column, the Ovambanderu chieftainship, as far as the Senior Traditional Councillor, Erastus Tjiundikua Kahuure and company are concerned, may have been signed, sealed and delivered.

In Aletta Karikondua Nguvauva, the Ovambanderu now has a novus homo. Her coronation this June comes after the death of her son, Keharanjo II Nguvauva last April.

By African royal practice this may have come too soon after the internment. Even by her own admission when officially introduced to the media, the new Paramount Chief was still in mourning.
But her enthronement is telling of the stormy and turbulent times of the Ovambanderu community. This dates back to 2005 or slightly before, and more expressive from 2008 onwards with the departure of late Paramount Chief Munjuku II Nguvauva.

Munjuku II’s departure brought into the open the wrangling, wrestling, jostling, shuffling and even shoving for proximate positioning to the chieftaincy, a sublime affair between some but particularly two of the senior traditional leaders, notably Kahuure of the Otjombinde Constituency, and Gerson Katjirua of the Epukiro Constituency. Hence its culmination into the presumed and perceived subsequent chieftaincy tussle between the brothers, Killus Nguvauva and the late Keharanjo II.

Kilus Nguvauva became the designate-successor to Munjuku II in 2008, a protégé of the Katjirua and company, if not himself, and Keharanjo II as the anointed and eventually coronated Paramount Chief of the Ovambanderu from the Kahuures.

Keharanjo II’s coronation somehow received the hidden blessing of many other traditional authorities, recognised and unrecognised, Ovaherero and otherwise. Increasingly Keharanjo II was becoming a star chief in the making.

Invitations come from right, left and centre for him to grace myriad traditional occasions at which he seemed the “guest of honour’.

Any such occasion he attended, the reception was electrifying, reserved only for a little god, much to the uneasiness of the Katjirua group. So much irritating that by the de jure powers vested in him as caretaker Paramount Chief, Peter Nguvauva, decreed to stay away from any event where the Keharanjo II group was also invited to save themselves from embarrassment.

In an apparent ministerial resolution on the matter, Minister Jerry Ekandjo wrote to the respective lawyers of the two groups dated 9 December 2009, as follows:

“That Mr. Keharanjo II Nguvauva should become the successor to the late Munjuku Nguvauva II. According to the Ovambanderu customs the son who is born from the marriage (within wedlock) he is senior to those not from marriage, and according the Ovambanderu customary laws, this senior son becomes the rightful successor should a vacancy of chieftainship arise. This customary law was confirmed by elderly people and middle aged interviewees met by the investigation committee.”

Could anyone, let alone Keharanjo II’s followers, have read more or less from the Minister’s letter other than recognition for him?

Thus Keharanjo II’s untimely and unexpected departure, came as a great shock to his people. This could mean going back to the drawing board or to square one. But the road travelled so far, and money and energy invested, make going back to the drawing board too ghastly an option to contemplate. Hence the urgency of appointing a successor to toe ride on the legacy of Keharanjo II and toe line established so far.

“We wish to point out from the onset that the suitability, experience and eligibility of the two brothers and one sister of the late Paramount Chief Keharanjo II Nguvauva, who are the rightful heirs to the throne, were subjected to serious scrutiny and examination, and it was resolved that the predicament in which the Ovambanderu Traditional Community finds itself, dictates that Aletha Karikondua Nguvauva, as a matter of necessity, must ascend to the leadership of the Ovambanderu Community. This position is dictated by the desire to have continuity, unity, stability and cohesion in the current dispensation that unfortunately cannot be championed, steered and advocated by the three rightful heirs due to their immature age,” said Kahuure at the media briefing in a statement Dr Rihupisa Kandando read on his behalf.

But such this aura of urgency was already discernible at the funeral of late Keharanjo II. Ovambanderu traditional stalwart in Kunene, Senior Councilor Solom Karutaiva Hartley was of the opinion that the matter should be settled there and then, right after the funeral.

Chief Paulus Tjavara of the Otjikaoko Royal House and the Otjikaoko Traditional Authority, who presided over the installation of Keharanjo II in Gobabis in 2008 could also not have been clearer about such urgency.

“Let’s not be afraid of death but we must pray that the God of the Ovambanderu shall replace the spilt milk. The replacement milk may not be the same but it must be replaced. This should not take long because we want to see the replacement milk and if it is consumable.”

Speaking on behalf of Chief Vemuii Tjamburo had no doubt that the successor should hail from the Ovakwatjivi clan even more so because given Keharanjo II’s leadership legacy, hailing from the same clan. He was adamant that there is no way that this clan could only have produced one Keharanjo II and that there are many more. Thus this clan is the proper one to be harvest a successor from.

Incidentally, Karikondua Aletha Nguvauva is an Omukuatjivi. Not only is she such but also great grand niece of the erstwhile Ovambanderu Chief, Kahimemua Nguvauva, and thus a legitimate heir to the throne.

Not only a Nguvauva in this respect but also by virtue of having been married to Munjuku II Nguvauva. By marrying another Nguvauva, as having been applied the traditional Nguvauva ointment in this regard, she had become a Nguvauva double. Thirdly, she claims succession to the throne by virtue of her late son, Keharanjo II. Not as much as a regent to her other three surviving younger children but as a legitimate heir in her own right.

Thus she shall not be constantly looking back over her shoulder as an intruder to the throne but by matrilineal descent she is also a rightful heir as an Omukuatjivi. However, she is mindful of the legacy of a young person like Keharanjo II, and would always be willing to abdicate the throne to another young person likely to follow in the footsteps of Keharanjo II, if not by intellect by youthfulness and the inclination towards modernity and modern ideas.

Interestingly, no substantive reasons have as yet emerged against her appointment and ascendancy to the throne, especially challenging the legitimacy of her claim. Except for the fact that she is a woman and a woman Paramount Chief has been novelty among the Ovambanderu.

But the Ovambanderu constitution is not anywhere in its provision of the appointment of a woman as Paramout Chief. On the contrary it seems to anticipate such an eventuality, tacitly approving such by reference to the Paramount Chief as he/she.

But where does the appointment of Aletha Nguvauva leave the Ovambanderu? Continuity, as Kahuure pointed out, even if this means continuing the battle in defining the legitimate heir to the throne in the Namibian courts, which the late Keharanjo II seems to have bequeathed the community with his departure. PF