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Minister wins appeal over Shambyu leadership

The minister of urban and rural development and the Shambyu Traditional Authority have won an appeal against a High Court judgement in which the official recognition of a traditional leader for the Shambyu community in Kavango East was set aside nearly two years ago.

The then minister of urban and rural development, Peya Mushelenga, acted correctly when he refused to approve the designation of one of the candidates for the Shambyu leadership, Maria Haindaka, as traditional leader of her community, chief justice Peter Shivute found in an appeal judgement delivered in the Supreme Court on Friday.

Shivute also said Haindaka’s application to set aside the minister’s November 2019 decision to approve the application of leadership rival Sofia Mundjembwe Kanyetu to be designated as chief of the Shambyu Traditional Authority should have been dismissed by the High Court.

Shivute, deputy chief justice Petrus Damaseb and acting appeal judge Theo Frank upheld an appeal by the minister, the president, the Shambyu Traditional Authority, the Council of Traditional Authorities and the chief’s council of the Shambyu Traditional Authority against the High Court’s decision, which was delivered in September 2021.

In its judgement, the High Court set aside Mushelenga’s decision in November 2019 to approve Mundjembwe’s application to be designated as chief of the Shambyu Traditional Authority.

The court also set aside a decision of the Shambyu Chief’s Council’s to not sign an application by Haindaka to be designated as traditional leader, and referred the matter back to the minister, to decide how to resolve the leadership dispute that has been dividing the Shambyu community since the death of chief Angelina Matumbo Ribebe in June 2015.

Following Ribebe’s death, the Mukwahepo clan of the Shambyu community’s Vakwankora royal family nominated Haindaka to succeed Ribebe. The royal family’s Mwengere clan, from which all of the Shambyu chiefs since the 1940s have come, nominated Mundjembwe to become the community’s next traditional leader.

Mushelenga previously, in June 2018, decided that an election should be held to choose Ribebe’s successor as traditional leader. The election among members of the Shambyu community above the age of 18 was scheduled to take place in August 2018, but Haindaka went to court and obtained an interdict stopping the poll.

After receiving a complete application only for the designation of Mundjembwe as Shambyu chief, and with her nomination supported by the chief’s council of the Shambyu Traditional Authority, Mushelenga in November 2019 approved Mundjembwe’s application to be designated as Shambyu chief.

Haindaka again went to court with an urgent application, and in November 2019 obtained a temporary interdict stopping the designation of Mundjembwe as chief.

In the Supreme Court’s judgement, Shivute said in terms of the Traditional Authorities Act the chief’s council was required to designate one person – and not two – from the royal family, and that person would then be instituted as chief of the traditional community.

The designation of Mundjembwe as traditional leader was done in accordance with the customary law of the Shambyu community and the Traditional Authorities Act, and Mushelenga acted correctly when he refused to approve Haindaka’s designation, which did not meet the requirements of the act, Shivute said.

Sakeus Akweenda and deputy government attorney Jabulani Ncube represented the minister, Shambyu Traditional Authority and other appellants in the appeal, which was heard in the Supreme Court in April.

Haindaka was represented by Tuhafeni Muhongo and Appolos Shimakeleni, while Eino Nangolo represented Mundjembwe.