Mupini youth refuse to pay ‘witchcraft’ slur fines

05 August 2020 | Local News

Kenya Kambowe



MUPINI

Eleven youth, who in June were fined two cows or N$4 000 each by the Mbunza Traditional Authority (MTA) after being found guilty of making derogatory comments on WhatsApp, including accusations that a local headwoman practices witchcraft, have refused to pay their fines.

The youth from Mupini village in Kavango West were initially tried at village headwoman Frieda Neromba’s home in June, but were summoned to appear before the community court on Monday for failing to pay their fines and for speaking to the media.

However, they refused after learning they would be tried separately. They are also adamant that their initial trial was unfair.

They also demanded to know why four members of the group who were initially fined had not been summoned to appear before the community court, while three others were added.

Start afresh

When Namibian Sun arrived at the community court on Monday morning, the group, with a number of supporters, were leaving the MTA tribunal building.

The group is demanding that the entire process be started afresh, saying they were fined despite due processes not being followed.

They also said that they were not given an opportunity to defend themselves.

Witchcraft accusation

The debacle began when Neromba bore the brunt of comments on a youth development WhatsApp group called Mupini Village Matters, which has 123 members.

One of the youth accused Neromba of practicing witchcraft. “Today the headwoman will hear my anger through my mouth. If there is witchcraft, I can be witched,” one of the youth wrote.

The fines were initially expected to be paid on 29 June, however, MTA chief, Alfons Kaundu, at the time said customary law stipulates that a fine should be paid within 14 days, which can be extended after negotiations.

With the 14 days having lapsed three weeks ago, the group on Monday told Namibian Sun they have not paid a cent as they maintain their innocence.

“We have not paid anything to the traditional authority because the process which was used to fine us was unfair. We were not given a chance to defend ourselves, therefore we shall not pay anything before our side of the story is heard,” the group said.

‘We want a fair trial’

They added that the matter should not be heard at community court while it had not been properly discussed at village level.

“We want it to restart and to discuss it properly at village level, where the headwoman will present her case and we respond with our case. What happened in June was that she was part of the adjudication, while claiming to be a victim, and we were not accorded an opportunity to defend ourselves.

“All we want is to be tried fairly without intimidation,” they said.

It was resolved that the matter be taken to the Rundu Magistrate’s Court.

Governor’s involvement

Namibian Sun has learnt that the issue stems from frustration among Mupini youth, who are against sand mining activities taking place at the village. Kavango East governor Bonifatius Wakudumo is currently conducting sand mining in the floodplains near the Okavango River.

However, in an interview Wakudumo said he is no longer directly involved in the sand mining. After assuming public office, his son Bernhard took over the business, he said.

Wakudumo claimed the youth group became frustrated after demanding that they be the direct recipients of the payments, instead of the traditional authority.

“They were getting in the way of the business which my son is currently running. I only got involved when I was at Mupini, the village where my wife is from, and we were collecting sand because we were busy building there. I told them they should seek answers from the headwoman,” Wakudumo said recently.

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