VaShambyu reject court order over chieftainship

The Shambyu chieftainship succession battle continues despite a recent court order.

28 September 2021 | Cultural



Supporters of Sofia Mundjembe Kanyetu as traditional chief of the Shambyu Traditional Authority have rejected a recent High Court ruling in the matter.

Kanyetu’s supporters on Friday held a peaceful demonstration at Rundu.

On 9 September, the High Court set aside a 2019 decision by former urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga to recognise Kanyetu as chief of the Shambyu Traditional Authority.

The judgment by Judge Thomas Masuku followed an application by Maria Ukamba Haindaka, who also had her sights on the Shambyu chieftainship.

On Friday, Kanyetu’s supporters marched to Kavango East governor Bonifatius Wakudumo’s office to hand over a petition calling upon urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni and President Hage Geingob to intervene.

The protesters argue that it was the wish of the late chief Angelina Matumbo Ribebe, who died on 14 June 2015, to be succeeded by Kanyetu.

“The so-called Mukwahepo royal family members, being people who don’t know or understand the customary law of Shambyu Traditional Community, irresponsibly, intentionally and ignorantly decided to dispute the verbal will made by our late chief. This is a taboo or mupya ndi kuyita mahudi in our community,” the petition reads.

They further argued that the decision by the High Court does not only violate their customary law but allegedly also violates Section 4 and 5 of the Traditional Authorities Act.

The Shambyu royal houses have been at loggerheads over who will succeed Ribebe.

According to the Shambyu customary law on succession, the chieftaincy follows the matrilineal lineage. The Mukwahepo and Mwengere clans are both matrilineal.

After Ribebe’s death, the Mwengere clan nominated Kanyetu as chief, while the Mukwahepo nominated Maria Kanyanda, who died in 2017.

Subsequently, the Mukwahepo clan nominated Haindaka to replace the late Kanyanda.


Kanyetu and Haindaka had to apply to the urban and rural development ministry, which will make a determination and eventually designate a chief for the tribe.

As part of the application, applicants are required to secure the signature of the tribe’s chiefs’ council.

The Shambyu chiefs’ council opted to sign only Kanyetu’s application and not Haindaka’s.

On 21 February 2017, Haindaka forwarded her application to the ministry without the required signature.

On 31 October 2019, Mushelenga wrote to Haindaka regarding the application, and she was given until 10 November 2019 to secure the outstanding signature.

The council again refused to sign the application, which led to Mushelenga on 12 November 2019 designating Kanyetu as the chief of the tribe.

It was on that basis Haindaka approached the court to review and set aside Mushelenga’s decision as well as the decision by the council not to sign her application.

Mushelenga, President Hage Geingob, the Shambyu Traditional Authority, Kanyetu, the Council of Traditional Leaders and the chiefs’ council were respondents in the matter.

Assist her

The court ordered that Mushelenga’s decision be set aside, and ruled that his 31 October 2019 decision to ask Haindaka to rectify her application stands.

The chiefs’ council has been compelled to assist Haindaka and sign her application within 15 days.

The court also ruled that the urban and rural development minister should consider the Traditional Authorities Act, resolve the dispute between the two clans and further exercise his powers to designate a chief.

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