The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Vaalgras Group Blasts Leader

THE Vaalgras concerned group has distanced itself from what it called an "irresponsible move" by recognised tribal leader Joel Stephanus to resign from the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA).

The concerned group's interim leader, Andreas Biwa, said in a press statement: "On behalf of the Vaalgras community under my leadership, I wish to state that we are not part of a small group of followers of the deposed chief of Vaalgras, and distance ourselves from such irresponsible move, made without even consulting his own followers. We have been reliably informed that even some of his councillors were against the decision to resign from the Nama Traditional Leaders Association, but their opinion was ignored, hence the execution of the decision."

According to Biwa, NTLA was formed on the advice of President Hifikepunye Pohamba in April 2007 following a visit by the Nama-speaking traditional communities to discuss socio-economic issues affecting their communities.

"The Nama Traditional Leaders Association is the best platform for traditional communities represented on that forum and has the full support of the Vaalgras traditional community under my leadership," said Biwa, condemning Stephanus's move.

In his resignation letter, Stephanus cited "unforeseen circumstances" as the reason.

NTLA chairperson Chief Dawid Frederick yesterday acknowledged receiving Stephanus's resignation towards the end of last year.

However, he was tightlipped on whether the association had accepted the resignation.

"At this stage, I am not at liberty to discuss the resignation. Just give me some time, a week or so, then I can talk about it," said Frederick.

Stephanus could not reached for comment yesterday, but when contacted earlier, he said: "I will not give any reasons now, but if they [NTLA] ask me then I will."

The Namibian understands that Stephanus is angry at the NTLA over its failure to mediate in his fallout with Karas Governor Bernadus Swartbooi.

The relationship between the two hit a low after Stephanus told the Vaalgras community to boycott a meeting with the governor just a few days after Swartbooi's appointment by President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

Swartbooi had announced that he would hold meetings with all traditional communities in the Karas Region in their respective areas during a public gathering at Stephanus had attended.

However, Stephanus said Swartbooi had not consulted him before scheduling the Vaalgras meeting.

"When any office-bearer wants to convene a meeting in my jurisdiction, I expect from him or her to at least inform me. I have nothing against the governor. I am willing to arrange a meeting with my folk anytime if he wishes. I have taken this bold action to snub the meeting because I was not consulted in advance," Stephanus said at the time.

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