Traditional Authority

Though only a relatively new country (1990) some of the tribal structures in Namibia date back before recorded history and in some ways these are as strong now as they ever were.

Namibia, though a republic, actually has three kings – one Nama, one Herero and one Wambo.

The traditional power structures are now supported by law and each area has (in addition to the national police, a mayor/governor, councillors and members of parliament) a traditional authority.

This is a body made up of various elders of the local tribes and is responsible (in the communal lands up north at least) for numerous administrative and management functions.

If you want to sell or move livestock for example, permission must be sought from the traditional authority.

Yesterday I spent a few hours sat in the Opuwo traditional authority (updating XP to SP1a then SP3 and then installing anti-virus and a printer driver) playing with their computer.

All the time an impressive range people in various getups and some with amazing moustaches came and went, conducting a variety of business in quick-fire Otjiherero or Otjiwambo.

Didn’t have a clue what anyone was saying but a great experience nonetheless.

One of the things that apparently can happen is that when a crime has been committed (usually livestock related) if the victim and the perpetrator agree it can be resolved through traditional methods with a ruling made by a traditional leader.

This is often chosen as the victim will receive recompense (from the perpetrator’s family if not from them directly) and the perpetrator won’t face prison time (but will usually have to work off their debt or similar).

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