VAALGRAS: The Nama-speaking Herero community at Vaalgras, known as the Oorlam, have elected Revered Andreas Biwa as their new chief.
Biwa was elected chief after the other two candidates for the position – Imgardt Eises and Lukas Apollus – withdrew from the election, reportedly out of fear of competition.
He replaces Joel Stephanus, who was accused of bad governance and maladministration by a ‘concerned group’.
During the Vaalgras Traditional Authority by-election held at the village on Saturday, Willem Apollus was also elected as chief or senior councillor. Still to be elected are 11 ordinary council members.
Members of the group started opposing Stephanus because of several allegations, one of which was the chief’s decision in 2009 to appoint traditional councillors. Some community members were not happy with the choice of councillors.
An attempt by Stephanus, who has been in leadership since 1975, to stop the group from proceeding with Saturday’s election failed in May this year when he applied to the Windhoek High Court for a court order to, amongst other things, stop the group from meddling in the leadership affairs of the Vaalgras community.
The court ruled that there is no evidence that Stephanus is being deprived of his chieftainship. The Traditional Authorities Act provides for the removal of a chief or head of a traditional community where sufficient reason such as maladministration exists.
Speaking on Saturday, Biwa promised to “do things right” for the community, and most importantly for the young generation.
“We hear what other traditional authorities do with their money, but we do not know what is happening to our money,” he said. Although he referred to Stephanus as a “brother” to him, he accused his authority of “only feeding people close to Stephanus” and ignoring the rest.
“From today on, the first thing is respect for all. Let’s work together as one,” Biwa stated.
The Vaalgras election sub-committee will submit the names of the elected individuals to Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Jerry Ekandjo early next week.
Ekandjo will then have to give the go-ahead for the gazetting of their names before the official coronation can take place.
This means that for now, Stephanus remains the legitimate leader of the Oorlam community.
Vaalgras is situated about 60 kilometres north-east of Keetmanshoop, in the Karas Region.