Over the years, when elections were pending, political leaders flocked to the halls of King Kauluma Elifas for endorsements because they recognised his influential role among his constituency. This support was not requested or given for individual candidates, but for the SWAPO Party.
Now, that same leader, whose backing has been critical for this administration and that of previous SWAPO-led governments, is in crisis. But, where are those same political leaders now, while the King is in a precarious situation and needs support from all quarters?
The print media has carried the entire saga on the front pages over the last several years when the King’s health began to deteriorate. Things reached fever pitch recently after several senior counsellors were fired and the previously named successor was refuted.
At the end of April, there was an urgent application brought to the High Court in Windhoek by the Ondonga Traditional Authority (OTA).
The petition requested unlimited access to the King in matters pertaining to the authority. They also requested that the court forbid the queen, Sesilia Ndapandula Elifas, from preventing their access to the King and from being involved in the traditional authority areas under the King.
OTA also demanded that the King be examined by two outside physicians and undergo a psychological examination to determine his physical, emotional and mental health status, and that should he be found wanting, he should be declared unfit to be King.
John Walenga, who was leading the legal challenge, told the court that the King can no longer look after himself, he was losing his memory and that he can no longer recognise familiar people. The court was asked to declare that the King no longer has the ability to grasp realities and was open to manipulation.
Judge Shafimana Ueitele, on 8 May, rendered a ruling that effectively dismissed Walenga’s application. While the reasons for his decision are still forthcoming, what is important is that the OTA had its day in court and did not prevail.
That avenue is now closed for those seeking to dethrone the King and it is time for the Geingob administration to openly sympathise with the King in his current situation and support this honourable traditional leader, who has been accused of being feeble-minded, senile, and incapable and other such wounding terminologies.
The queen has been denigrated and vilified as the manipulator-in-chief and usurper of the King’s authority. Worse, the queen has been labelled as a cattle rustler with the suspended secretary of the tradi¬tional authority, Josef Asino, reportedly accusing her of being responsible for the disappearance of livestock from the palace.
Where is the support from the Government for the royal family during this time of difficulty?
At the beginning of the independence struggle, the support of traditional chiefs and kings was critical to SWAPO’s efforts. Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, recognised the key role of traditional kings and chiefs, when he worked closely with them during the struggle for the liberation of the country.
Many traditional and local leaders, committed to the independence of their people, stood side-by-side with SWAPO and its leaders, as well as PLAN combatants that needed refuge. Without that assistance, the liberation struggle would have been more difficult and costly in terms of human lives and vital war materials.
Even now, being able to reach the remote constituencies in Namibia is often dependent on traditional leaders as an avenue of communication and information distribution.
Organising communities to vote and participate in the democratic processes of the country, means working closely with senior traditional leaders, like King Kauluma. In this regard, the King, over the years, has consistently played a positive role in support of the ruling party.
But support goes both ways. The King now needs the same assistance he usually gives to the SWAPO Party and the Government. This is an issue of integrity and respect for the legacy of an ageing leader.
Political calculations about what will or will not benefit anyone standing for election at the upcoming congress ought not to play a role in deciding to do the right thing and assist King Kauluma.