THE Khwe people living in the Bwabwata National Park say their development as an ethnic group is being hampered because they do not have a chief of their own.
The Bwabwata National Park is about 300 kilometres from Katima Mulilo. About 7 000 Khwe people are believed to live in the Omega 1 and Omega 3 villages. They fall under the Hambukushu Traditional Authority in the Kavango East region.
A representative of the Khwe youth, Kainda Botha, recently said they have grown into adults and have seen their elders fighting to get recognition for their own traditional authority, all their lives.
“It has been 30 years since the independence of Namibia, and many of our elders died without benefiting, because the government is refusing to recognise our chieftaincy. Our ancestral land has been turned into a national park limiting our development opportunities,” he said.
Botha said freedom and democracy for every individual tribe or ethnic group are enshrined in the Constitution. Groups have rights to their own chief to control, protect, monitor and preserve their culture, humanity and dignity, he said.
However, for the Khwe tribe, it seems these freedoms and democracy do not apply, he added.
“We are instead ruled by another tribe and yet we are the Khwe people. We are our own people and we know our needs. Currently we don’t have proper houses, but no one cares. Our children are forced to learn a language that is not their mother tongue,” he stressed.
According to Botha, they only access essential services if they travel long distances, saying they are left out of the inclusivity the government always talks about.
“There are no job opportunities for the local people because nothing is happening in the area. We only hear of projects that the government is running to assist the youth with employment from other tribes. It reaches their traditional leaders first and because we are ruled by other ethnic group leaders, they decide who should benefit, and its usually their own people,” he said.
Botha said since independence they have been good citizens and taken part in every election, and this seems to be the only right they are allowed.
“We have been voting but we are still oppressed in our country. It seems we are still living in the colonial era. Our natural resources and properties are controlled by other ethnic leaders. We have no area of jurisdiction ,” he complained.
Another Khwe youth, Joseph Nyakie, said it was time the government heard their plight and recognised their chief to create a better future for their children and their children.
“We need a place to call home, a place where our children can grow up knowing their culture and not being forced to take on other people’s cultures. We are Khwe and need recognition as such and that can only happen through getting our own chief,” he stressed.
Efforts to get a comment from the minister of urban and rural development, Erastus Uutoni, were unsuccessful as he did not respond to questions sent to him.
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