Battle of Zeraeua thrown out of court

The decade-long battle for the reins of the Zeraeua Traditional Community came to an end when the High Court dismissed the application of one of the factions.

Judge Hannelie Prinsloo, in a ruling handed down on Monday, said former urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga considered all the facts as well as legal opinion.

He said he made a decision in accordance with relevant customary laws.

In 2019, Mushelenga approved the application of late Chief Christian Eerike Zeraeua’s eldest son, Manasse Meundju Zeraeua, as head of the Zeraeua traditional community.

“The minister exhausted all the resources he had at his disposal. “He had multiple engagements with the disputing factions, and fully engaged them with his views on common law…the minister clearly used the institutional memory at his disposal to inform himself and consider the new information presented to him.” said Prinsloo.

He said the minister even went so far as to constitute an investigation team and a reconciliation committee. Judicial mediation was also attempted to resolve the matter.

Before dismissing the application, Prinsloo said it would be unwise to refer the matter back to the minister for reconsideration as it would “create an intolerable situation by prolonging uncertainty for this traditional community even beyond the current 12 years it has been in existence”. “It has been dragging on.”

Raphael Hijangungo Kapia, the Zeraeua traditional community chieftaincy contender, has approached the High Court seeking an order to quash Mushelenga’s decision to approve his rival, Manasse’s, application for the chieftaincy.

In his affidavit, Kapia stated that the law does not allow the minister to decide on two competing appointments, nor does the minister have the authority to appoint a mediation committee.

He further stated that there are two different clans; therefore, the dominant clan, Tjipepa/Ovakweyuva, should make the designation.

He said Mushelenga ignored the fact that the Tjipepa/Ovakweyuva clan had appointed him.

Furthermore, he never had the opportunity to provide information about the legal advice on which Mushelenga relied.

Mushelenga also failed to lead the recommendations of the mediation committee he instituted, Kapia argued.

He further accused Mushelenga of favoring Manasse’s application due to their existing friendship.

In 2014, High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele overturned the minister’s earlier decision to approve Manasse’s appointment as chief.

At the time, Ueitele found that the minister misinterpreted relevant parts of the Traditional Authorities Act when he approved a request by the Zeraeua Traditional Authority for Manasse to be appointed his father’s successor as traditional leader.

In addition, the judge said that the application for approval of Manasse’s appointment did not meet some of the requirements of the law, since, for example, it did not include some of the information required by the law.

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