Topnaar divided in absence of leader

The Topnaar traditional council and community are at loggerheads over the late chief Seth Kooitjie's successor.

25 March 2019 | Government

Leandrea Louw - The Topnaar traditional council (TTC) called a community meeting to discuss the way forward after the untimely death of their chief, Seth Kooitjie.

During the meeting at Utuseb on Saturday, TTC chairperson Lena Kasper emphasised that the event serves to allow community members input on the late chief’s successor and to discuss the future of the Topnaar community.

Kasper said activities of the Topnaar Trust came to a standstill after the death of the chief, who was working on various projects, and that bills need to be paid.

Councillor Sebedeus Swartbooi told the community the TTC will only consider proposals based on the Traditional Authorities Act and the Traditional Leaders Act with regard to identifying a suitable successor.

He said Kooitjie was recognised as the Topnaar traditional council chief, along with Stoffel Anamab as the deputy chief and senior traditional councillor, in the Government Gazette published on 19 September 2014.

The senior traditional councillors recognised by the government are Willem Kooitjie, Johannes /Uirab, Lena Kasper, Ambrosius Swartbooi and Thepoldine /Huises, as well as the traditional councillors Herman //Areseb, Frederik Bernard Kooitjie, Diederich Dausab, Sebedeus Swartbooi, Melvin Engelbrecht, Juliana /Khurisas, Magdalena //Garoes, Mathilda Kooitjie and Alwina Bamm, according to the Government Gazette of 6 August 2014.

Swartbooi suggested that the next chief be chosen according to guidelines contained in the two acts.

A community member, however, countered with a recommendation that the election of the next chief be guided by Topnaar customary law.

Kasper caused a huge up stir among the community members when she pronounced that this law was not recognised.

The widow of the late chief, Diane Kooitjie, said the Topnaar community should choose their next chief, and not government. She also lashed out at the councillors, accusing them not respecting the memory of her husband.

“It’s only been a month since his death, and you decided to host a meeting? Have you no shame? He worked extremely hard for this community, neglected his own family, and this is how your repay him?”

A suggestion was made that the deputy chief should be acting until a new chief was chosen, based on Topnaar customary law.

The fact that deputy chief Anamab decided to sit with the bereaved family instead of taking his place as head at the councillors table at the beginning of the meeting also caused friction between the councillors and community members.

Many residents requested the TTC to be cognisant of customary law and be guided by it.

Swartbooi asked community members with copies of Topnaar customary law to present it to councillors for scrutiny and said a follow-up meeting will be called once this is done.

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