Namibian fathers who fail to pay maintenance for their children could soon have their photos published in the media.
The Namibian reports that the country’s justice minister Albert Kawana announced the decision as a “desperate and last resort” to shame “dodgy” fathers into meeting their parental responsibilities.
There are plans to begin publishing the photos in the next three months, but the rules for implementation are still to be finalised and maintenance officers will have to obtain a court order before photos of the men can be published.
“Everyone should know who that person is. It is also undermining the efforts by the government to alleviate poverty and it puts the responsibility on the state when fathers don’t play their role,” Kawana told The Namibian.
Wife-swapping among Namibia’s nomadic tribes has been practised for generations but a legislator’s call to enshrine it in law has stirred debate about women’s rights and tradition in modern society.
The practice is more of a gentlemen’s agreement where friends can have sex with each others’ wives with no strings attached.
Swinging with an African tribal touch? Or “rape”, as some critics see it.
The wives have little say in the matter, according to those who denounce the custom as both abusive and risky in a country with one of the world’s highest HIV and Aids rates.
But the Ovahimba and Ovazemba tribes, based mainly in this southern African country’s arid north, contend their age-old custom strengthens friendships and prevents promiscuity.
“It’s a culture that gives us unity and friendship,” said Kazeongere Tjeundo, a lawmaker and deputy president of the opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia.
“It’s up to you to choose (among) your mates who you like the most … to allow him to sleep with your wife,” said Tjeundo, a member of the Ovahimba ethnic group.
Concerned that HIV and Aids could be used as an excuse to stop the ancient tradition, he and others are suggesting regulations be adopted to ensure “good practice”.
Tjeundo said he plans to propose a wife-swapping law, following a November legislative poll when he is tipped for re-election.
Known as “okujepisa omukazendu” – which loosely means “offering a wife to a guest” – the practice is little known outside these reclusive communities, whose population is estimated at 86 000.
Mainly found in the northwestern Kunene region near the Angolan border, the tribes are largely isolated from the rest of the country. They have resisted the trappings of modern life, keep livestock, live off the land and practice ancestral worship.
Many still reside in pole-and-mud huts and both men and women go bare-chested.
The women wear short skirts of goat skin, carved iron and cowshell jewellery and cover their braided locks in thick red ochre paste, which they also rub on their skin as a sun screen.
Unlike any modern-day swinging, tribal members make no random draw to pair couples. They meet in their own homes, while the husband or wife of the other party is banished to a separate hut during the exchange.
‘Not benefiting women’ Women cannot object to sleeping with a man chosen by their husbands, a point that angers rights activists like Rosa Namises who says the custom is tantamount to rape and “rape is illegal”.
“That practice is not benefiting women but men who want to control their partners,” said Namises, a former lawmaker who heads a non-governmental organisation called Woman Solidarity Namibia.
Other groups like Namibia’s Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a public interest law firm that vows to protect the rights of all Namibians, have challenged its continued existence in a country where 18.2% of the 2.1-million residents have HIV, according to national statistics.
“It’s a practice that puts women at health risk,” said Amon Ngavetene, who is in charge of LAC’s Aids project. He contends that most women are opposed to the practice and would want it abolished.
But 40-year-old Kambapira Mutumbo is completely comfortable with the custom and has been asked to sleep with her husband’s friends.
“I did it this year,” she said, and “I have no problem with the arrangement.”
“It’s good because its part of our culture, why should we change it?” she added.
Cloudina Venaani, programme analyst with the United Nations Development Programme office in Namibia, is adamant that women only tolerate it because they are afraid of defying their husbands.
Traditionalists, however, insist the custom does not violate the rights of women, noting that women are also free to choose partners for their husbands – even if this rarely happens in practice.
Like opposition lawmaker Tjeundohe, Uziruapi Tjavara, chief of the Otjikaoko Traditional Authority in the Kunene region, wants the custom to continue but paired with education on HIV.
Details, however, are still vague.
“We just need to research more on how the practice can be regulated,” said Tjeundohe.
Winding through the parched Namibian farmland, Bonzo, an Anatolian shepherd dog, has a singular focus: protecting his herd of goats from lurking predators.
He pads along, sniffing the air and marking the scrubby landscape, just like a bodyguard ready to ward off any threat to his charges, which he considers family.
“They’re not pets. They’re not allowed to be pets,” said Bonzo’s owner farmer Retha Joubert.
The breed descends from ancient livestock dogs used thousands of years ago in what is now central Turkey. And they not only save sheep and goats, but have handed a lifeline to Namibia’s decimated cheetah numbers by reducing conflicts between farmers and predators.
“The dogs are protecting the flock in such a way that the farmers don’t have to kill predators,” said Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) which breeds the dogs near the northern city of Otjiwarongo.
“It’s a non-lethal predator control method so it is green, it’s happy, it’s win-win.”
The concept is simple.
The dogs are placed with a flock when a few weeks old to bond with the livestock. They live permanently with the animals, loyally heading out with them every day to deter hunters, and bedding down with them at night.
Marker’s centre started breeding the livestock dogs to promote cheetah-friendly farming after some 10 000 big cats – the current total worldwide population – were killed or moved off farms in the 1980s.
Up to 1000 cheetahs were being killed a year, mostly by farmers who saw them as livestock killers.
But the use of dogs has slashed losses for sheep and goat farmers and led to less retaliation against the vulnerable cheetah.
‘Fight to the finish’ “We see about 80% to 100% decrease of livestock loss from any predator when the farmers have the dogs,” said Marker.
In the last 19 years, around 450 dogs have been placed with farmers and more than 3 000 farmers trained.
There is now a two-year waiting list for the dogs – either stately Anatolian shepherds or Kangals – and the programme has expanded to other countries with predators.
For Joubert, staying up late at night worrying about her sheep and goats coming home is a thing of the past.
Her farm near Gobabis, east of the capital Windhoek, lost 60 animals in 2008.
But the arrival of Bonzo, her first Anatolian, as a puppy five years ago has slashed losses to just one animal last year.
Joubert is now training four-month-old Kangal !Nussie – whose name starts with the exclamation point typical of Namibia’s Nama people – to follow in Bonzo’s footsteps.
The fluffy-coated pup is learning the ropes by going out with a flock every day on a leash with a human herder and beds down in the animal enclosure at night. She gets half an hour in the evening to play in the yard.
“She must associate herself with the goats, she must be a goat, she’s part of a group, that’s the main thing I think to make them to protect the animals,” said Joubert, who is deeply proud of her dogs.
The dogs’ presence and intimidating bark is usually enough to deter predators, who would rather opt for prey that does not have a guardian.
But they will attack if a hunter does not back off.
Bonzo for example, has killed jackals, who attack in packs and a young, weak cheetah.
“If indeed they do come in, the dog could and would fight to the finish,” said Marker.
Altercations between the dogs and cheetahs, though, are rare and those who target livestock are usually desperate, such as being wounded.
But working in Namibia’s tough landscape takes it toll.
Bonzo has been bitten by snakes, stung by a scorpion, attacked by baboons and now has tongue cancer from exposure to the relentless sun.
Ironically, despite cheetahs being seen as livestock killers, analysis of their droppings has shown only 5% had preyed on farm animals.
“They do occasionally take livestock,” said Gail Potgieter, a human-wildlife conflict specialist at the Namibia Nature Foundation.
“But the perception that any cheetah is going to start killing livestock as its main diet is very wrong.”
Cheetah numbers hit a low of 2500 in 1986. But the population has now potentially reached nearly 4000 – the biggest wild cheetah population in the world.
Cheetahs still face threats on game ranches, where they eat valuable animals, and on cattle farms where the dogs are not suited.
But for small stock farmers, they have proven their worth.
“For the type of livestock farming that’s going on in Namibia, it’s definitely one of the most promising solutions that they have,” said Potgieter, who used to manage the CCF’s dog programme.
Namibian artist Elemotho G.R Mosimane is the first musician from his home country to win the 2012 RFI-France 24 Discoveries Awards, among a list of more than 500 African, Indian and Pacific artists.
As part of the singer and songwriter’s prize, he received a promotional tour around Africa to 25 countries and an exclusive concert in Paris. Later this year he’ll be touring India, Malaysia and Nepal in a bid to raise his music profile.
The artist, who grew up in the Kalahari, plays acoustic guitar and blends the sounds and rhythms of his home country with folk influences. He sings in his mother tongue Setswana, English and other Namibian languages.
The RFI-France 24 Discoveries Awards is a contest open to singers in Africa and the Indian Ocean islands since 1981. The awards have helped launch the international careers of many artists, among them Ivorian reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly, Malian music duo Amadou & Mariam and artist Rokia Traoré, also from Mali.
Since scooping the award in October last year, Elemotho signed a worldwide distribution deal with UK-based record label ARC Music and has just released his third album, Ke Nako (It’s time).
He doesn’t classify his music under a specific style. “I see myself as a performing artist and musical activist; I like to throw reality around, thus exploring the depth of the human spirit.”
From rural boy to modern lyricist, Elemotho stands out from the usual commercial and easily consumable sounds by using experimental ideas and delivering his own vision of music.
Rhodé Marshall caught up with him for an interview ahead of his South African tour this week.
How did your love affair with music begin?
I have always had music and storytelling around me growing up as a farm boy around the fire with my grandmother. It was not until University while studying African philosophy and psychology that the music bug bit me.
You compose, record and play your own music. That’s quite a feat.
For me, music is a spiritual thing. Sometimes the songs come to you, sometimes you have to look for them. Recording music is like a pregnancy. I don’t do too many records, because it takes time to live the stories, and even more time to tell them. The acoustic guitar just does it for me. I cannot truly explain the many hats I wear, I guess in the end every artist is after something.
Describe your music.
I do not like to describe the music I do, but if I have to I would say it’s Afro-fusion. The new sound of the Kalahari, melodies of meditation with messages for our modern times.
What are your thoughts on the Namibian music industry?
Namibia has a small population and an emerging arts scene. There is much potential for us. Many people do not know Namibia, let alone the music. But I believe it’s bound to change.
What genre of music is currently trending in Namibia?
There is an emerging Namibian folk trend with a number of female singers/guitarists, something to look forward to.
Which other Namibian artists should we be looking out for?
There are a number of them – Ras Sheehama, Erna Chimu, Ngatu and Big Ben to mention a few. I recommend a CD called A handful of Namibians that’s a compilation of different Namibian musicians and genres.
What is different about your latest album compared to your previous two?
With Ke Nako it’s the first time I worked with a producer, Christian Polloni. He brought out the best in me. It’s a very timely album, and I feel that being a father and a family man does a lot for me in terms of perspective and approach.
You’ve been touring Africa for the past three months. What are the most interesting things you’ve encountered in the countries you’ve visited?
First and foremost I would like to say that Africa is a very diverse continent. Each country and region is producing an amazing patchwork of music, foods, history and more. Dakar, Senegal is quite something – an amazing city that rarely sleeps, a constant flow of culture, local and international. I found St. Louis to be magical – the river and sea, the new and old town, Wolof, Arab and French-fused fashions. Cotonou, the capital of Benin, is a port side city with thousands of motorbike taxis and amazing people. It’s the land of Angelique Kidjo and the land of voodoo!
June 6 2013, 5:30pm
The Grove esplanade
June 9 2013, 2pm
Rhodé Marshall is the Mail & Guardian Online’s project manager and unofficial entertainment reporter. She started as a radio reporter and producer in Cape Town, before jumping into online news. With one hand glued to her phone and the other to a can of Coca-Cola, she is a pop culture junkie. Connect with her on Twitter.
The filming of the latest Mad Max action feature in the world’s oldest desert has caused a major outcry, with environmentalists accusing filmmakers of damaging Namibia’s sensitive ecosystem.
The Namibian government was delighted when the director George Miller chose to shoot his post-apocalyptic sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Charlize Theron, in its country, bringing in 370-million Namibian dollars (£27m) to the economy, employing about 900 local staff, and paying 150-million Namibian dollars in taxes.
The film, the fourth Mad Max feature, was shot in the Dorob national park, in the Namib desert, along southern Africa’s Atlantic coast. Scientists estimate the area to be between 50-million and 80-million years old.
A leaked environmental report claims film crew damaged sensitive areas meant to be protected, endangering reptiles and rare cacti.
The independent researcher appointed to write the report, the ecological scientist Joh Henschel, says public consultation prior to filming was insufficient.
“It all happened without an environmental impact assessment,” he said, “so it’s difficult to assess the extent of the impact without a baseline.”
Henschel said the decision to grant permission to film was made before the country’s newest enviromental legislation was promulgated. This, he says, would have prohibited it.
He said the film crews had driven over untouched areas of the desert, and then tried to erase their tracks by sweeping the area smooth.
“They are doing the best of what they can do under the circumstances, but they can’t undo the damage done, to the environment and their reputation,” he said.
Henschel said the film studio had hired a scientific team of its own to deal with the situation.
The government-run Namibia Film Commission is concerned the negative publicity will damage its lucrative film industry.
Florence Haifene, the commission’s executive secretary, said all the environmental requirements had been met. “We don’t want a bad image painted of our country, especially when the allegations are unverified and untrue,” she said.
In response to reports about the alleged damage, the commission placed a full-page advertisement in a state-owned newspaper denying the claims.
The coastal watchdog Nacoma (the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project) said the leaked report had been commissioned by the government in response to complaints during filming, but that it was just a draft that still needed to be finalised.
“[The leak] has been a bit of an embarrassment. It’s difficult and premature to make judgments,” said the co-ordinator Rob Brady. “It’s still being reviewed by other scientists.”
Brady said other films had been filmed in the same area before it was designated a national park. “But unfortunately,” he added, “this is a type of film that is quite destructive, racing vehicles and such over different sites.”