The Media Ombudsman is directing the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to allow followers of Aletha Karikondua Nguvauva to address her by her traditional title of Ombara Otjitambi (Paramount Chief) on the broadcaster’s platforms as accorded to her office by the by the customary laws of her community.
This ruling follows a public hearing by the Ombudsman’s Complaints Committee on 17 May this year following a complaint by Senior Chief Erastus Kahuure of the Ovambanderu Traditional Council (OTC), against the NBC, specifically its Omurari FM, which is the Otjiherero Language Service, which he lodged with the office of the Ombudsman on 9 December, 2020.
The OTC complained that the NBC management decided “to censor the use of their customary title, Ombara Otjitambi, when referring to their Paramount Chief, Mrs Aletha K. Nguvauva, on NBC Omurari Programmes.” Thus, the complained further maintained that in terms of the said decision, “presenters and hosts of the NBC’s Omurari FM programmes were allegedly ordered to edit any reference to the Ombara Otjitambi when referring to their Paramount Chief.” Further, presenters were said to have been directed to “cut any caller who refers to our Paramount Chief by her customary title from the air,” albeit the complaint. This decision apparently followed a meeting between the NBC management and the Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MITC), Dr Peya Mushelenga and an Ovambanderu delegation under their Chief, late Kilus Munjuku III Nguvauva. The OTC was never afforded a hearing on the matter.
The Ombudsman advises the NBC to use a disclaimer in it future reportage involving Aletha Nguvauva to the effect that their use of her traditional title does not necessary represents the views of the corporation. The NBC which did not attended the hearing on 17 May, cited in its written submission and response, among others to the challenge it was facing how to treat non-recognised and ungazetted traditional leaders cautious that reference to their traditional titles may interfere with those of recognised and gazetted ones as per the 2000 Traditional Authorities Act. Which itself does not prevent the use of traditional titles.
Fully upholding the complaint of the OTC, the Ombudsman noted, among others, that NBC’s Omurari FM was in breach of specifically Section 16 of the Act with respect to the use of traditional titles. Because the fundamental issue in the complaint was whether the NBC’s decision to bar members of the OTC to use their traditional title when referring to their traditional leader on the NBC mediums was justified.
The Media Complaints Committee at the public hearing on 17 May and chaired by Media Ombudsman, John Nakuta, comprised in person Gerald Johr and Nehemia Joseph representing the media and public respectively, and Emilia Paulus and Manfred Naobeb virtually representing the media and public respectively. The NBC has seven working days from the day of the ruling, which was 15 June, to lodge an appeal.