WHAT constitutes Ondonga tradition is no longer clear as two claimants battle it out for late King Immanuel Kauluma Elifas’ prestigious throne.
Late King Elifas who died 26 March was buried at Olukonda on Saturday.
Both Konisa Kalenga and his nephew Fillemon Shuumbwa Nangolo were crowned as “king of Ondonga” at separate ceremonies on Sunday. Each claims to be the rightful heir to the throne according to the Ondonga tradition.
Selma GwaNandjokwe Shejavali, a preeminent royal clan elder and spokesperson for those supporting Kalenga, was quoted as saying that Kalenga is the rightful heir because he is the late king’s nephew. This fact alone places Nangolo – who is Kalenga’s nephew – hierarchically lower than his uncle on the line of succession.
“Therefore,” Kalenga’s supporters argue, “crowning Nangolo is a contravention of Ondonga tradition.”
However, Nangolo’s supporters retort by pointing out that Nangolo was hand-picked by late King Elifas himself and “ignoring the late king’s word is itself a contravention of tradition.”
Commenting on Facebook, one of Nangolo’s supporters said: “Shejavali is telling us that Nangolo does not qualify to be crowned king because, according to a newly invented Ondonga tradition, he is hierarchically lower than his uncle Kalenga. I am saying ‘newly invented tradition’ because late king Elifas was not aware of such tradition when he designated Nangolo as his successor. Either we were led for 44 years by a king who was totally clueless about Ondonga traditions or Shejavali is inventing a new tradition.”
Vilho Kamanya, one the senior traditional councillors allegedly dismissed by late King Elifas in 2017 and who now presents himself as the acting chairperson of the Ondonga Traditional Authority, dismissed as “simplistic” the claims that a member of the royal clan cannot jump the clan’s “imaginary hierarchical queue”.
He said that age and hierarchy within the royal clan do not really matter when it comes to choosing a new king.
He mentioned as example Martin Nambala Kadhikwa who ruled Ondonga from 1912 to 1942. “He was very young when he was crowned king. Are we to conclude that there were no older members of the royal clan alive at the time, including his uncles and aunts?”
Kamanya said that in designating Nangolo as his successor, late King Elifas followed an ages-old tradition.
“King Kambonde kaNamene (1942-1960) was chosen by his predecessor, King Martin Nambala Kadhikwa (1912-1942). Likewise, kings Paulus Elifas (1967-1970), Fillemon Elifas (1970-1975) and Immanuel Elifas (1975-2019) were their respective predecessors’ deputies before they themselves were crowned as kings. This is an ages-old tradition.”
Kamanya also pointed out that members of the royal clan are human beings too and some might be overlooked when it comes to crowning a new king because of a variety of factors, including personality traits.
“It is not easy. The reigning king has to struggle very heard with the assistance of advisers and royal clan elders to identify and designate a suitable successor. That is exactly what late King Elifas did by designating Nangolo as our new king,” he said.
At this stage it is not clear what will happen next. It is expected that each faction will now try to have its king recognized and gazetted by Government, what would most likely lead to yet another round in the High Court.
A luta continua!