Deputy Chief Justice Petrus Damaseb, alongside Supreme Court Judges Dave Smuts and Rita Makarau, have reserved judgement in an appeal case involving Hendrik Ismael Witbooi, who is seeking to overturn a 2022 High Court decision that resulted in him losing his position as Kaptein of the Witbooi Traditional Authority.
The legal dispute challenging Hendrik Ismael Witbooi's appointment was initiated by his cousin, Salomon Josephat Witbooi, along with the support of four community members.
The Supreme Court appeal hearing is following a judgement delivered by High Court Judge Thomas Masuku in 2022 that nullified the former Minister of Urban and Rural Development's decision to appoint Hendrik Ismael Witbooi as the leader of the Witbooi Traditional Authority.
In his ruling, Judge Masuku overturned the former minister's designation of Hendrik Ismael Witbooi as the Kaptein of the Witbooi community, which had been made in April and May of 2019.
Furthermore, the judge also invalidated the President's recognition of Hendrik Ismael Witbooi as the traditional leader in a proclamation published in August 2019.
Salomon Josephat Witbooi, a former Namibian High Commissioner to Zambia, and Hendrick Ismael Witbooi are nephews of the late Reverend Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi.
The bone of contention for the appeal, which was raised by Salomon Josephat from the matrilineal side, applied to be designated as the next Kaptein of the Witbooi clan.
A rival application for the same position was made by Hendrik Ismael Witbooi, leading to a dispute, and to resolve this, the former Minister of Rural and Urban Development appointed an investigation committee.
After their recommendations, the Minister sought an opinion from the Attorney-General, who concluded that the Witbooi clan's customary law didn't permit a member from the maternal side to become Kaptein.
Based on this, the applicant was disqualified, and the third respondent was approved.
The President officially recognised Hendrik Ismael Witbooi's designation through a Government Gazette.
In response, the applicant filed a court review to challenge this decision and the subsequent steps taken, and the court set aside both the minister's and the president's decisions.