On May 10th the headman of Mayana, Berthold, announced a meeting for the following day for the whole village to join. He wanted to discuss certain issues within the village. I was very excited and grateful that I could join the community’s meeting.
I had met Berthold on my first day in Mayana. He is about 75 years old, pretty skinny, wears glasses and of course a suit and leather shoes at all times. He was telling me that these days he has to go to the clinic a lot to get regular checkups because his health is not in a good condition – but luckily on his last visit no malaria was diagnosed. Joseph also explained to me, that nowadays he needs a lot of help with organizing the meetings, solving issues between families or checking around the village since he is not able to walk long distances anymore.
The meeting was held just outside of Berthold’s house under a big tree. It was supposed to start at 8:00am but got moved to 9:00am on short notice and actually started at 9:30am. Joseph told me that it will probably be a quick meeting – it ended up lasting for 3 hours. The first thing I noticed was, that women sad on one side, men on the other. The headman and his acquaintances were sitting centered on chairs next to them older men. Then there were two benches, one for the women and one for the men. As soon as new, but older men showed up, a younger one had to give his space up and sit on the floor. The women didn’t make space for the elder – it was more a matter of “you snooze you lose”. But some apparently were aware of that matter and brought chairs along. There was a coming and going during the whole meeting, but hardly any whispering or talking.
Of course the meeting was started off with a prayer, followed by Berthold welcoming everyone – especially me – and thanking everyone for coming. I was lucky that Klaus and Daniel were there to translate everything for me since the meeting was held in Rukangali.
The first matter to be discussed was the inauguration of the new queen Sophia. Sophia had been announced by the deceased queen last year but apparently some people are not happy with that and claim a different lady as the queen. Sophia has also been recognized as the official queen by the government, but still there is a fight about it going on. Soon there will be people from the government coming to Mayana to interview people on the matter and question them about the issue and who should be the queen. Berthold emphasized that to the community of Mayana Sophia is the righteous queen. This whole matter was explained by Berthold, summed up by his junior headman and repeated by the secretary to the community and still there were questions about the issue.
After all repeatedly questions had been answered and the community had agreed on Sophia being actually the righteous queen, they moved on to the next topic: the Mayana Community Water Project. A charity organization had drilled a borehole at the primary school so the children could get water during school. The project had then been expanded to the whole community and now there are 17 water tabs available in the community. To pump the water from the ground electricity is needed which is at the moment only available at the school and only paid by the school. Since everyone in the village is using the water tabs Berthold wanted to discuss how the community can contribute their share. After it had been settled that the water is of good condition and free of bacteria – thanks to my tests and if the “sirumbu” says it, it must be true – the community discussed the price per household per month to pay for the water usage. This discussion was more or less led by the women since they are profiting the most from the water pipes and don’t have to go down to the river this often anymore to fetch water. People were saying any price from N$ 10 to N$ 50 per month. I thought this could go on for a while and it did…I thought it was pretty funny that they discussed how much each household could afford and didn’t consider how many people were in one household or how high their water usage is. The discussion lasted for about one hour when Berthold decided that every household which uses the water should pay N$ 50 per month. This was again repeated by at least 4 other men who announced it like it was their own idea. Things they didn’t agree on or discussed were, when the first payment was due, who would be in charge of collecting the money or how they control that only people who actually paid could use the water.
The last matter to be discussed was a fence. Apparently someone inherited some land in Mayana and had now put up a fence around it. This bothered people because their walkways were cut off or their cattle couldn’t graze there anymore. The issue was explained to Berthold and he promised to invite the man over to discuss this problem with him. People wanted to tear the fence down right away though. Berthold also appointed someone to check the sight and the fence out for him. He will report back about the fence at the next meeting.
The meeting was closed by Berthold thanking everyone for joining and another prayer.