The Shade of New Leaves: Governance in Traditional Authority ; a Southern African Perspective
"Omudile muua ohapo; epangelo liua ohamba". Freely translated, this proverb of the Ovakwanyama of northern Namibia means: "New leaves produce a good shade; the laws of a king are always as good as new". The proverb paints a picture of wisdom to express the dialectical relationship between continuity and change in customary law. Since royal orders are supposed not to change from one king to the next, they are always as good as new, reads the explanatory note to the proverb by the anthropologist Loeb, who recorded the proverb. Traditional authority is like a tree standing on its roots, rooted in the tradition created by the ancestors of the ruler and the community. These roots remain firm, stable and unchanged, not so the concrete manifestation of authority that changes and responds to changes of the environment. This makes that new leaves are produced by the rooted tree. The new leaves are new and old. They are old, because in structure, color and their capacity to protect by giving shade, they are more or less like the leaves of last year and the year before. They are new because they react to the challenge of seasons.
Manfred O. Hinz is professor at the University of Bremen (Germany), and the University of Namibia, specializing in public law, jurisprudence and political and legal anthropology. Helgard K. Patemann is a researcher at the Centre for Applied Social Sciences, Faculty of Law, at the University of Namibia, specializing in medical anthropology and anthropology of religion.