Ntabazinduna Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni has been sentenced to 24 months in prison over malicious damage to property charges after he allegedly destroyed property belonging to a villager who had resisted an order to leave his area.
Bulawayo magistrate Gladmore Mushowe suspended 6 months on condition of good behavior and ordered the remaining 18 months to be an effective jail term.
Ndiweni’s 23 assailants were sentenced to 24 months in prison with 6 months suspended on condition of good behavior. The remaining 18 months were wholly suspended on condition they each complete 525 hours of community service.
“This is a serious offence that was committed in aggravating circumnstances using fire,axes and other dangerous weapons. Fire is categorised under the third schedule which means the offense was committed in aggravating circumstances,” said Mushowe.
She said the offence was committed in a barbaric manner and it is unbelievable for a chief in this day and age to punish his subjects in that manner.
“A chief’s duties include protecting his people and mainataining peace and freedom now for him to break the law like this is very disturbing. The court will take into consideration that the other other 23 accused persons were acting under the instruction of a chief who is a voice of authority. As such there shall be a disparity in sentencing,” said Mushowe.
Mushowe ordered that the 525 hours of community service be completed within 20 weeks starting from August 19.
Members of the Mthwakazi Republic Party who spent the whole day at court in solidarity with the chief sang and danced in protest against the sentence.
There was heavy police detail inside the court room and around Tredgold magistrate’s court.
The court heard that Chief Ndiweni had given a ruling that Fetti Mbele’s, a villager in his area divorce his wife Nonkangelo Mpengesi after she was caught having sex with another man.
Mbele defied Chief Ndiweni’s order after he had resolved the matter with his wife, prompting the chief to order the destruction of his fence and kraal.
In her judgment, magistrate Mushowe said the State had provided compelling evidence against Chief Ndiweni and his assailants and their actions had violeted the village’s constitutional rights.
She said although Chief Ndiweni had the right to banish the villager from the area, his actions were beyond bounds.
“Although the other accused persons acted on an instruction, their conduct was unbecoming. They violated the complainant’s Constitutional rights,” said the magistrate.
While on trial, Chief Ndiweni implicated Zanu-PF secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu.
The magistrate said the acrimony between Chief Ndiweni and Cde Mpofu had no bearing in the matter before the court.
Chief Ndiweni testified that Mpofu stole 200 cattle from his late father, Chief Khayisa Ndiweni.
He said he reported the stock- theft case at Mbembesi Police Station, but Mpofu allegedly used his political influence to thwart the case.
Chief Ndiweni further claimed that politics was at play in the matter, accusing Mpofu of influencing the villager and his wife to go against his traditional court order.
Mpofu in his testimony, said Chief Ndiweni was in the habit of making false allegations against the Government and the ruling party due to ignorance since he had spent many years out of the country.
The prosecutor, Kudakwashe Jaravaza, said on July 26 last year at around 4PM, Mbele and his wife arrived from Bulawayo to find some villagers standing outside their homestead.
Kimpton Sibanda (72), a village head and two other villagers, claimed they were ordered by Chief Ndiweni to destroy Mbele’s garden fence and kraal.
“Sibanda instructed the villagers to destroy the fence and kraal. At around 5PM, Chief Ndiweni arrived and ordered the villagers to continue destroying Mr Mbele’s fence and kraal,” said Jaravaza.
The order followed Mr Mbele’s alleged defiance of Chief Ndiweni’s verdict to divorce his wife.