A decision by some Matabeleland North chiefs to push for the dethroning of Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni of Ntabazinduna is misguided and can possibly cause unrest in the community, observers have said.
In 2014, Nhlanhlayamangwe Felix, the youngest son of the late Chief Khayisa Ndiweni was installed as the new Ntabazinduna chief in a traditional ceremony attended by hundreds of people, including chiefs from South Africa.
Chief Ndiweni’s ascendency was supported by his mother Agnes, sister Lydia and family relative, former Bulawayo councillor and Ndiweni household spokesperson, Wilson Bancinyane Ndiweni.
This was despite a row over the succession where the late chief’s eldest son, Joram Khayisa Thambo, filed an urgent application seeking the nullification of his youngest brother’s appointment as the chief.
It is from this background that chiefs from Matabeleland North resolved last Saturday that Chief Ndiweni’s appointment be rescinded.
According to Deputy President of the Chiefs Council, Chief Mtshana Khumalo who was quoted recently, Chief Ndiweni’s brother who is based in London, wrote a letter to Umguza District Administrator saying the appointment was unprocedural.
But the spokesperson of the Ndiweni household, queried who gave the Matabeleland North Provincial Chiefs Assembly, the mandate to question Chief Ndiweni’s ascendancy.
“Who are they in the Ndiweni Household? Have these 18 chiefs who are in the assembly, seen us coming into their own jurisdictions to interfere in their chieftainship matters? Who gave them the powers to say who is a chief and who is not in the Ndiweni household? How dare they come into our home and tell our chief he is not a chief,” Bancinyane protested.
Ndiweni said the Matabeleland North chiefs were disrespectful and “should stop meddling in the affairs of the Ndiweni family.”
Chief Ndiweni’s lawyer, Dumisani Dube, also highlighted that the purported suspension of Chief Ndiweni was a legal nullity.
He said: “The Matabeleland North Chiefs assembly has no authority to rescind a decision made by the Ndiweni family, which was also acceded to by the president (the late Robert Mugabe) five years ago.”
Dube noted that as Chief Ndiweni’s legal counsel, he was unaware of any inquiry or disciplinary actions made against the traditional leader.
“Chief Khayisa Ndiweni he has not been called to appear before any body or tribunal and we have not been been formally advised of any outcome of such a tribunal. As far as things as stand the chief is simply continuing with his cultural and constitutional duties,” the lawyer said.
A senior traditional leader in Matabeleland South, Chief Vezi Maduna of Filabusi warned that such decisions done at a whim would result in bad consequences.
“The National Chiefs Council and its eight provincial Chiefs councils is littered with illegitimate Chiefs. This haphazard panic button of firing and reshuffle was once done in 2017, little did we know that in the November that followed there was to be a stronger storm.
“Looking at Chief Ndiweni’s illegal suspension, it indicates the same panic button similar to 2017. I pray we won’t see a repetition of what happened in 2017 after so many were fired from the party and cabinet,” said the elderly chief.
Chief Maduna stressed that due process and procedures were not followed in suspending Chief Ndiweni hence its illegality.
Critical studies scholar, Khanyile Mlotshwa, claimed the whole debate of Chief Ndiweni’s chieftaincy was tangled in Zanu PF politics and doubted the chiefs would achieve their intended goals.
“A chief is chosen by the family and the Ndiweni family will still forward Prince Nhlanhlayamangwe’s name, and they will be at the same spot. The brother knows very well he has to challenge this within family structures, and not the Zanu PF structures masquerading as a provincial chief’s council,” he quipped.
Chief Ndiweni has been seen as a radical leader, after breaking rank and confronting the President Emmerson Mnangagwa led administration for poor governance and human rights abuse.
In August 2019, the chief was sentenced to 24 months in prison over malicious damage to property charges over a ruling he made in his area of jurisdiction, a move that was widely condemned by many.
He currently out on bail pending an appeal of the sentence.
However political analyst, Methuseli Moyo, sang a different tune saying if there was a dispute over Chief Ndiweni’s chieftaincy, then justice had to be followed.
“I am in support of justice. If indeed there is a dispute, it must be resolved. Simple. Whatever process is used to select a chief, there must be agreement in the family at the end of the day. If there is a dispute, and it persists, it must be resolved before the new chief is officially installed.
“I am aware there was some dispute over the succession of chief Khayisa. If the chieftaincy has not been resolved, it is only proper to resolve it once and for all for the good of everyone concerned,” Moyo argued.
He noted that Chief Ndiweni’s aggrieved brother be given a chance to seek intervention.
“I suppose all things being fair, the aggrieved brother must be given the chance to seek remedy or for the issue to be settled through the appropriate legal channels. Being the eldest son, he has a justified cause to feel cheated,” Moyo said.