THE imprisonment of outspoken Ntabazinduna traditional leader, Chief Nhlanhlayemangwe Ndiweni, who was sentenced to 18 months last week for maliciously damaging his subject’s property has torched a storm, with the Nelson Chamisa-led opposition MDC saying it will campaign for his release.
While the opposition may go ahead with its planned campaign, it is imperative for the party’s leadership to look at the whole saga from a purely legal and human rights perspective. What Chief Ndiweni did was not only culturally unacceptable, but was purely a violation of the law and trashing the rights of his subjects.
Facts of the matter are quite clear that the MDC-aligned chief destroyed his subject’s property, simply because he was unhappy that his victim had elected to live with his wife who had been accused of cheating with another man. There is no need to lump this purely criminal case involving malicious damage of property with suspected victimisation of the chief for being aligned to the MDC.
The chief’s victim, despite being his subject, is first and foremost a citizen of Zimbabwe whose rights are guaranteed and protected under the Constitution.
Why did the chief have to be aggrieved because his subject had chosen to continue living with his adulterous wife? The man’s decision is not illegal. The chief may try to separate the man from his wife, based on his opinion that the woman is adulterous, but that is just his personal opinion rather than a legal decision.
If any other person who is not Chief Ndiweni had committed a similar crime, it’s most likely they would have faced the same judgment. To burn a man’s kraal and homestead — whether justified or not — is purely a case of arson and there is no need to weave any politics into it. Although the chief felt it was a “traditional matter”, that does not take away the fact that he burnt another man’s property and, consequently, the law took its course. And every other law, including customary, must be subordinate to the Constitution.
Now, for a party that accuses the government of routinely violating the law and the Constitution to push for the same is worrisome. MDC leaders need to rise above that level. Traditional leaders are bound to be guided by the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.