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Chieftainship wrangles on the rise

THE appointment of a new chief in Matabeleland should not cause any controversy, fights or even spill into the courts, as is the case nowadays, if tradition is strictly adhered to, some traditional leaders have said.

THE appointment of a new chief in Matabeleland should not cause any controversy, fights or even spill into the courts, as is the case nowadays, if tradition is strictly adhered to, some traditional leaders have said. NQOBANI NDLOVU/BENSON DUBE

Some families have been left divided wrangling over the succession of chiefs.

The latest high-profile family feud involves the fight for the Ntabazinduna chieftainship that has seen the late Chief Khayisa Ndiweni’s eldest and youngest sons fighting for the traditional role.

The fight has spilled into the High Court as the eldest son Joram seeks a reversal of the appointment of his younger brother Nhlanhla as substantive Chief Ndiweni.

Joram accuses his mother and family members of colluding with the Umguza district administrator Ennety Sithole to endorse Nhlanhla as the heir to the chieftaincy in violation of Nguni custom, practice and norms.

Under Nguni custom, practice and norms, the eldest son normally becomes the rightful heir.

Joram argues that the Ndiweni chieftainship is hereditary and Nhlanhla’s appointment was a violation of that practice and norm.

Traditional leaders backed Joram, noting that the process of appointing a chief is not elective and negotiable and therefore should not spark any wrangles, as according to Nguni traditional customs and norms, the process is hereditary.

“The first born son of the late chief assumes the reigns of the chieftaincy as long as age permits.

“The chieftainship is from father to son and this is according to the Nguni culture of which we belong to as the Ndebele,” Chief Nyangazonke of Kezi said in an interview.

“It is unfortunate there is a wrangle in Ntabazinduna, but l hope they will follow the Nguni culture.”

Chief Malaba, who chairs the Matabeleland South Chiefs’ Council concurred saying there was no negotiation in the way a chief was chosen.

“It has always been hereditary, from father to eldest son, father to first son.

“Unless when the son is ineligible, for example, due to a criminal record or has passed away. It is then that other siblings can be considered, but starting with the eldest,” Chief Malaba said.

He said fights for the chieftaincy were largely due to jealousy within the family.

“Our tradition is very clear on this. There can never be any fights as to who will assume the reins once the chief dies,” he said.

“Where there are squabbles and fights, that can only be a result of jealousy and nothing else.”

He said the chieftainship can only be solved by negotiations if only the wife to the deceased chief had no son or if the chief had many wives with the first having failed to bear a son.

“Problems have only arisen when it’s a polygamous marriage where people then start fighting for the chieftainship, but where the first wife has a son, that son automatically becomes chief, unless if the first wife had no son, that is when squabbles normally arise,” Chief Malaba said.

“The new Constitution allows the wife of a deceased chief to assume the reins only if she had no son, but then that has a tendency of causing wrangles. However, if the woman remarries, her sons cannot be chiefs because they would be from another family.

“The chieftaincy cannot be transferred from one family to another family because of marriage. The chieftaincy remains in the family and in the event that woman who was a chief dies, the family then has to decide who takes over and that normally causes fights.”

The appointment of female chiefs has, however, caused controversy with traditionalists and other chiefs in Matabeleland saying it is taboo.

Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo has installed female chiefs in Matabeleland province, a phenomenon which historians said had never been experienced in the Ndebele culture.

Chombo appointed Chief Sinqobile Mabhena of Umzingwane, Chief Ketso Mathe of Gwanda and Chief Nonhlanhla Sibanda of Insiza, all in Matabeleland South province.

Chief Maduna of Filabusi said the Ndebele culture does not allow a woman to become a chief.

“In the Ndebele culture there is no room for a woman to be chief . . . this may have come as a directive as we were not consulted” he said.

Maybe since women participated in the armed struggle, the government thought it wise that it gave them the chieftaincy reins”.