By Bulawayo Correspondent
THE Matebeleland Chiefs Council says it will not interfere with Bulawayo Magistrate, Gladmore Mushove’s ruling to sentence Ntabazinduna traditional leader, Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni to 18 months in prison over his role in the damaging of his subject, Fetti Mbele’s homestead.
Magistrate Mushove also sentenced Ndiweni’s other 23 co-accused villagers to 525 hours of community service for a similar offence.
Ndiweni, through his lawyers, has already appealed both conviction and sentence through the High Court arguing that in the Ndebele culture, it is acceptable for a traditional leader to punish any subject convicted of a customary offence.
In an interview with New Zimbabwe.com, the deputy president of the Chiefs Council Mtshane Khumalo said Matebeleland Chiefs Council stand guided by the Mushove’s ruling.
“As traditional leaders, we are also judicial officers and we cannot be seen criticising a judgment of a superior court to us. In any case, I do not have records of Ndiweni’s court proceedings and therefore I cannot further comment on a judgment which I am not privy to. The particular judiciary officer who handled that case will be the best to respond,” said Chief Khumalo.
Mbele of Ntabazinduna was banished from the village by the Chief after his wife, Nonkangelo Mpengesi was allegedly caught having sex with another villager. The chief ruled that Mbele should divorce his wife because of her alleged adulterous.
In his appeal, Ndiweni, through his lawyers said Magistrate Mushove had erred.
“The court a quo erred in failing to appreciate that Ndebele culture and customary law empowered the 1st appellant (Ndiweni) to banish out of his jurisdiction, any subject convicted of a customary offence,” argued the traditional leader.
However, pressure groups and political parties belief Matebeleland chiefs should have unanimously condemned the imprisonment of one of their own.
Ibhetshu Likazulu coordinator Mbuso Fuzwayo said Ndiweni should not have been jailed.
“What happened to Chief Ndiweni was very unfortunate. In imprisoning the chief for exercising his duties as a traditional leader, I think a bad precedence was set. In future, I see a situation where chiefs will have serious problems in exercising their constitutionally guaranteed duties because their decisions will be challenged in the courts. Mind you, courts operate on precedence,” said Fuzwayo.
Zapu spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa maintained that Chief Ndiweni’s incarceration was political.
“I know chiefs in other provinces like Mashonaland and Midlands who have done worse off things to their subjects but they have not been arrested let alone imprisoned. As far as my memory serves me well, Chief Ndiweni is the only chief in the country after independence to be imprisoned for exercising his traditional duties,” said Maphosa.
Recently, Matebeleland Chiefs secretary Nothiwani Dlodlo accused Chief Khumalo of spearheading the recalling of Ndiweni and controversial Filabusi Chief Vezu Maduna from their chieftainships. Khumalo has however denied Dlodlo’s accusations.