High Court upholds Mmbelwa’s ruling on Inkosi Mzikubola: Mzimba Chieftaincy dispute

The High Court in Mzuzu on Monday ordered Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to facilitate a formal appointment of Zoba Jere as Inkosi Mzikubola III of Mzimba following a ruling that he was the rightful heir to the throne.

Zoba obtained a court injunction in July 2013 restraining the Attorney General, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the District Commissioner for Mzimba from installing Masabane Jere, his nephew, as Inkosi Mzikubola III.

According to court documents seen by Nyasa Times, at granting the order to Zoba, the court further directed that the matter be referred to Crown Prince Inkosi ya Makhosi M’Mbelwa V to decide the rightful heir to the throne, according to Ngoni tradition.

The court referred the matter to Inkosi M’Mbelwa V in his capacity as the ultimate authority and custodian of the Ngoni culture and tradition in Mzimba District.

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Further, the court ordered the Crown Prince to consult Senior Chiefs Inkosi Mtwalo and Mpherembe and also summon both Zoba and Masabani to a hearing before making his final determination.

According to a report filed by the District Commissioner for Mzimba Rev. Moses Chimphepo dated 26 November 2013, the Crown Prince arranged two meetings at his Edingeni Headquarters on the 3rd and 23rd September 2013 where each family was represented by five members.

And on 8th October 2013, the Crown Prince made his ruling in the presence of Senior Chiefs Inkosi Mtwalo and Mpherembe, Inkosi Kampingo Sibande and parties to the conflict.

“Having heard from both parties to the conflict and from the witnesses, Ngoni tradition, culture and customs have to be followed and adhered to on chieftaincy inheritance.  Thus, Mathenga, umuthimba and verasangweni are some key issues to be looked into when making consideration on chieftaincy inheritance.

“Now according to the available facts from both parties to the conflicts and their witnesses, NyaMgemezulu’s house is the rightful house from which an heir to the Mzikubola chieftaincy would come from.  Hence, I as Crown Prince Inkosi Ya Makhosi M’mbelwa V find that Zoba Jere is the rightful heir to the Mzikubola chieftaincy.  Hence I declare that Zoba Jere will be Inkosi Mzikubola III…..” he declared.

Before his determination, according to court documents, the Crown Prince gave a historical background to the family of Inkosi Mzikubola by stating that the first known Inkosi Mzikubola II, Alufeyo Jere married seven wives-NyaChirwa (first), NyamNyirenda (second), NyaNgoma (third), NyaMgemezulu (fourth) and three others.

He observed that NyaChirwa and NyamNyirenda did not follow the Ngoni tradition when they got married to Alufeyo as they did not pass through a cattle kraal (the umuthimba and verasangweni tradition).

However, NyaMgemezulu followed all the Ngoni tradition and procedures when getting married to Alufeyo as she passed through theMathenga, umuthimba and verasangweni.

“This meant that she was rightful wife of Alufeyo Jere according to tradition. Further to that NyaMgemezule was awarded the title Inkosikazi for giving a cow to Inkosi ya Makhosi M’Mbelwa for giving her the privilege to give birth to a future Inkosi Mzikubola. That none of the other wives ever gave a cow to Inkosi M’Mbelwa,” reads the Crown Prince’s determination which was filed to the court.

And after Alufeyo’s death, Chifwede, his son born to NyaNgoma, took over the reigns because he was “educated and due to political motivation.”

“Unfortunately Chifwede Jere was never officially installed as Inkosi Mzikubola according to the Ngoni tradition and culture as he did not pass through the cattle kraal (verasangweni).  In that case he was considered as acting chief. Chifwede ruled as acting Inkosi Mzikubola until he died in 2000,” stated the Crown Prince.

According to the court documents, in 2002 the name of Masabani Jere son to Chifwede Jere (brother to Zoba) was submitted to government for his appointment as Inkosi Mzikubola III but by 2008, there was an outcry from the people of Emchakachakeni (Mzikubola headquarters) that the submitted name was not the rightful heir to the throne.

The development prompted the late Inkosi Ya Makhosi M’Mbelwa IV to write government withdrawing the name of Masabani pending further investigation. At the same time elders who had been following the history of Ngoni tradition proposed the name of Zoba, son of Alufeyo and NyaMgemezulu, the only official wife.

So in July 2013 when Zoba overheard that people were making preparations to install Masabani as Inkosi Mzikubola III, he rushed to the High Court and obtained an order of injunction stopping any further preparation of the ceremony.

On Monday, December 2, 2013, Mzuzu High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise upheld the Crown Prince determination to declare Zoba Jere as Inkosi Mzikubola III.

“I take judicial notice of the fact that Crown Prince Inkosi Ya Makhosi M’mbelwa V is the most senior chief of the Ngoni people of Mzimba.  The chieftaincy of Inkosi Mzikubola falls under his authority.  This most senior chief of the Ngoni people of Mzimba in consultation with Inkosi Mtwalo, Inkosi Mpherembe and Inkosi Kampingo Sibande has made his final ruling on the matter putting years of uncertainty and disagreement between the two families to rest. I now give that final ruling the force of law.  Zoba Jere is Inkosi Mzikubola III,” determined Judge Madise.

The judge then ordered the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to facilitate the formal appointment of Zoba as Inkosi Mzikubola III within 28 days and that his formal installation by the Crown Prince be done at his pleasure within 12 months.

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