Malawi is never short of exciting political controversy. One day, newspapers are reporting that football star Fischer ‘Anong’a’ Kondowe has joined MCP. The next day, Kondowe, who aspires to contest for Blantyre City South parliamentary seat, is back in the news refuting his earlier flirtations with MCP.
Exciting news, isn’t it?
Recently, there was more another ‘controversy’ in which Yaos are reportedly angry because government has elevated two Lhomwe chiefs, group village heads Saidi Mataka and Nyumwanyumwa, in Machinga.
The Lhomwe belt is the bedrock of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The press reports that elevating chiefs in Machinga without consulting the Yaos in the districts is likely to trigger enmity between the two tribes.
Chiwanja Cha Yao chairperson Mac Kennedy Yasini warns government “to tread carefully on these issues”. So do senior chiefs Mlomba and Chamba of Machinga who accused government of sidestepping them. They are quoted as saying the promotion of Saidi Mataka and Nyumwanyumwa was motivated by the governing DPP’s desire to win more voters in Eastern Region and urge Lhomwe Paramount Chief Ngolongoliwa against “assuming more powers to dictate issues affecting other tribes.”
They also blame Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa for using elevation of chiefs to position the DPP to win 2019 polls and not really to promote culture.
Nankhumwa “is a man on a dangerous mission, failing to separate his position as DPP campaign director from ministerial duties.”
The hard-hitting article on the rise of Lhomwe chiefs in a Yao-dominated district would bring resentment and anger.
The Yaos have every right to complain about the alleged ‘interference’ in their cultural setup, but it is a serious mistake to advance baseless and fictional claims.
Malawians should be well aware that tribal groupings in Malawi are interlinked and intermingled.
There are Yaos and Yao chiefs in Blantyre, Zomba, Mulanje, Dedza and Chiradzulu. Therefore, it is factually wrong and discriminatory to suggest that the so-called ‘Yaoland’ is exclusively for Yao chiefs and that if there are a few chiefs of other tribal backgrounds, they do not deserve any promotion without consulting the owners of the land.
Malawians may need to appreciate the Lhomwe-dominated districts—Thyolo, Mulanje, Phalombe and Chiradzulu—have more Yao and Mang’anja chiefdoms than Lhomwe.
Actually, there are no Lhomwe traditional authorities in Mulanje and Phalombe. Chief Mabuka of Mulanje is a Mang’anja while chiefs Chikumbu, Mkanda and Mthiramanja are Yaos.
Ngolongoliwa is the only Lhomwe chief in Thyolo. The rest are Yaos, Mang’anjas and Ngoni (Chief Bvumbwe).
The same is true about other districts. In Mzimba, there are both Ngoni and Tumbuka chiefs, and the list is long.
What is also amiss in the new ‘controversy’ is that Nankhumwa, the person, is orchestrating chiefs’ promotions for political expediency.
Why blame the minister?
The Chief’s Act (Cap. 22:03) provides for the recognition, appointment and functions of paramount chiefs, senior chiefs, chiefs, sub-chiefs, councillors, group village heads and village heads.
The Act stipulates in black and white that it is only the President who, by writing, appoints to the office of paramount chief, senior chief or chief such person “as he shall recognise as being entitled to such office”.
The Chiefs Act stipulates: “No person shall be recognised under this section unless the President is satisfied that such person (a) is entitled to hold office under customary law and (b) has the support of the majority of the people in the area of jurisdiction.”
Simply put, promotion of traditional chiefs is the responsibility of the President.
By law, the President is supposed to preside over elevation or installation ceremonies. Ministers and district commissioners only preside over the installation of chiefs on delegated authorityFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :