Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nakhumwa is running damage control after a controversial move when recently elevated chiefs in the Yao-dominated district of Machinga as part of a covet mission to expand the so-called Lhomwe Belt -is the bedrock of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Yaos are reportedly angry because government has elevated two Lhomwe chiefs, group village heads Saidi Mataka and Nyumwanyumwa, in Machinga without consulting the Yaos in the districtswhich 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 argued that 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 Nankhumwa for using elevation of chiefs to position the DPP to win 2019 polls and not really to promote culture.
And Malawi News which exposed the covert mission to expand Lhomwe Belt into Yaoland, said in an editorial that Nankhumwa “is a man on a dangerous mission, failing to separate his position as DPP campaign director from ministerial duties.”
Nankhumwa has since gone into damage control mode over the matter.
Apart from an opinion piece published in his favor, he has also given a PR interview in which he admits that the two group village heads were elevated to the position of sub-traditional authority in Machinga.
“This means that the chieftaincies were already in existence. As is the procedure, loyal families requested the President for the elevation of the said two chiefs. Having noted that the two chiefs are in the area of Paramount Chief Kawinga, the ministry took an initiative to inform him of the development. The paramount chief discussed the matter with the traditional authorities concerned who duly accepted in writing that the two chiefs should be elevated,’’ he explains.
Nankhumwa said the chiefs were elevated following the Chiefs Act chapter 22:3 of the laws of Malawi that govern that appointment of traditional leaders in the country.
“The ministry has not received any contrary information on elevations. What my ministry has are letters from the two chiefs who approved the recommendations and these were endorsed by the Paramount Chief Kawinga. Traditional leaders Saiti Mataka and Nyumwa Nyumwa are located in Paramount Chief Kawinga’s area. Just like other areas, we inform and consult the paramount chief of that area of the intended elevations,” he said.
Nankhumwa stressed that promotion of traditional chiefs is the responsibility of the President.
He, nonetheless, said his ministry appreciates the fact that there are people of other tribes in areas where others are dominant.
“As a minister, I have always encouraged such members to live in harmony and to tolerate one another. My ministry will continue making sure that this is sustained for peaceful coexistence in the Districts where there are various tribes in the Country,” he said.
Nankhumwa also denied that DPP is positioning chiefs as part of a campaign to expand its influence ahead of 2019 polls.
“We are in no way positioning chiefs strategically for 2019. You may wish to know that we have chiefs of other tribes in areas where other tribes are dominating. For instance, we have Ngoni chieftaincies in Dowa, Yao chieftaincies in Mulanje and Thyolo. We have Chewa Chiefs in Mangochi. As already indicated, the two elevated chiefs were already in existence they have just been elevated from being group village headmen to sub-TAs. Statistics are readily available in the ministry and the respective council offices,” he said.
Nankhumwa is also DPP campaign director and blue eyed boy of President Peter Mutharika.
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