No ‘suitable’ successor yet for Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe throne

The wrangle on who is to become the next Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe—the most senior traditional leader of the Tumbuka tribe in northern Malawi—has taken a new twist as Mtima Gondwe, who is serving in an acting position, has challenged a nomination process held at Rumphi district headquarters in which Joseph Bongololo Gondwe was settled at as the appropriate heir to the Chikulamayembe throne.

For months now, the Gondwes, who are heirs have failed to reach a consensus on deciding the next Chikulamayembe following the death of Walter John Hardy Gondwe in 2018.

Late Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe – His shoes are too big to fill

In April 2021, the court nullified the elevation of Mtima Gondwe to Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe citing “some irregularities in his appointment,” and subsequently ordered the royal family to nominate new names for the crown.

Joseph Bongololo Gondwe was nominated as heir to the throne during a meeting that lasted over three hours on Wednesday, but Mtima Gondwe has, in a letter to Group Village Headman (GVH) Chikalamba who oversaw the nomination process, said the nomination of his contender, despite being arrived at with 10 members of the royal family, was grossly flawed.

“There was no observer. There was no mediator; you were representing Joseph Bongololo Gondwe as such you were not supposed to preside over this activity.

“You need to explain the inclusion of Chikulamasinda, Denis Gondwe, Stowel Gondwe, Chikalamba Gondwe and culturally, we do not vote a chieftaincy candidate,” the letter by Mtima Gondwe, which Malawi News Agency has seen, reads in part.

He added, in a telephone interview, that he did not want to comment on the issue then before referring Malawi News Agency to his official spokesman, GVH Hunga Gondwe, who said the acting paramount chief’s camp was still waiting for the normal election process.

“There was a letter from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development advising the two factions to sit down and resolve the issues. On the nomination day there was supposed to be the presence of representatives from the office of the Attorney General, Ministry of Local Government, lawyers for both parties and the District Commissioner (DC) for Rumphi as observers.

“What happened was contrary to the instructions. We are still waiting for the normal programme. After the meeting of the royal family failed, the DC informed us that the government is involving the clergy through Bishop Mtumbuka, Rev. Munthali and Rev. Tembo of Mzuzu, but did not make it due to other engagements. What happened yesterday, to us is uncalled for and not in line with our customs,” Hunga Gondwe claimed.

He confirmed that it was Joseph Bongololo Gondwe who was nominated, but described the nomination process as abnormal.

According to him, they are presently not considering seeking court remedy but rather were looking forward to “a fair and transparent re-nomination process.”

But GVH Chikalamba Gondwe had told Malawi News Agency, after the nomination process, that the process was transparent and followed what they were required to do.

Additional reporting by Nyasa Times.

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