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Chirumhanzu chieftainship wrangle rages on

by Staff reporter
21 Aug 2020 at 07:31hrs | Views
The complexities of chieftenship succession in the Chirumhanzu community, coupled with meddling by the Rhodesian authorities in colonial times and what many see as an error 15 years ago, have overflowed into the High Court sitting in Masvingo, with an urgent application to stop the appointment of the late chief's son as acting chief.

As with most chieftenships in Shona culture areas, the chieftenship rotates between the dynastic houses in a fixed order, although with six such houses, Chirumhanzu is more complex than most.

In some areas, the son of the last chief can act as chief after the death of his father while the succession is being sorted out, and this is what the administration did in Chirumhanzu, but the Chirumhanzu chieftenship says this was wrong as the generally agreed legitimate dynastic successor is available and able, and should be appointed acting chief while the process of formal recognition of the appointment proceeds.

So the Chirumhanzu chieftainship dynasty made an urgent application at the Masvingo High Court, seeking to stop the appointment of Fidelis Mudzengi as acting Chief Chirumhanzu, arguing that he was imposed on them as the son of the late substantive Chief Chirumhanzu, Gerald Mudzengi, who passed on in February last year.

Mr Fidelis Mudzengi was on August 13 this year nominated by Chirumhanzu district development coordinator Mr Vafios Hlavati to become the acting chief. So the Chirumhanzu chieftainship dynasty and Mr Julius Chimbi Chigegwe, whom the dynasty agrees is the next chief, went before Justice Neville Wamambo to stop the appointment of Mr Mudzengi suing Mr Hlavati, the Midlands Provincial Chiefs' Assembly and Mr Mudzengi.

Through their lawyer Mr Johannes Ruvengo of Ruvengo and Maboke, they argued that during a meeting convened at Rutunga business Centre in Chirumhanzu last week, Mr Hlavati imposed Mr Mudzengi as acting chief contrary to the cultural dictates of their dynasty.

They further argued that during the nomination meeting, Hlavati came with a letter from the Midlands Provincial Development Coordinator's office which directed that Mr Mudzengi be appointed acting chief following the death of his father since the constitutional provisions of respecting local custom did not apply to acting chiefs, only the substantive appointment.

Chirumhanzu chieftainship dynasty also want Mudzengi's appointment stopped pending release of results of a first nomination meeting convened by the Chirumhanzu district development coordinator's office at Rutunga business Centre on 11 June last year to choose a new acting chief.

At that meeting, the dynasty and Mr Chigegwe argued that out of the six houses in the Chirumhanzu succession line, five chose Mr Chigegwe to become acting chief with only one accepting Mr Mudzengi. But they argue that these results were never released and now want them made public.

Opposing the application, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Mr Zvinechimwe Churu, through an affidavit argued that there was nothing amiss about Mr Mudzengi's appointment as acting Chief Chirumhanzu as it was common practice everywhere for a son to take over the reigns temporarily following the death of a chief.

Justice Wambo postponed the hearing to next Monday morning as Mr Churu's affidavit could not be taken as a legal document because it was not stamped by a commissioner of oaths. The Chirumhanzu chieftaincy is no stranger to controversy.

The Rhodesian government stripped one of its chiefs, Chaka, of office and subsequently stripped the jurisdiction of its land, giving chunks to Gutu-Serima-Charter Estates and other tracts of land because Jaravaza Chatikobo, then Chief Chirumhanzu, refused to accept the council.

As a result, Chirumhanzu was starved of development resources, including education and health facilities leaving it to depend on missionaries over the years. In recent years the Chirumhanzi chieftainship has been presided over by Zinyoro 1973-1992, Masendeke 1992-1994 (Acting), Fambisai Hunyenyiwa 1994-2004, and Jerald Mudzengi 20042019.

The dynasty reckons that in 2005, then Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo and officials in the previous administration erred in appointing Mr Jerald Mudzengi as Chief Chirumhanzu, against the dynasty hierarchy's recommendations.

According to the records and family tree, the Chiweshe house, to which the Muzengi family belongs, is number five in the Nherera chieftainship lineage, and the chieftaincy was supposed to go to the Chapwanya Chigegwe house, which is number three.

They want that traditional rotation restored with Mr Chigegwe's appointment as acting and then substantive chief.

Source - the herald