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Storm over Ndebele paramount chieftaincy

By Thulani Ndlovu and Lungile Tshuma

A BITTER wrangle has erupted within the Ndiweni family over the Ndebele paramount chieftaincy that was left vacant following the death of Chief Khayisa Ndiweni in 2010.

The late Chief Khayisa Ndiweni
The late Chief Khayisa Ndiweni

In a rare twist of events, Chief Ndiweni’s widow, Agnes, has crossed swords with her first and second born sons, Jorum and Douglas by convincing the Government to install her last born son, Nhlanhla.

Chief Ndiweni, who once served as the country’s Acting President for 13 days when then ceremonial president Canaan Banana was out of the country in 1981, is a direct descendant of Gundwane Ndiweni, the first Ndebele paramount chief who led a Nguni group separate to that of King Mzilikazi into Zimbabwe in 1838.

Chief Ndiweni, who died in his sleep in August 2010 at the age of 97 is survived by nine daughters and three sons, Jorum Thambo, Douglas and Nhlanhla Felix Ndiweni.

According to Nguni culture, Jorum is the rightful heir apparent. An heir apparent is an heir whose claim cannot be set aside by the birth of another heir.

However, in an affidavit she has since made, Agnes alleges that Jorum “will never make a chief that the people of Ntabazinduna deserve” because of “various other deeper stuff that make him not to be the chief.”

She says her other son Douglas “cannot be trusted, he is dishonest (and) a rabble-rouser.”

She also dismissed the Nhlambabaloyi clan, a grouping of Ntabazinduna elders who have since forwarded Jorum’s name to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing as commoners.

“On the Nhlambabaloyi clan, which indicates that it has the right and responsibility to select a chief; I say this is absolutely not true. Nhlambabaloyi is a group of commoners who have nothing (to do) with the selection of a chief. Their duties have always been the chief’s handymen running errands and doing tasks around the chief’s homestead,” her affidavit reads in part.

Only herself, her daughter Lydia Mthethwa and a relative, Mr Wilson Bancinyane Ndiweni, Agnes alleges, were mandated by Chief Ndiweni to handle his succession.

According to a close family member, the late Chief Ndiweni designated Jorum to succeed him to the chieftainship.

“Jorum is the rightful heir apparent who was chosen by his father when he was still alive. He is the rightful heir in terms of the Nguni culture because he is the first among sons and anything that goes against that is against the wishes of the chief,” said the family member who chose to remain anonymous.

The family member said Mrs Ndiweni was overstepping cultural bounds by declaring a chief, as that was the responsibility of the clan.

“Masuku (Agnes) is from a royal lineage from Gwanda. As a Nguni royal she is aware of how chiefs are succeeded, that is, the first born is supposed to step into his father’s shoes.”

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A Nhlambabaloyi elder and community member who spoke to our reporters, Mr Cephas Swene Ncube, said the late Chief Ndiweni called a council meeting of six elders where he chose Jorum.

“Chief Ndiweni called us and we discussed who will succeed him after his death. We agreed that Jorum will take over chieftainship after he passes on as Jorum was the first among the sons of the chief.

“According to Nguni culture, the first son ascends to the chieftainship. A chief is born, not elected like politicians or councillors,” Mr Ncube said.

However, Agnes argues that Nhlanhla’s ascendance to the throne ahead of his brother Jorum is not a new thing, as Chief Ndiweni took the chieftainship ahead of his elder brother, Nzehe.

“In fact, Chief Ndiweni was not the heir apparent, Nzehe was, but because he had a violent disposition, the Ndiweni elders preferred Khayisa to succeed his father. The case of Jorum and Nhlanhla is a repeat of that,” she wrote.

Mr Ncube, however, agreed that an heir apparent may be removed from ascending to the throne if there are good reasons.

“In terms of culture, an heir apparent can be removed and replaced but that happens rarely and good reasons have to be put forward for removing him,” he said.

Mr Ncube said he heard from some members of the community that the late Chief Ndiweni removed Jorum and replaced him with Nhlanhla.

“As I said before the late Chief Khayisa Ndiweni, had called us and we had agreed that Jorum will be the chief when he passes on. But, I heard that a second meeting was called to dethrone him and these rumours say the chief changed his mind and unilaterally put Nhlanhla, which was news to me,” said the 80-year-old Mr Ncube.

According to another close family member, the late Chief Ndiweni decided to remove Jorum from the chieftainship because he married an English woman after divorcing a Nguni woman of the Mkhwananzi clan. The same source added that Douglas suffered the wrath of his father because he is married to a coloured woman while Nhlanhla was chosen because he is married to a Nguni woman.

Ironically, Jorum and Nhlanhla are both living in England.

Douglas lives in Nhlambaloyi and is married to Claudate Ndiweni (nee Van Heerden).

“Some of the reasons for the fallout are that Jorum is no longer frequently visiting home. He did not turn up for the burial of his father, he also failed to come for his father’s memorial service,” said the source.

Matabeleland North Provincial Administrator Ms Latiso Dlamini said the family had given them the name of the next chief who will be installed on 8 August but refused to divulge the name.

She referred Sunday News to the District Administrator of Umguza Distrct Ennety Sithole and Wilson Bancinyane Ndiweni.

“The family has given us the name of the person who is going to succeed the chief. The name has been sent to Harare for approval. I am out of office but you can contact the DA or (Wilson) Bancinyane for more information,” Ms Dlamini said.

Efforts to get a comment from Wilson were fruitless as he was not answering his mobile phone.

Our news crew visited the Ndiweni homestead last Thursday, where Agnes refused to divulge any information, as she insisted that the issue would soon be resolved.

“Before my husband died he told me not to destroy his family. What I am doing is basically a way of obeying his words. You should just wait for the elders to inform you on who is going to be the successor,” she said.

Jorum, Douglas and Nhlanhla could not be reached for comment as they were all out of the country. Sunday News