By Lenah Matenderupi Nhewa
Outspoken Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni has flown out to the United Kingdom for an emergency eye operation, in the process putting preparations for his end of the month Ntabazinduna Meet-the-People rally in limbo.
The beleaguered chief, who was deposed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month, left Zimbabwe on the afternoon of Saturday 25 January 2020.
In an interview with Nehanda Radio, Chief Ndiweni said, “doctors have put me on an emergency trip to the UK for an eye surgery. They say I will be there (sic) two to three weeks.”
“I am at the airport now. I will certainly be back for the Meet-the-People rally. For now I am taking heed of the doctor’s advice,” said the popular traditional leader.
Chief Ndiweni’s sudden exit has perplexed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders who were preparing to show solidarity by attending the rally.
“We were expecting to be with Chief Ndiweni at the end of this week. But now we have to prioritise his good health. We therefore wish him a speedy recovery,” said MDC Bulawayo Provincial Spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza.
Chief Ndiweni drew the ire of ZANU PF when he asked for the return of cattle seized from his father, the late Paramount Chief Khayisa Ndiweni, during the 1982 – 1987 Gukurahundi crackdown on ZAPU supporters in the Midlands and Matabeleland.
Ntabazinduna villagers also lost cattle to the Fifth Brigade, while the local school was seized and turned into a base for the Fifth Brigade. In recent years the school was turned into a police training depot.
“Chief Ndiweni’s trip to the UK has been very secretive, which perhaps shows that he is being cautious,” said a social commentator who requested to speak anonymously for fear of being victimised.
Since his request for the return of seized cattle and for the Ntabazinduna Police Training Depot to be restored as a school, Chief Ndiweni has run into problems with President Mnangagwa and ZANU PF Secretary for Administration, Obert Mpofu.
On 16 August 2019, he was sentenced to 24 months in prison by Bulawayo Magistrate, Gladmore Mushowe allegedly on charges of destroying a villager’s property in Ntabazinduna. Six months were suspended for five years leaving the paramount chief to serve an effective 18 months in prison.
Twenty three subjects of the chief were also convicted and sentenced on similar charges. Chief Ndiweni, who is represented by Professor Welshman Ncube of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers, is out on bail after lodging an appeal with the High Court.
MDC leader Advocate Nelson Chamisa commented on the arrest saying the “trumped up charges and arrest of Chief Ndiweni is a direct attack on Zimbabwean culture and traditional leadership. This attack opens yet another fresh national wound that will be difficult to heal.”
In December 2019, Mnangagwa dethroned Chief Ndiweni after his legitimacy was challenged by two Matabeleland North chiefs allegedly acting at the behest of Chief Ndiweni’s brother, Jorum.
For his part Chief Ndiweni is buoyed by The Inkosi Advisory Council, The Ndiweni Elders, the Ntabazinduna community and other stakeholders who have pledged allegiance to the outspoken chief. Nehanda Radio