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The Chief can do no wrong

by L Dube
25 Aug 2019 at 09:07hrs | Views
In Nguni "inkosi ayoni" the Chief can do no wrong. This is derived from the concept that all decisions made by the Chief represent the collective wisdom and aspirations of his people. Unlike a Judge the Chief in Nguni culture does not make the ultimate decision by himself. He listens to inkundla headed by senior villagers just as Mncumbatha Khumalo was the Chief Induna during the Great King Lobhengula's time. Therefore to imprison the Chief is equivalent to the imprisonment of the culture, the customs, the language, the values and the  community. In essence it is not Chief Ndiweni who is in prison but our culture and aspirations. He is the embodiment and the epitomisation of isizwe. That is the reason why at Ntabazinduna, the first step that King Mzilikazi took was too dethrone the chiefs of their positions before the sentence was executed. It is the same reason which led the Great King , ULobhengula WaMawaba to set his Bulawayo Capital on fire and be never captured. Had the King been captured that would have represented the ultimate humiliation of the Great state. It also explains why the Ndebele warriors are counted among only the three African armies (the other two are the Zulus at the Isandlwana battle and the Majimaji) to have defeated the British in battle. The Allan Wilson patrol had to be defeated to avert the capture of the King and the brave warriors faced death and danced with it.


The British were completely overrun by the assegai! The Government must therefore know that by imprisoning the Chief over such an issue, they have in essence imprisoned the entire nation of the Nguni.  Thus why a Presidential pardon could be an act of nation building.

The magistrate used very unrestrained language. To characterize a Chief as a barbarian is tantamount to a wholesome defilement of the entire Nguni nation. Maybe being Shona, the magistrate has no appreciation of Nguni culture or probably harbours a deep resentment of the Nguni people. The courts should desist from inflaming tribal passions and divisive pronouncements that stereotype a people. We are proud of our culture. We seek to be no other people but ourselves, but we will never be barbarians except in tribalistic courts. As alluded to earlier on the Chief is the voice of the community and sitting as a Court the inkundla expresses the collective view of the community through consensus. It is not the Chief's decision but that of the Community. The Chief listens. The community listens and speaks. The community decides.

The victim in this case is a Mr Mbele. The facts around the issue have been repeated countless times. Suffice to note that it was Mr Mbele on his own volition who approached the Chief and requested that his Court makes a decision on his wife's shenanigans. This point which has been missed by the Twitter lawyers is important. Mr Mbele had the choice of resolving the issue on his own, but he decided to have it ventilated through the Chief's Court. At that point he lost  the right to decide the way forward as he had abrogated those rights to the Chief's court. It is the same principle that applies when a reckless parent reports their child to the police for theft of a cellphone. The child is at the mercy of the courts and it will be a messy arrangement were parents to decide thereafter to disregard the Court judgement. My understanding which I have no reason to doubt given my intimate knowledge of the Nguni traditions is that the initial judgement was for Mr Mbele to send the wife back to her parents. This was not an act of divorce but a call for a serious discussion and counseling of the wife involving the in-laws. This explains the popular Nguni proverb that says "Uzidle uzibeka amathambo''. The in-laws were expected to send a delegation to inquire on why the wife had been sent back. In short both families would be involved bamkhuze. This is a tried and tested method of deescalating the conflict thus why in olden days spousal murders were rare as indoda yayisala ibhodla. Obviously to the Shona magistrate, these old Nguni traditions are barbarism. Mr Mbele took his wife back without following that procedure, obviously in an effort to prevent ihlazo that comes with the process which is a cleansing, justice, truth telling, reconciliation and forgiveness ritual.  This is part of building strong communities based on true love and forgiveness.

From time immemorial the authority of the Chief has always depended on the respect of his word. King Mzilikazi the greatest warrior in King Shaka's empire could not be spared the moment he went against the King's authority and barely survived the onslaught. King Shaka's love for the then Chief Mzilikazi Khumalo saw him sending at least three emissaries to the Chief with no success to dissuade him from the path of confrontation.  In Nguni we say Inkosi kayiphikiswa. The day the Chief's word is disregarded, his judgments ignored, his counsel mocked, and his throne disrespected, that day means sekuphume elinye ilanga elinye lingakatshoni. He ceases to be the Chief. It was therefore a great sign of disrespect for the entire community for Mr Mbele to laugh at the Chief's judgement. This explains the high number of villagers that visited his homestead and demanded that he be banished from the village. It was not barbarism but a collective revulsion by the community at the contemptuous snide by the Mbele family.   

The true position is that the Chief and his subjects destroyed the kraal and the fence estimated at three hundred dollars in value. They did not burn down the homestead of Mr Mbele. This is a creation of the twitter brigade. It is clear that many hands were involved in this case as it should not have reached this level of attrition. The Chief also forgot that Isilo siyafinyeza inzipho. This means as a powerful Chief it is sometimes necessary to show mercy mingled with justice. Therefore it will appear that the destruction of the kraal should have been preceded by calling back Mr Mbele to explain his contempt for the Chief's order. It is amazing that the same Courts have no hesitation jailing those accused of contempt of court. The destruction of the kraal was a symbolic expression of the power of the Chief and the equivalent of jailing for contempt of Court. Indoda yisibaya. The expectation was for Mbele to respond by apologizing to inkundla and taking visible steps to assure the village that the shenanigans of the wife had been fully atoned for, for example by inviting the elders from the wife's family to approach the Chief's court to apologize and the wife openlyact  vowing never to wander again. What the magistrate failed to understand is that the adultery was committed against the community and not against the husband only. Therefore the entire community was aggrieved and the resolution of the issue could not exclude the community. Thus how the law of barbarians works!

The jailing of Chief Ndiweni is a malicious and uncalled for act that will permanently offend the nation. In fact the magistrate risks the wrath of the Great ancestors of the sacred throne. It cannot be a matter taken lightly to imprison the symbol of Nguni culture except for criminality. Amadlozi ayahlanekela. It will not end well unless it is urgently addressed. The Chief did not commit a crime but followed all the cultural expectations and traditions of our forefathers. The worst that the judgement could have done was to review and set aside the decision. The action taken by the magistrate appears simple but it is so complicated especially as she resorted to derogatory descriptors as the background music for the judgement. I encourage the Government to do the right thing and free the Chief. It is not true that there was malicious intent or that he is barbarian. We cannot build a nation by celebrating divisive acts. The entire Nguni community in return for the freedom of the Chief - an act of insult and humiliation - is prepared to pay back Mr Mbele one hundred times whatever damages he purports to have suffered. This is not entirely about Chief Ndiweni. It is wholly about the throne that he sits on. The sacred throne of Ntabazinduna. The place where the Great King and visionary, King Mzilikazi asserted his authority and reunited the nation. It is the place of the genesis of the Great Mthwakazi nation. It may seem the Government has won. Yet this is the greatest and unnecessary own goal. It is as if the magistrate intended to create an unbridgeable gulf between the Government and the people of Matabeleland over a destroyed kraal.

Olendlebe uzwile.

Source - L Dube
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