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Court settles Chikulamayembe chieftaincy wrangle

The High Court in Mzuzu has nullified the appointment and installation of Mtima Gondwe as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe.

Mtima Gondwe was installed as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe on October 22, 2019 amid succession disputes between him and Joseph Bongololo Gondwe.

Bongololo Gondwe then dragged the President of the Republic of Malawi, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Rumphi District Commissioner and Mtima Gondwe to court to challenge the appointment and installation of the latter as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe.

Bongololo Gondwe challenged that Mtima Gondwe was not the rightful heir to the throne arguing that the Chikulamayembe chieftaincy rotates in royal families and it was his turn.

However, Mtima Gondwe argues that the Government was not wrong to install him, as he was acting as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe for 8 years, even before the death of his father Walter John Hardy Gondwe.

Following the death of then Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe whose name was Walter John Hardy Gondwe in 2018, succession disputes arose with two camps emerging, one in support of the late chief’s son Mtima Gondwe and the other in support of Bongololo Gondwe.

However, before the disputes were settled, the then Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Ben Phiri installed Mtima Gondwe at a secret ceremony held at Senior Chief Mwankhunikira’s Headquarters in Rumphi.

This prompted Bongololo Gondwe to seek the court’s intervention applying for the declaration that the installation of Mtima Gondwe was contrary to the Constitution, unlawful, procedurally unfair and invalid.

In addition, Bongololo Gondwe in the judicial review case number 10 of 2019, applied for a mandatory order to instruct the Government to install him as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe.

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In his judgement delivered on Tuesday, High Court Judge Thomson Ligowe ruled in favour of Bongololo Gondwe on the first application, declaring the decision to appoint and install Mtima Gondwe as unconstitutional, unlawful, procedurally unfair and invalid.

Ligowe then nullified the decision to appoint and install Mtima Gondwe, and he further directed that Mtima Gondwe is no longer Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe and should revert to acting position until the President properly appoints and installs the rightful successor in accordance with the law.

On the second application, Ligowe said he cannot order the Government to install Bongololo Gondwe as doing so will be assuming the powers of the President, in whom lies the powers to appoint chiefs.

Speaking to journalists after the ruling, lawyer for Bongololo Gondwe, Michael Goba Chipeta said they are satisfied with the ruling in the matter, which has shown that there were anomalies in the appointment and installation of Mtima Gondwe.

“We are satisfied with the judgement because the court really went into the exact nature of the complaint that we raised, we are satisfied with the way the court has analysed the evidence and the issues that were before it, and we are also very satisfied the way the court has explained how the President is supposed to appoint the Paramount Chief,” Chipeta said.

On his part, Mtima Gondwe who now reverts to acting duties as Chikulamayembe said he respects the court’s ruling and will continue working while waiting for the President to appoint the successor.

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“To us as the Chikulamayembe clan, we don’t have any problem because I have been directed to continue working as the acting paramount, and the position of appointing the successor is in the hands of the President, so I will still be working,” Mtima Gondwe said.

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