Sparks fly in Chirumhanzu chieftainship row

Source: Sparks fly in Chirumhanzu chieftainship row | The Herald August 6, 2019

Kudakwashe Mugari Deputy News Editor
A fight has erupted over the replacement of Chief Chirumhanzu of the Midlands following the death of substantive chief Jerald Mudzengi in February.

The succession battle has reached fever pitch with two warring factions taking their fight to the High Court in Masvingo.

This comes after Chirumanzu provincial assembly representatives made spirited efforts to install the late Mudzengi’s son, Fidelis, unprocedurally as traditionally the Chirumhanzu clan rotates the chieftainship among different eligible families in the lineage.

To complicate matters, it is understood that the late Mudzengi himself assumed leadership through guile as his family was ineligible.

In an interview with The Herald, the dynasty chairperson Headman Francis Chaka from the Simba family of the Shumba Mhazi clan said the refusal by the Midlands provincial leadership to confirm the outcome of the clan’s clear nomination procedure through the assembly’s representative chiefs Mafala and Mataruse had added fuel to the raging fight.

‘‘In Chirumhanzu we rotate chieftaincy among the six families that are well known and documented in our family tree. Jerald Mudzengi’s assumption of the throne in 2004 was dogged by theft, fraud and chicanery as it skipped two families — the third and fourth. It came as no surprise that his reign was fraught with all manner of incompetence, embarrassment, disunity and controversy leading to the petition to the President to dethrone him,’’ said Headman Chaka.

‘‘Jerald Mudzengi died in February 2019. The steering committee proceeded to inform the Midlands Provincial Chiefs Assembly that had come to normalise the chieftaincy by nominating as Acting Chief (Sarapavana) the rightful person, Julius Chimbi Chigegwe. Instead of moving ahead with that process which normally takes a week or two, the provincial and district administrators and their handlers embarked on a series of dubious activities meant to subvert and undermine the due and constitutionally-aligned process of appointing an Acting Chief,’’ Headman Chaka said.

The vice-chairperson of the Chirumhanzu Dynasty Steering Committee, Headman Alouis Rutunga, who represents the Nherera family of the clan, said they were not happy with the imposition and that it was a community they will fight until the chieftainship and heritage of Chirumanzu is restored properly.

‘‘There appears to be a spirited effort to impose Fidelis Mudzengi, the son of the late Jerald Mudzengi, as the acting chief to perpetuate a well-known fraud which is at variance with the Mhazi traditions and customs, and the clear prescriptions as enshrined in the national Constitution Chapter 15 Section 283.

“We are determined to pursue all channels at our disposal to ensure that our esteemed and revered chieftainship and heritage of Chirumhanzu is restored. To that end we will absolutely leave no stone unturned in that generational mission,’’ said Headman Rutanga.

The Herald has court papers in which the dynasty argues in a case filed at Masvingo High Court on July 31. “The provincial and district administrators have ‘imposed’’ Fidelis Mudzengi, the son of the late Jerald Mudzengi as the Acting Chief, much to the chagrin of the elders. The dynasty now wants the Midlands provincial chiefs representative body to make public the outcome of the meeting at Rutunga, which recommended that Chigwegwe be Acting Chief

“The applicant is seeking an order compelling the respondent to furnish the name of the candidate recommended for the appointment as Acting Chief Chirumhanzu from the meeting of June 11, 2019 held at Rutunga and the reasons thereof for such recommendations made thereto information applicant is entitled to in terms of Section 62 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe . . .

“Respondent has no right at law to refuse to furnish the applicant before the subsequent appointment process is completed,” read the application.

The Member of Parliament for Chirumanzu-Zibagwe constituency, Cde Prosper Matando, said they are waiting for the Government to lead the process after the death of Chief Jerald Mudzengi.

The Chirumhanzu chieftaincy is no stranger to controversy. The Rhodesian government stripped one of its chiefs, Chaka, and subsequently stripped the jurisdiction of its lands, 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. The Chirumhanzi chieftainship has been presided over the years as depicted below:

Zinyoro 1973-1992

Masendeke 1992-1994 (Acting)

Fambisai Hunyenyiwa 1994-2004

Jerald Mudzengi 2004- 2019

In 2005, then Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignattius Chombo and officials in the previous Government repeated the humiliation by appointing Jerald Mudzengi Chiweshe as Chief Chirumhanzu against the dynasty hierarchy’s recommendations. According to the records and family tree in possession of The Herald, the Chiweshe house is number five in the Nherera chieftainship lineage, and accordingly the chieftaincy was supposed to go to the Chapwanya Chigegwe house which is number three as a quid pro quo.

Efforts to get comment from the Chiefs Council president, Cde Fortune Charumbira, were fruitless.