Friday, 13 December 2019

FEMALE CHIEF : IT IS A ROLLER-COASTER


SIX years of a drawn-out battle in the chieftainship wrangle, 12-years at the helm as the supreme traditional leader in her area, a Filabusi female Chief feels her journey in the male dominated leadership role is a roller-coaster ride that never stops.

Chief Ndube, born Nonhlanhla Sibanda, says she knew from a young age that she was somewhat different from other children. At age 10, she was already running around assisting her father, the Chief of Filabusi, Insiza District, in Matabeleland South Province in executing his duties.

While her peers played house, record books and keeping a diary for her father occupied the mind of the young girl. At the time she was oblivious that fate would one day call upon her to use those skills.

In 2001 her father Chief Ndube born Andrew Sibanda passed on and she was thrust into the throes of a leadership role that make even the bravest of men quiver in their boots.

Born in a family of five, Nonhlanhla is the last-born daughter of the late Chief Ndube, who took over the chieftainship in 1996.

Not only did death rob Nonhlanhla of a family pillar, father, provider and protector, it also exposed her to the cutthroat world of traditional leadership, with all its ugly side that is well documented in history books.

His death marked the beginning of a six-year battle for the chieftainship. The late Chief Ndube did not leave behind a son, who would have automatically taken over the reins without the squabbles that later followed his passing away.

“My sisters, who are all based overseas, had already left the country when our father passed away and they all turned down the offer to take over the reins. When it was my turn to decide, I did not think twice about taking over and continuing with my father’s legacy but taking over the chieftainship would not be that easy.

“There were disagreements in the family as to whether I was the rightful person to take over the chieftainship, with my uncles arguing that I could not take over because I’m a woman and in any case, was too young at the time,” said Chief Ndube.

The matter was finally settled in September 2007 and a fresh faced 22-year-old Chief Ndube officially took over the throne.

The first few months were the most difficult. All eyes were on the young Chief, people taking every opportunity to find fault in every word she uttered in public and every action she took.

She is still convinced even the ordinary men and women were rating her leadership skills with each public appearance she made. 

“People would come in their numbers to every public appearance that I made and I’m convinced it was out of curiosity to see how a female Chief would handle herself when addressing community meetings or resolving disputes,” Chief Ndube told the Saturday Leisure at her homestead in Filabusi.


Even to the most seasoned traditional leaders, disputes among community members is an unavoidable way of life and at any given time, Chief Ndube has her hands full resolving conflicts that arise within her jurisdiction.

The most common disputes that warrant a sit down at her traditional court are cases of community members accusing each other of witchcraft, adultery, disputes over land and fighting between daughters-in law and mothers-in law.

To make her traditional court an effective dispute resolving chamber, she appointed advisors that assist her in settling disputes.

Her advisory council includes two elderly women, for the purposes of gender equality and the same number of men.

“As expected, I’m the youngest and the advisors are there to help me resolve conflicts but I deliberately included women in the advisory council so that female complainants can also feel free to approach our traditional courts for recourse,” she said.

The traditional court is a stone’s throw away from the Chief’s homestead. Filabusi is a gold rich area and the abundance of the precious yellow metal has attracted people from other provinces. 

Life in Filabusi is not as simple and laid back to the descendants of the area as they used to know it.

“Omakorokoza are causing havoc here in Filabusi. We appreciate that the economy of the local area is being boosted by gold but not everything that comes along with the influx of people from other provinces is good for our people.

“Children are dropping out of school to search for gold, the rate of early pregnancies is shooting up and we’re seeing girls as young as 14-years frequenting local bars because the makorokozas splash their money around a lot.

“Gold money is certainly destroying lives and as community leaders, we can only try and discourage our kids from dropping out of school to join gold miners,” she said.

As the Saturday Leisure crew leaves the chief’s homestead to have a look at the traditional court, we encounter two men who walk past us on a narrow dusty road and to our amazement, the gentlemen do not even greet or acknowledge the Chief.

They simply walk past us, pass quick glances and continue their journey. 

“They are definitely omakorokoza and I can assure you that they don’t even know who I am. I’m not surprised because these people care less about learning the traditional and cultural norms of this area. They are just after the gold”.

When she talks about community projects she has in mind, one gets the feeling Chief Ndube is passionate about the development of her area. Adult education is close to her heart.

“Last year I introduced an adult learning programme where the elderly take evening classes at  primary schools and the first group wrote their Grade Seven Examinations in October. The idea is to afford the elderly a chance to learn to read and write, which is a huge challenge as many of them have not been to school.

“I wish to spread the programme to other areas under my jurisdiction but that can only be made possible if we get a donor to supply them with stationery and other requirements,” she said

Turning to her personal life, a subject she prefers to keep out of the public eye, Chief Ndube is married to Prosper Moyo, a self-employed gentleman and the couple are expecting a child.

Contrary to popular belief that Chiefs are a well catered lot who enjoy endless perks from the Government, Chief Ndube says she like the rest of ordinary Zimbabweans, works hard to put food on the table for her family. 

“People think we live fancy lives, but as you can see, my home is a modest place and I get up every morning to work like everyone else. Of course, the car parked outside is a Government issued vehicle but that is all there is to it.”

Because she cannot drive, her husband takes time off from his work to take her to traditional leaders’ business meetings and conferences.

Her parting words to the Saturday Leisure crew is that female Chiefs can execute their duties efficiently just like their male counterparts, if not better.  Chronicle

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