Tuesday, 21 June 2022

WOMAN WAITS EIGHT YEARS TO BE INSTALLED CHIEF

THE rondavel at the centre of the yard of her rural home is her favourite room among the 10 structures at the Mlotshwa homestead.

It was in this room where nine years ago her father, the now late Chief Mvuthu (Nyangayezizwe Mlotshwa), told her that she was his successor.

She spends most of her days in the room, meditating on lessons learnt since she was a small child with the hope that one day authorities will finally agree to install her as chief.

Being the eldest daughter in a family of three girls, Ms Silibaziso Mlotshwa, has a heavy burden to take care of her fathers’ family including her 93-year-old grandmother and a mentally challenged aunt aged 63 who rely on her for upkeep.

To her, delays in installing her as chief are not only a violation of her birth right but they hinder her potential as a young woman who wishes to be a lawyer one day when she can afford to further her education.

She does not understand why after eight years, her family led by her cousin who is gunning for the royal seat is sabotaging her with alleged blessing from the Hwange District Development Coordinator’s office.

“I am not the first female in Zimbabwe to aspire to be a chief as we already have three and in fact it is my right as the eldest child of my late father Nyangayezizwe Mlotshwa who died on March 3 in 2014,” said Silibaziso who is now married.

She is also a self-taught multi linguist who is comfortable in speaking English, iSiNdebele, Nambya, Tonga and Nyanja which are spoken in her community.

“I have been preparing myself since I was 10 with the help of my father who started taking me to his meetings so I could learn how to preside over issues.

I am well versed with the Traditional Chiefs Act, I know how to communicate and I can easily do what other chiefs do because I was born for this and my father mentored me before he died,” she said.

Her cousin who is also at the centre of the controversy claims that Silibaziso cannot be a chief simply because she is a woman.

“He told the district administrator that he cannot be led by someone who experiences menstruation as if he himself is not born of a woman.

He is even married.

He has tried countless times to discourage me from going to court about this issue but I will not rest until justice is served,” says Silibaziso, grim determination apparent in her manner.

Her mother, Mrs Mlotshwa, said the family which is made up of eight members now relies on handouts for a living.

“Her uncle was placed as interim chief only after we objected through the courts as the family believe he is the rightful heir because my husband has no male children,” she said.

Her aunt needs expensive drugs monthly and I am struggling to put her younger sisters through school which is the reason why she could not proceed to university after she got 8 points at A-Level.

“When we had her, it was obvious she would succeed her father and she was raised as a chief as we knew she was the heir.

I have faith in her capabilities and for now the court is our only hope since the family has forsaken us after we clearly told them we would honour my husband’s wish to have Silibaziso as chief.”

The 28-year-old completed her primary education at St Ignatius in Hwange town before proceeding to Hwange High for her secondary education where she got 8 points at A-Level.

She said her husband is supportive of her aspirations, although he does not actively interfere in the wrangle.

Although Ms Mlotshwa has sympathisers within the family, she said they support her secretly as they’re afraid to appear as if they are against the majority.

“I am married with one child and my husband knows and supports the idea of having a wife who is a chief.

He totally understands my vision although he does not want to interfere as that may strain relations with his in-laws,” she said.

“Ever since I completed my A-Level I have patiently been waiting for the day I will be acknowledged as an heir as I believe I am capable.

I do have support from other family members who share the same sentiments but they are afraid to come out in the open hence my predicament.

I also appeal for help form other organisations to support me in this wrangle because I know I am the rightful chief although my family has chosen to take my cousin’s side.”

She said ever since her father died, the family has struggled to make ends meet which explains why she had not yet furthered her studies.

“My two sisters are currently in secondary school doing Form Two and Three and I do hope that by the time they complete their studies, I will be in a position to help them proceed.

For now, I will continue working to ensure my family has food.

All while awaiting the final decision which I pray will be in my favour.

I was told to wait and here I am taking every day as it passes.”

“I know that we have more than four female chiefs in this country hence my aspirations are not misplaced.

I have not yet interacted with any of them but I know they are doing well for their communities.”

Ms Mlotshwa is working in Victoria Falls to fend for her family and said the eight-year long wait to become chief has not shaken her from fighting as she is still determined to take over her father’s roles.

“It’s been eight good years and now my only hope lies in the Government as I was told the onus is now upon President Mnangagwa to make the decision.

The family failed me, failed us as girls and it pains me to see that they have deserted us because I refused to let my uncle take what is rightfully mine.

Sometimes I get tired and I am tempted to let them win but when I think of the great things I can bring about in this community as a young girl, I get motivated,” she said.

“All I want is to see a progressive community where girls have equal opportunities, I wish to see many of my people being educated and successful and one day even after waiting so long I believe I will be their chief and will serve them faithfully like my father.”

Female traditional leader Chief Ndube, born Nonhlanhla Sibanda from Filabusi, Insiza District, Matabeleland South province who fought a six-year drawn-out battle with her family members to succeed her late father Chief Ndube born Andrew Sibanda said although the representation of women in politics has increased over the years, women traditional leaders were still playing less significant roles compared to their male counterparts.

“This is due to some endemic cultural perception of the position of women in public life.

There is however, need for sensitisation and training programmes to empower these women traditional leaders so that they can also be included in the governance system and structures of the country where they can help address specific issues such as violence against women, girls’ lack of education and community health issues,” said Chief Ndube.

The Mlotshwa family is divided with one faction in support of Mr Saunders Mlotshwa saying it is against Ndebele culture for a woman to succeed her father as chief while others back Ms Mlotshwa saying she is being victimised just because she is a woman.

In 2020, Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Maxwell Takuva passed a judgment in which he found that the district administrator — being fully aware of the constitutional provisions of equality and non-discrimination — carried out his duties in terms of the Traditional Leaders Act in a discriminatory manner.

The court declared the initial nomination by the district administrator void and Justice Takuva ordered that the district administrator reconvene a meeting within 60 days to select a chief.

The court further compelled the district administrator to act lawfully during the selection process, within the constitutional dictates of human dignity and equality before the law. Chronicle

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