Joseph Bongololo Gondwe yesterday ascended to the throne as Chikulamayembe XIII in a coronation held 400 metres away from another claimant who alongside his supporters were drenched in heavy tear gas.
The countdown to the coronation was characterised by violence that worsened on the eve of the coronation.
Mtima Gondwe, who has been acting Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe has since accused President Lazarus Chakwera of betrayal, alleging he assured him that he would be crowned the Tumbuka leader.
Mtima, speaking in an exclusive interview yesterday at his house in Bolero, some four football pitches away from where his rival, was being crowned, vowed not to back down.
He remains with the royal stick and the chieftaincy fly-whisk (litchowa) and said government had fired many tear gas canisters to try get the things but failed.
As we headed to interview him, police officers and Malawi Defence Force soldiers were all over the road to his house as tear gas clouded the area.
The youth, mostly boys, blocked the road and were seen pelting law enforcers with stones.
At his house, over 100 sympathisers had gathered, singing, and chanting in praise of Mtima who remained in his house with his trusted induna and spokesperson principal group village head Hunga.
Police arrested principal group village head Khalapamuhanya from Mtima’s camp, who is head of the royal families.
Said Mtima Gondwe: “I feel betrayed because on March 2 2022 when he came for Martyrs Day, he called me and we met at State Lodge in Mzuzu. He assured that he will support my bid.
“Remember when we had a fracas at Gonapamuhanya in 2017, I carried him in my vehicle to protect him from political hooligans that time. But look now, he has changed and forgotten all that. But I won’t back down, I remain acting Paramount Chief. Whatever that they have done won’t change me. I have more people than Bongololo.”
Mtima, son to the late John Hardy Gondwe who was Chikulamayembe XII, speaking while shaking in disbelief, said
he had taken the matter to court.
“I cannot recognise Bongololo, he is the chief for Malawi Congress Party, not the people of Nkhamanga. I remain the chief, that’s it. I have been tortured, tear gas all over my house, for what? My people have been harassed.
“I will not say much now. We leave it to the courts to determine the matter. Until then, I remain the chief. I repeat, I won’t back down,” he said, arguing that he had been forced to retire from work just to take up the position.
As Mtima and his people protested, President Chakwera proceeded to install Bongololo as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe at Bolero Community Ground.
At the ceremony, Chakwera said he was aware there were squabbles leading to the installation, but urged the new chief to unite all families.
Said Chakwera: “I know that there is a family that has been acting, and I also know that the road to this day has been bumpy. But let me thank you for being united so that this event takes place.
“I want to urge you, our new chief that you unite all the families. A President does not elect traditional leaders. The name Bongololo was elected by the people, not me, and he is the real chief of people.”
Local Government Minister Blessings Chinsinga urged the new Chikulamayembe to support government in its development efforts.
“Government works with local communities and as a leader, work with government so that development projects are done for the betterment of people,” he said.
Both Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa and Paramount Chief Kyungu urged the new Chikulamayembe to unite his
people, but also remain apolitical.
Said Mmbelwa : “ There are people who have been against you, but you are now the chief. Unite all people and don’t terminate chieftainships of those that didn’t support you. If you do that, you will be attracting more trouble, work with everyone, embrace all people.”
Kyungu said: “As chiefs, we work with each government. Don’t be taken by the wind of politicians, work with government. You never know who will be in power tomorrow. And politicians, please don’t associate us with politics, we work with everybody.”
Under Section 4 (1) of the Chief’s Act, a President may by writing under his hand appoint to the office of Paramount Chief, Senior Chief or Chief such person as he shall recognise as being entitled to such office.
“(2) No person shall be recognised under this section unless the President is satisfied that such person— (a) is entitled to hold office under customary law; (b) has the support of the majority of the people in the area of jurisdiction of the office in question; and (c) in the case of the office of Senior Chief, is a chief and is recognised by all chiefs in his district as being entitled under customary law prevailing in that district to be appointed Senior Chief.”
Mtima was installed Paramount Chief in 2019, but the High Court in Mzuzu nullified his installation last year on premise that it was unconstitutional, unlawful, procedurally unfair and invalid.
The loyal families later elected Bongololo as their leader, but Mtima refused to relinquish power, forcing government to institute a negotiation team to resolve their differences.
On March 12 this year, Chakwera appointed Bongololo as the Tumbuka chief, but this met strong resistance from the Mtima camp which has petitioned Chakwera twice, without reply.
The Chikulamayembe chieftaincy is well known for the Gonapamuhanya cultural ceremony that takes place at Themba la Mathemba Chikulamayembe’s headquarters.
The chieftaincy started when Mlowoka came to Malawi in 1780. The name is derived from his crossing Lake Malawi from Tanzania.