It is refreshing to learn that the Law Commission on the Review of the Chiefs Act is recommending that Malawiâ€™s President should not be involved in the appointment of traditional leaders, essentially to enhance neutrality in the execution of duties by the chiefs.
It could not have been put any better than this. From time immemorial, we have seen chiefs being used and abused by politicians of different colours under the guise of â€œsupporting the government of the dayâ€.
In recent years, especially after the dawn of multiparty democracy in 1993, the courts have been flooded with chieftaincy succession wrangles. Most of such succession disputes have been due to political interference from authorities to handpick their preferred choices against the traditional order.
Memories are still fresh of one paramount chief of a tribe in the country whose elevation was debatable as, some historians argued, the chief belonged to a different tribe other than the one whose tradition and culture he is supposed to be protecting and upholding. There have also been cases where some promotions of chiefs have created problems in the natural and traditional set-ups of some tribes.
Involvement of the President in the appointment or elevation of chiefs, regardless of whatever procedures are followed, has indeed eroded the independence and proper functioning of the institution of chieftaincy.
We cannot agree more with the proposal that traditional authorities (T/As) within districts should choose among themselves the most senior traditional leader to be a senior chief.
Politicians should leave tradition alone. Mixing politics and tradition, as has been observed and experienced before, only breeds unnecessary tension and problems. After all, politicians are elected whereas chiefs are born and follow a naturally or mutually agreed succession tree depending on tribe or culture.
Traditional leaders deserve independence if they are to reclaim the confidence and respect of the public.