The High Court in Mzuzu has nullified a second commission of inquiry that former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika instituted in the Mankhambira chieftaincy wrangle.
In his ruling last Thursday, Mzuzu High Court judge Dingiswayo Madise said the late president erred in commissioning another inquiry into the chieftaincy dispute when the first one produced results, according to court documents.
Section 12 of the Chiefs Act mandates the president to appoint persons to inquire into any question relating to the appointment to or removal from the office of paramount chief, senior chief, chief, sub-chief or any person and make recommendations there on to the president.
At the time, Harry Mnkhwakwata—son of former Traditional Authority (T/A) Mankhambira from the Chigowo royal bloodline—wanted to be crowned chief despite the area’s tradition of not allowing a chief’s son to assume that role.
Three royal families—Chibwana, Chakwanika and Chigowo—protested the move, which led to wrangles.
This prompted Mutharika in 2012 to appoint two commissions of inquiry consecutively to make recommendations on who was to be T/A Mankhambira, but the inquiries came up with conflicting findings.
The first inquiry in February 2012 found that the Mankhambira chieftainship is determined on a rotation basis among the three royal families of Chibwana, Chakwanika and Chigowo.
It established that the Chakwanikas had only ruled once and it was their turn to submit a name and they put forward Baddin Banda.
But for reasons that Mutharika did not explain, he set up another commission to investigate the same matter.
The second inquiry on April 4 2012, just two days before Mutharika’s death, came up with different findings from the first one as it stated that there was no rotation among the families and recommended that the clans meet to choose one person.
When Vutani Kondowe emerged as chief, Mnkhwakwata dragged the three families to court.
In his ruling, Madise faulted findings of the second inquiry, which indicated that one family can rule as many times as the candidate enjoyed the support of the majority of the people. The judge also criticised the late Mutharika for instituting the second inquiry.
“This added to the confusion which even confused the president and in the end no one was appointed up to this very day,” he said.
Madise said having carefully looked at the evidence and the law, there was no justification for the president to disregard the findings of the first commission of inquiry.
The judge observed that the first inquiry was more probable than not, suggesting its findings were closer to what the situation should be.
He thus ordered that Banda from Chakwanika royal family be the T/A Mankhambira. Banda will have to be succeeded by the Chibwana family before the Chigowo family can lead.
Lawyer for Chakwanika royal family, Godfrey Nyirenda, has since written Nkhata Bay district commissioner to facilitate official coronation of Banda as T/A Mankhambira.
“We hope you will comply with the judgment by facilitating coronation of Baddin Chimbaza Banda as Traditional Authority Mankambira as soon as possible,” reads the letter