Malawi President and Local Government and Rural Development Minister Grace Maseko face contempt of court charges for installation of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kilupula of Karonga despite an injunction stopping the process.
But government has argued the injunction was quashed, hence the installation.
The installation of Chief Kilupula two weeks ago by the minister has come under dispute among the Ngondes and has turned Ngelenge area in the northern Malawi district of Karonga into a semi-battle zone following protests of the â€œillegalâ€ ceremony.
Lawyer Wapona Kita, who is representing William Kalongera Mwakikungaâ€”the purported rightful heir to the Kilupula throneâ€”on Saturday last week said he was surprised with the installation ceremony which was against an injunction he obtained on behalf of his client.
Mwakikunga on June 19, 2012 obtained a High Court order against the minister and the President as the first and second defendants, respectively.
The injunction stayed the installation until a judicial review and final determination of the matter.
Said Kita: â€œThere was no revocation of the injunction in as far as I am concerned. So, we shall proceed with contempt of court [proceedings] against whoever acted on instructions from the ministry.â€
Kita said he told Maseko on November 16 2012 in a letter that the intended installation of Posiana George Mwantende as T/A Kilupula would be in contempt of court if she proceeded with the process.
Wrote Kita in a letter, whose copy The Nation has seen: â€œThe document in our custody shows that you were duly served with an order of injunction and the said injunction is still valid up to-date. In other words, it has not been vacated or challenged at all.â€
Kita also wrote the Karonga district commissioner on October 25 2012 stopping him from recognising Mwantende as T/A Kilupula in view of the injunction obtained by his client.
Meanwhile, the number of houses set ablaze in Karonga due to the Kilupula chieftaincy wrangle has risen to 17, police have confirmed.
Since Saturday, November 17 2012 when the new Kilupula was installed, there have been cases of arson during some nights.
The development prompted police in Karonga to act. They arrested 17 suspects, some of whom have since been released on bail.
Karonga District Council director of administration Steve Chima said meetings have been called to calm the situation in the communities concerned.
In an interview in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe, Maseko said the installation took place because the injunction was quashed.
Chieftaincy succession wrangles have been common since the dawn of plural politics in 1993. Observers have argued that political interference in succession among traditional leaders has resulted in long-drawn squabbles.
In September this year, the Special Law Commission on the Review of the Chiefs Act recommended that the countryâ€™s President should not be appointing chiefs to enhance neutrality in the multiparty political dispensation.