Mashudu Netsianda Bulawayo Bureau
GOVERNMENT has dismissed claims by dethroned Ntabazinduna Chief Nhlanhla Ndiweni that his removal from the chieftainship by President Mnangagwa, following recommendations by Cabinet and the Matabeleland North Provincial Assembly of Chiefs, was unlawful.
Mr Ndiweni ceased to be Ntabazinduna chief on November 30 last year and was subsequently stripped of all Government benefits accruing to him.
In its response to Mr Ndiweni’s application challenging his dismissal, the Government argued that his removal was lawful with proper procedures having been followed.
Mr Ndiweni, through his lawyers Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers, last December filed an application for a declaratur at the Bulawayo High Court citing President Mnangagwa, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo, the president of the Chiefs Council Chief Fortune Charumbira, the chairman of the Matabeleland North Provincial Assembly of Chiefs, Chief Shana, the acting provincial development coordinator for Matabeleland North Ms Latiso Dlamini and Umguza district development coordinator Mr Tapiwa Zvivovoyi, as respondents.
He wants an order nullifying his removal.
Mr Ndiweni also wants the court to block the Government from dispossessing him of his Government-issued vehicle and chiefs’ regalia, among other State-owned assets.
Secretary for Local Government and Public Works Mr Zvinechimwe Ruvinga Churu has filed a notice of opposition challenging Mr Ndiweni’s application.
In his opposing affidavit, Mr Churu said the President’s decision to sack Mr Ndiweni was in line with the country’s Constitution.
“The applicant (Mr Ndiweni) was lawfully removed from the office as Chief Ndiweni. Section 68 of the Constitution was properly followed, the applicant was given an opportunity to be heard and to make representations during the investigations,” he said.
Mr Churu said Mr Ndiweni misrepresented to the investigation team that his elder brother, Joram, was not interested in being the chief.
Joram is the late Chief Khayisa Ndiweni’s eldest son and culturally he was supposed to take over the chieftaincy from his father when he died in 2010.
In 2014, Joram approached the High Court challenging the appointment of his younger brother as Chief Ndiweni under case number HC1875/14.
Mr Churu argued that Mr Ndiweni was not the rightful heir to the throne.
He said there was nothing unprocedural about the Matabeleland North Provincial Assembly of Chiefs meeting which recommended to the President Mr Ndiweni’s dismissal.
“The meeting established that the applicant was not appointed in line with the prevailing succession tradition. The law is very clear in that the appointment, suspension, removal of chiefs is done by the President on the recommendations of the Provincial Assembly of Chiefs through the minister responsible for traditional leaders,” he said.
“The applicant is misdirected. He was given an opportunity to make representations as expected by the law. I therefore pray that this application be dismissed with costs.”
In his founding affidavit, Mr Ndiweni argued that his removal from the chieftainship was unlawful and a violation of his constitutional right under the Administration of Justice Act as well as under the common law.
“I can only be removed from my office as Chief Ndiweni upon lawful action and processes fully respecting my constitutional rights under subsection (1) and (2) of Section 68 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which grant me the rights to administrative conduct that is lawful, reasonable, procedural and substantively. I have the right to be promptly given reasons for the administrative conduct taken and affecting my rights and I was denied all these rights,” he said.
Mr Ndiweni said he was not given enough notice of the nature and proposed action against him, including a reasonable opportunity to make representations on the matter.
He argued that Section 3 (2) (a) (i) of the Traditional Leaders Act under which President Mnangagwa removed him from the office of Chief Ndiweni has no application to the removal of chiefs. He said the legal provision does not grant the President the power to strip him of his chieftainship.
“That provision deals exclusively with the issue of appointment of chiefs and not their removal. Chief Ndiweni was duly and lawfully appointed by the then President, the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe in June 2014. Accordingly, no question arises under Section 3(2) (a) (i) of the Traditional Leaders Act,” he said.
“I submit that, in casu, the respondents acted in violation of the law and thereby making their conduct unlawful, null and void.”
Mr Ndiweni claimed that he was not officially served with the letter of dismissal, but only saw it being circulated on social media.
He further claimed that the Matabeleland North Provincial Assembly of Chiefs, the National Council of Chiefs, Minister Moyo and the President never gave him any notice of the intended administrative action, which the Government disputed.