Female chief lays down the law

Today is Wednesday and the sun is beating down mercilessly in the Filabusi area of Insiza district, Matabeleland South. A group of villagers has already gathered under a shed at Chief Ndube’s homestead waiting for the arrival of the chief and the subsequent commencement of the day’s traditional court proceedings.

Chief Nonhlanhla Ndube: I am executing all my duties with authority and firmness like male chiefs do across the country.

Chief Nonhlanhla Ndube: I am executing all my duties with authority and firmness like male chiefs do across the country.

An elegantly dressed young lady emerges from a nearby house, to be greeted by a deafening silence of the gathering. It becomes apparent to this news crew that the lady, Nonhlanhla Ndube, is the chief of the area.

Nonhlanhla is not only one of the few female chiefs in the country but she is also one of the youngest. Born in the district in 1985 Nonhlanhla assumed the Ndube chieftainship in 2007 following the death of her father Andrew in 2003.

School drop-out
“In our family of five, we are all girls and I am the last born. By virtue of seniority, my elder sisters were supposed to have taken up the throne but they all refused due to some commitments in the diaspora. After all my sisters declined to take the chieftainship, I agreed to take over from my father,” said Nonhlanhla in an interview with The Zimbabwean.

She attended Chazi primary school and Fulabusi high school before dropping out due to circumstances she was not at liberty to share with us. “I dropped from school whilst I was doing form three. I faced personal challenges which forced me to abandon my high school studies,” she said.

Nonhlanhla lives with her mother at the family homestead. She is still single and searching for a husband. “It’s a bit difficult for me to get married. Anyone who wants to marry me should be prepared to come and stay with me at my home. Because of my role as a chief, I am not prepared to leave my home and go to someone else’s place” she said.

During the early days of taking over from her father, she faced stiff resistance from local politicians but after reading the riot act to them, she has successfully managed to embrace her various roles.
“When I took over from my father, I had serious problems with politicians who were disregarding my authority because of my gender and age. During those days, ministers, councillors and party officials would come into my area to conduct meetings and do whatever they wanted to without consulting me,” she recalled. Her area covers wards 2, 14 and 15.

She has since whipped the politicians into line to accept her authority. “I summoned all the politicians who were causing trouble and warned and cautioned them about their unbecoming behaviour. Now I am executing all my duties with authority and firmness like male chiefs do across the country,” she said, oozing confidence.

The chief revealed that the most prevalent cases in her area involve adultery, witchcraft and lobola. Her court, which includes youths and women, also presides over issues related to straying livestock and incest.

She called for the inclusion of more women into the traditional courts delivery system, arguing that the current patriarchal system dominated by men provided a platform for the abuse of women.
The appointment of female chiefs has caused controversy with some traditionalists and other chiefs frowning at the practice and saying it was taboo. Matabeleland South has the highest number of female chiefs in the country. Apart from chief Ndube, the previous local government minister Ignatius Chombo appointed chief Sibongile Mabhena (Umzingwani), chief Ketso Mathe (Gwanda).

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