The Royal Crown Council, Bulawayo, has condemned the conviction and jailing of Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni of Ntabazinduna by a Bulawayo magistrate on Friday. In a statement released on Saturday, the Council the “outrageous and totally irrational” decision. Part of the statement reads:
The Royal Crown Council unreservedly condemns the conviction and subsequent sentencing of Chief Ndiweni to an effective 18 months in prison after 6 months of the 24 months were suspended on condition he doesn’t commit a similar offence within 5 years while the other 23 residents of Ntabazinduma who were jointly charged with the Chief were sentenced to 24 months in prison all of which was suspended as follows: 6 months were suspended for 5 years on condition they don’t commit a similar offence during that time, and, 18 months were suspended on condition that they do community service of 525 hours to begin on Monday 19 August 2019.
However one looks at the judgement, it boggles the mind how an independent and objective person presiding over an independent judicial body would ever arrive at this decision based on the factual and legal basis of the alleged violations.
Both the conviction and the sentence are wrong, outrageous, totally irrational and elicit a deep sense of shock in any reasonable person, especially on a charge of alleged malicious damage to property worth RGS$300.
Where a chief is alleged to have misdirected himself on a point of law or fact in a customary or community court setting, the established procedure is for his decision to be taken on appeal or review in an appropriate court, in this case, the magistrate’s court. He should never be arrested.
Chiefs don’t preside over cases in their individual capacities but they do so in their official capacities and it should never be accepted that a chief is jailed for a judgement he reasonably believed to be correct in his interpretation of the culture, traditions, customs and practices of his people.
To imprison a chief for the correct, or even wrong, interpretation, of his people’s culture, customs, traditions and practices is to imprison the culture, customs, traditions, and practices of his people.
In a chief’s court, decisions are community decisions; they are people’s decisions and are taken as best as possible within the principles of customary rule of law. Can you imagine us jailing magistrates and judges who make judgements we don’t like?