A showdown is looming between Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Chief Luscious Chitsinde Negomo, who has threatened to attach the premier’s property this week if he fails to pay a fine for allegedly violating traditional norms.
Chief Negomo says Mr. Tsvangirai, by allegedly paying lobola or bride price for one Locadia Karimatsenga-Tembo last November, violated the Shona tradition which holds the month sacred. Marriages and other traditional ceremonies are barred in November as per the tradition and Chief Negomo wants Mr. Tsvangirai to pay a fine to "appease" the spirits.
The chief’s aide, retired Major Cairo Mhandu, who represents Mazowe North in parliament, told the Voice of America on Monday that Mashonaland Central Provincial magistrate, Mr. Mawadze, who early this month set aside Chief Negomo’s ruling saying he had no power to charge Mr. Tsvangirai, had now reversed his judgment.
In a letter sent to Negomo and Mr. Tsvangirai’s attorney on March 12th, magistrate Mawadze reportedly states that he incorrectly set aside a judgment that had been made earlier by the same court ordering the Prime Minister to pay the traditional penalty.
The chief had ordered Mr. Tsvangirai to pay a fine of two head of cattle, two sheep, 10 meters of white cloth and a bowl of snuff to appease the spirits.
Selby Hwacha, the prime minister’s lawyer, said he is not aware of the latest development.
Magistrate Mawadze had previously cited several anomalies as a basis of ruling in Mr. Tsvangirai’s favor. This included the fact that Chief Negomo had no jurisdiction over the area where the customary ceremony allegedly took place; and that the chief had been both the complainant and judge in the case he presided over.
But Mhandu told the VOA’s Violet Gonda that there was a communication breakdown in the Bindura magistrate’s office and that error has now been corrected, adding proceedings are underway in the traditional court to attach Mr. Tsvangirai’s property.
“The judgment was not set aside, the ruling still stands and chief Negomo’s court is proceeding with the court process if the prime minister fails to pay the fine,” Mhandu said.
Youths from Mr. Tsvangirai’s party have threatened to ‘prevent’ Chief Negomo from attaching their leader’s property.
Deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said Negomo is “a bogus chief’ who is “playing politics” and trying to embarrass the Prime Minister.
“He is a bogus chief and I challenge him to sue me because I have proof to show that he is not a chief,” said Gutu. “Why is this chief so excited in trying to pursue over a matter in which he has no jurisdiction?”
“This is one of the clearest examples of the bastardization of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. We have thugs and lunatics who masquerade as chiefs who are really trying to denigrate the office of the Prime Minister,” Gutu added.
Mhandu denied the traditional leader is embarking on a campaign to embarrass Mr. Tsvangirai but said ‘the violation of cultural norms’ by the Prime Minister are some of the reasons why there are irregular rain patterns in the province, and reason why traditional duties should be conducted.
“If you behave in a way that goes against our own culture or your own culture then you are embarrassing yourself. This is only a correction to correct the mistake that was made by the Prime Minister.”