Drama, confusion, and violence characterised the installation of Mtima Gondwe as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe, as a rival camp stoned and destroyed the chieftaincy office at Bolero, Rumphi in protest against the installation.
After failing to conduct the ceremony at Bolero and Rumphi Stadium where the rival camp of Joseph Bongololo Gondwe had camped, the ceremony was moved to the house of Senior Chief Mwankhunikira.
Some people from Bongololo camped at the District Commissioner’s office, anticipating to disturb Mtima’s installation.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Ben Phiri presided over the ceremony amid tension in the district, with Mtima replacing his father, the late Walter John Hardy Gondwe, who died in December 2018 aged 86.
In an interview, principal group village head Chikalamba Gondwe, who supports the candidature of Joseph Bongololo Gondwe, expressed surprise at the decision of government to proceed with the installation when the dispute had not been resolved.
He said High Court Judge Dorothy De Gabrielle ordered families involved in the Chikulamayembe chieftaincy succession dispute to discuss the issue among themselves and appoint a rightful heir, but those on the side of Mtima were shunning meetings.
“On our side, we proceeded to nominate names and settled for Bongololo. The name and letter, endorsed by Senior Chief Katumbi was sent to the DC.
“Later, those supporting Mtima sent their letter as well. We were surprised later to be told by the DC that our name had not been submitted. On Monday, we went again to ask, and he assured that he would be submitting the name and that installation of Mtima would not take place,” he said.
Following the installation, Chikalamba said they will seek advice from their lawyer, but urged people in the district to remain calm.
District Commissioner Fred Movete defended his decision of submitting the name of Mtima to government, saying he commanded respect from the majority of the royal family.
He said:”At least 11 royal families supported the candidature of Mtima, and according to the law, the one who has majority support must assume the position. The other camp only came in last week, but I still accepted their name because as a public officer, I could not have refused it.”
Meanwhile, Rumphi Police spokesperson Henry Mnjere has said they were monitoring the situation at Bolero, where an officer had been deployed.