Controversial Zimbabwe chief secures fine to get out of jail
Eccentric Matabeleland traditional leader Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Felix Ndiweni, 54, has been fined the equivalent of R770 on appeal, effectively freezing an 18-month prison sentence passed almost a month ago.
Initially, Ndiweni, one of Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s harshest critics, and 23 of his subjects were sentenced to 24 months in prison for malicious damage to property. Six months were suspended on condition of good behaviour.
However, his subjects’ sentences were changed to 525 hours of community service, while the paramount chief was jailed. His incarceration drew public outcry, with allegations that his sentence was heavy and politically motivated.
Before the appeal, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa visited the chief at Khami Medium Prison in Bulawayo.
His defence was led by MDC Alliance deputy president Welshman Ncube and MDC senator David Coltart. The matter was heard by Bulawayo High Court judge Thompson Mabhikwa.
Mabhikwa dismissed the state’s assertion that if granted bail, Ndiweni was likely to abscond. The chief was given stringent reporting conditions. He will have to report once a week at Zimbabwe Republic Police Ntabazinduna depot and reside at his given address until the matter is finalised.
Despite the matter being heard late in the afternoon on Wednesday, the chief’s supporters, in their hundreds, staged protests outside the court, amid heavy police presence.
It was the state’s case that the chief and his subjects damaged Fetti Mbele’s property and banished him from the community of Ntabazinduna because he forgave his wife, Nonkangelo Mpengesi, after she was allegedly caught having sex with another villager. Ndiweni ruled that Mbele and his “adulterous” wife should be banished from the village, because “prostitution” would not be tolerated in his area.
Villagers, including village head Kimpton Sibanda, 72, were allegedly ordered by Ndiweni to destroy Mbele’s garden fence and kraal.
One of the key witnesses in the matter was former home affairs minister Obert Mpofu, who is now Zanu-PF’s secretary for administration.
Ndiweni, like his father, the late Khayisa Ndiweni, has constantly been at loggerheads with government, when most traditional leaders in Zimbabwe are aligned to the ruling Zanu-PF.