Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
CHIEF Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni was yesterday sentenced to two years in jail while his 23 subjects escaped custodial sentences after they were ordered to perform community service for destroying a villager’s property in Ntabazinduna.
Chief Ndiweni (54) and 23 other villagers pleaded not guilty to damaging Mr Fetti Mbele’s property but were convicted by Bulawayo magistrate, Ms Gladmore Mushove.
Chief Ndiweni and his subjects were each sentenced to 24 months of which six months were suspended for five years on condition that they do not within that period commit a similar offence.
Chief Ndiweni will serve an effective 18 months in jail while his subjects had their remaining 18 months wholly suspended on condition that they perform 525 hours of community service at local schools and clinics starting Monday.
In passing the sentence, Ms Mushove described the conduct of Chief Ndiweni and his subjects as barbaric and deplorable.
“In arriving at an appropriate sentence, the court will take into account the fact that you are all first offenders. However, it should be noted that this is a serious offence which was committed in aggravatory circumstances. The accused persons used axes to destroy the accused person’s property before burning it and malicious offence is a serious offence, which falls under third schedule offences,” she said.
“This offence is viewed in bad light and the first accused person (Chief Ndiweni) who is a man of authority and who by virtue of being a chief was supposed to protect the constitutional rights of his subjects, has a high moral blameworthiness in the matter. This offence was committed in an absolute barbaric manner.”
“It is shocking how a chief can behave in a manner that he did. He was supposed to ensure that people live together in peace and harmony and in light of that his moral blameworthiness is very high and in passing the sentence they will be a disparity,” ruled the magistrate.
The matter went on full trial with a number of witnesses testifying, including Zanu-PF secretary for administration, Cde Obert Mpofu.
Cde Mpofu’s involvement in the case came following Chief Ndiweni’s testimony in court last year during which he claimed the allegations emanated from Cde Mpofu’s efforts to “fix” him after he had filed criminal charges against the politician.
He alleged that Cde Mpofu stole 200 cattle from his late father, Chief Khayisa Ndiweni. Chief Ndiweni said he had reported the stock-theft case at Mbembesi Police Station, but Cde Mpofu allegedly used his influence as then Home Affairs Minister to make the docket disappear.
Chief Ndiweni further claimed that politics was at play in the matter, accusing Cde Mpofu of influencing Mr Mbele, his wife and members of Zanu-PF to interfere with his traditional court’s order.
However, Cde Mpofu in his testimony said Chief Ndiweni was in the habit of making false allegations against the Government and the ruling party due to ignorance since he had spent many years out of the country.
Mr Mbele of Ntabazinduna was banished from the village by the chief after his wife Ms Nonkangelo Mpengesi was allegedly caught having sex with another villager.
In July last year, Chief Ndiweni ruled that Mr Mbele and his “adulterous” wife should be banished from Sifelani village, saying “prostitution” will not be tolerated in his area.
The prosecutor, Mr Kudakwashe Jaravaza, said on July 26 in 2017 at around 4PM, Mr Mbele and his wife arrived from Bulawayo to find some villagers standing outside their homestead.
Kimpton Sibanda (72), a village head and two other villagers, claimed they were ordered by Chief Ndiweni to destroy Mbele’s garden fence and kraal.
“Sibanda instructed the villagers to destroy the fence and kraal. At around 5PM, Chief Ndiweni arrived and ordered the villagers to continue destroying Mr Mbele’s fence and kraal,” said Mr Jaravaza.
The order followed Mr Mbele’s alleged defiance of Chief Ndiweni’s verdict to divorce his wife.
Chief Ndiweni had given a ruling that Mr Mbele’s wife should vacate her husband’s home, but she did not comply with the order since they had resolved the matter as a couple, prompting the chief to order the destruction of his fence and kraal. — @mashnets