The chieftaincy wrangles in Malawi are very common. In the past few years, there have been a number of wrangles reported which point to a big problem that has the potential to derail development.
While some of the problems emanate from the families with a claim to chieftaincy, others have been aggravated by the government, through the Ministry of Local Government, for not consulting when elevating the chiefs.
Such wrangles have been reported in a number of districts including Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Mchinji, Machinga and now Lilongwe.
Government cannot feign ignorance of the negative impact of such wrangles. For instance, one of the officials from the Ministry of Local Government acknowledged in 2016 that the wrangles in Mchinji – between the family of Masala Jere and Mzengeri Jere of Traditional Authority Zulu – were capable of derailing development after violent clashes were reported.
It is sad therefore that despite the several opportunities to resolve such matters in the past few years, today we are talking about similar wrangles in Lilongwe which are a result of the elevation of a chief by the ministry without proper consultation.
It is obvious that the government must shoulder the blame for the recent tensions in Lilongwe where 15 houses were demolished. Had the government consulted widely before elevating the chief, these wrangles could have been avoided.
For development to happen, it requires the full participation of the members of the community. Development would therefore not happen if there are divisions in the community where the chiefs are no longer respected by the villagers.
For a long time, the country has benefitted from the chiefs who have proved to be the first point of contact in addressing important issues.
Due to tradition – which most Malawians still believe in – chiefs’ say on important issues would easily be respected by many. In fact, chiefs remain a unifying factor in most communities in Malawi.
But due to carelessness of the government – which has used elevation of chiefs as a reward – chiefs would no longer be respected by their people. It is therefore unwise to politicise chieftaincies.
We believe the wrangles in the past few years should give the government something to think about. The government cannot continue ignoring the wrangles. If not addressed, the wrangles can cause more problems than what we are witnessing at the moment.
As a country that continues dreaming of development, unifying the people must be a priority. These wrangles have the potential to derail development if nothing is done to address the many chieftaincy wrangles Malawi has witnessed.