HOME Affairs minister Obert Mpofu's name has been thrust into the messy dispute over Ndebele paramount chief Khayisa Ndiweni's succession amid accusations that the Zanu PF politician is blocking the installation of the substantive chief.
Ndiweni, a respected traditional leader and politician, died in 2010, sparking an acrimonious dispute pitting his 95-year-old widow against two of her sons.
And Mpofu's alleged meddling has added a new dimension to the fight with Agnes Masuku-Ndiweni -- the mother of the feuding sons of the revered traditional leader -- accusing the Umguza MP of dividing her family.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa's name has also been dragged into the dispute after he allegedly assured Chief Khayisa Ndiweni's widow that Felex Nhlanhlayemangwe Ndiweni, her preferred heir, would be installed chief.
Masuku-Ndiweni told The Standard that Mpofu was "wrongly and disrespectfully" associating with one of her sons Douglas, who is challenging Felex Nhlanhlayemangwe -- the family's preferred candidate for the chieftaincy.
The minister is said to be supporting Jorum Ndiweni, who is based in the United Kingdom, to take over the chieftaincy and is also said to be close to the chief's last-born son Douglas. Douglas is also said to have ambitions to be a chief.
"What (Mpofu) is doing is bad," Masuku-Ndiweni told The Standard in an interview at her homestead in Ntabazinduna.
"He is playing with fire. He is being mischievous with one of my daughters-in-law who is a member of Zanu PF.
"That is why he is pushing that the husband of that lady (Douglas) takes over as the chief of the Ndiweni people. Who is he in our family?
"A stranger now wants to pretend as if he knows anything with regard to the Ndiweni people? It's a shame. He is a shame."
Chief Khayisa Ndiweni died aged 95. He was a revered figure in Matabeleland for challenging the region's marginalisation since independence.
He became a chief of Ntabazinduna and Mbembesi in 1939 and later founded the United National Federal Party to fight colonialism.
He attended the 1979 Lancaster House Conference in London, where Zimbabwe's independence from white minority rule was negotiated.
He served as Works minister in the government of Abel Muzorewa from 1979 to 1980.
Chief Ndiweni advocated for federalism in Zimbabwe and was a strong critic of former president Robert Mugabe's policies.
Mugabe approved the installation of his second son Felex Nhlanhlayemangwe as the new chief in 2014.
However, the chief is yet to be installed due to alleged interference by Mpofu.
The Zanu PF heavyweight has allegedly used his political muscle to block the installation on at least five different occasions.
He is accused of supporting Douglas, the youngest son of the late chief, ahead of Felex Nhlanhlayemangwe -- the second born.
The first born Jorum is based in the UK and also claims to be the rightful heir, a claim dismissed by his mother.
"When the late chief got sick, the eldest son did nothing to help his father," Masuku-Ndiweni charged.
"He did not even come to bury his father and has indicated that he has no intention of coming back to Zimbabwe in the near future.
"He does not call me his mother. He does not even associate with us here.
"How then does Obert want him to be the chief of people when he does not have a relationship with me the mother and the people he is supposed to lead?
"This is all because Obert has a hidden agenda."
She said Mpofu owed his political ascendancy to Chief Khayisa Ndiweni, but now wanted to abuse the relationship with the family.
"It is the late chief who introduced Obert Mpofu to the Umguza people," Masuku-Ndiweni added.
"He is the one who helped him get where he is today and what does he do? He wants to destroy the family where he is a stranger.
"The succession issue was dealt with by the late paramount chief way before he died.
"You can't talk about Jorum, a person whose marriage was rejected by the chief way before he died.
"He is married to a German lady and he never cared for his father when he was sick and has never consoled me at all.
"When he married his wife, the late chief said it was impossible for him to do that looking at the cultural issues that surround the chieftainship."
Masuku-Ndiweni said she had tried to engage Mpofu and even sent a delegation seeking dialogue.
"I know that he has a very unholy relationship with my daughter-in-law who is an active member of Zanu PF and it is this daughter-in-law who has dragged my son -- Douglas -- into politics," she claimed.
"It borders on mischief. He is so close to him, he gives him money.
"Also when the late chief was still alive, Douglas took 200 cattle from our kraal and gave them to Mpofu without the consent of his father.
"The matter was reported at Mbembesi Police Station, but nothing has happened.
"Even the late vice-president John Nkomo was aware of the matter. At the burial of the late chief, the VP said the cattle would be recovered, but until now, nothing has happened."
Chief Khayisa Ndiweni's family engaged Chief Vezi Maduna of Filabusi in Matabeleland South to deal with the matter.
Chief Maduna reportedly got an assurance from Mnangagwa that Nhlanhlayemangwe would be installed as chief before the government moved goalposts.
"If President Mnangagwa does not deal with Mpofu now, he risks losing support in Matabeleland," Masuku-Ndiweni said.
"So far, Mpofu has ravaged at least three or so chieftainships just because he wants his cronies to be there -- disregarding traditional norms and values set out in these things.
"He wants to install his crony to be a chief for the Ndondo people here in Umguza and in so many other areas.
"I don't hate him, but he must stop destroying my family.
"I never slept with him and he cannot know who should be the heir apparent more than the late chief and me.
"I know my children all of them and what they are doing."
Although Nhlanhlayemangwe is yet to be installed, he is already on the government payroll as a chief, exercising his authority with the help of 19 headmen.
He presides over customary grievances ranging from adultery issues, land disputes to other cultural issues that fall within the jurisdiction of a chief.
Mpofu refused to comment on the matter and referred The Standard to Jorum.
"I don't want to say anything on that matter," the Zanu PF secretary for administration said on Friday.
"I don't know the woman you are talking about; talk to Thabo (Jorum) the elder son of the late chief.
"He is the right man who should be saying anything with regard to the Khayisa chieftainship."
Jorum, who is also known as Thabo, said he was the heir-apparent and was only "waiting for the right time" to return home and lead his people.
"Please don't talk to my mother. She has no right at all to talk about the Khayisa chieftainship. She is a Masuku," he declared.
"Traditionally, she is a child in our family because she married there.
"I am the Ndiweni you must talk to. Currently, I am away in a foreign country, but I will come, I am preparing for that."
Jorum said he was not ambitious, but the chieftaincy was his birthright.
"I did not choose to be a chief; it is a birthright that I can't run away from. I have been communicating with authorities," he said.
"So I will come when something happens. I am a traditional leader and I don't take it lightly that you guys are talking to my mother.
"She had no right to say anything with regard to the Khayisa chieftainship. Don't bring animosity between me and my mother, I don't like that.
"I will not respond to whatever she says because she is my mother and a mother has no place in our meetings."
When told that his younger brother -- Nhlanhlayemangwe -- had assumed the reins while he was in London, Jorum said it was impossible because "he is a child".
"I should be his father, its just that we come after each other. But traditionally, I am the father and those are kids," he said.
"I don't mind what they say. I have been following through and I find it awkward that people with no relationship to the chieftaincy talk a lot.
"Anyway, it is their right to do so, but at the right time, all things will be put in place.
"I have direct contact with the president, so when I feel like coming, like I said I am preparing, I will come.
"When the chief died he made it clear that after I have cleared the way, I Thabo will come. So currently I am clearing the ground."
But Nhlanhlayemangwe said he was the heir-apparent and his father had endorsed his chieftainship.
He said even on his death bed while his brother was away in London, the late paramount chief re-assured him.
"Being an elder son does not make one an heir-apparent automatically," Nhlanhayemangwe said.
"The chieftainship is a spiritual thing and I passed all the tests which were carried out by my father and the Ndiweni people.
"Even the king of the Amangwe clan (in South Africa) came here and blessed the chieftaincy."
Felex's appointment by Mugabe pending the official installation took place despite Jorum challenging the move. The family held its own ceremony to install Felex as Chief Ndiweni and it was attended by hundreds of people.
Among the guests at the ceremony were Amangwe leader King Ntshosho II from KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa, former Bulawayo mayor Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, members of the Khumalo royal clan led by Prince Peter Zwidekalanga Khumalo, and local chiefs Bhidi, Mpini and Wasi, among others.
The Ndiweni family says Jorum relocated to the UK 40 years ago and last visited home 20 years ago.