The Local Government ministry triggered the process that led to the suspension of outspoken Ntabazinduna chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Felix Ndiweni by his peers, it has been revealed.
Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs deputy president chief Mtshana Khumalo said the ministry recently gave traditional leaders letters showing that Ndiweni's chieftainship was being challenged by his brother.
Ndiweni was "suspended" as Ntabazinduna chief during a Matabeleland North traditional leaders' provincial assembly held in Bulawayo a week ago.
The traditional leaders argued that his chieftainship was being contested on the grounds that his ascension was not in line with Nguni traditions and the Traditional Leaders Act which recognise the first born of the family, Joram as the legitimate chief.
Joram filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court over five years ago seeking to block his brother from being installed as substantive chief to take over from their late father Chief Khayisa Ndiweni, who passed away in 2010.
It has since been established that the Matabeleland North chiefs council assembly had as late as 2017 resolved the issue after they settled on Nhlanhlayamangwe to succeed his father.
A Matabeleland North chief's provincial assembly held in October 2017 at Khumalo Hotel in Bulawayo confirmed that Nhlanhlayamangwe was now the substantive chief, minutes gleaned by The Standard show.
Their confirmation followed an inquiry by the traditional leaders from that province into the chieftainship dispute.
The October 2017 provincial chiefs' council assembly was the last to be held by the chiefs from Matabeleland North.
A provincial chief's council assembly is supposed to be held at least three times per year.
Khumalo of Bubi, who also leads the Matabeleland North chiefs assembly, said traditional leaders believed the Ndiweni chieftainship dispute was solved a long time ago, until the government produced Joram's letters.
"We set up a commission of inquiry (in 2017) into the dispute, which confirmed Nhlanhla as the chief," Khumalo said on Friday, adding that the provincial chiefs council assembly had not been held since October 2017 "as we were being told there is no money"..
"At the time of inquiry, there were no objections; we were not given any objections to Nhlanhla's chieftainship by the ministry coming from Joram until two months ago hence this matter was brought up during our meeting held in Bulawayo.
"The issue had been dealt with; maybe this matter would have not been brought up again had the ministry provided us with the letters of objection that Joram had lodged several years ago.
"This is why we have said let this issue be taken back to the family to deal with. The family has not officially communicated with us."
Ndiweni's spokesperson Nothiwani Dlodlo, said the chief's suspension was political.
"Nhlanhla's suspension borders on illegalities and politics," he said.
"The issue was resolved long back and now this? Also, this issue was never on the agenda for that meeting held on Saturday.
"Issues on the agenda included need for roads rehabilitation and hunger, among others but it was smuggled in."
Last week, Bancinyane Ndiweni, the spokesperson for the Ndiweni family insisted that Nhlanhlayamangwe was their chosen chief.
Ndiweni is an outspoken government critic, and like the opposition MDC accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa of rigging his way to victory in the 2018 harmonised elections.
Local Government minister July Moyo was not available for comment.