Chieftaincy battle goes to constitutional court

Matome Maila

Matome Maila

The constitutional court will decide on who should ascend the throne of the disputed chieftaincy of the Valoyi tribe in Nwamitwa, near Tzaneen in Limpopo.

The appeal against the judgment of the supreme court of appeal between contenders, Phillia Nwamitwa Shilubana and her cousin Sidwell Nwamitwa, is set for the constitutional court in Johannesburg on May 17.

The appellant, Shilubana, 64, approached the constitutional court after the supreme court of appeal in Bloemfontein upheld the Pretoria high court ruling, which declared her cousin, Nwamitwa, a legitimate heir to succeed his father, Chief Richard Nwamitwa, who died in October 2001.

Shilubana, who is also an ANC MP, appealed on the basis that Sidwell's father was, according to her, appointed in an acting capacity after the death of her father.

She claimed that in August 1997 the late Nwamitwa had signed an undertaking declaring that he would hand over the chieftaincy to Shilubana.

She is the only child of the late Chief Fofoza Nwamitwa, who died in 1968.

Sidwell argued in court papers that, as the first born, he was entitled to succeed his father as chief.

He contended that Shilubana was not entitled to the chieftaincy because she is a woman.

In Xitsonga and Shangaan custom, women are prohibited from becoming chieftains.

The dispute started in November 2002 when Nwamitwa obtained a high court order stopping Shilubana from being installed to the chieftaincy.

The dispute has divided the tribe into two factions.