Cousins go to court over chieftainship

FORECOURT: Serenity rules outside the Constitutional Court which is the last hope for many arguments. © Sowetan.
FORECOURT: Serenity rules outside the Constitutional Court which is the last hope for many arguments. © Sowetan.

Two cousins - a woman and a man - will return to the Constitutional Court today in a battle for chieftainship of Limpopo's Valoyi tribe in a dispute over whether a woman should lead the tribe.

Two cousins - a woman and a man - will return to the Constitutional Court today in a battle for chieftainship of Limpopo's Valoyi tribe in a dispute over whether a woman should lead the tribe.

Both Tinyiko Shilubana and Sidwell Nwamitwa claim they are the rightful ascendants to the position of hosi (chief).

In October 2001, Hosi Mahlathini Richard Nwamitwa died. He had become hosi in 1968 after his elder brother, Hosi Fofoza Nwamitwa died. Hosi Fofoza was Shilubana's father.

Hosi Fofoza died without a male heir, and as tribal custom at the time had not permitted a woman to succeed as hosi, Shilubana, Hosi Fofoza's eldest child, did not become hosi. Shortly before his death, Hosi Fofoza appointed his brother, Hosi Richard, as acting chairman of the Valoyi Tribal Authority. When Hosi Fofoza died, he was appointed acting hosi and then hosi in October 1968, a position he retained until he died.

After Hosi Richard's death, his oldest child Sidwell Nwamita was appointed acting hosi. During his tenure, the tribe decided that they intended to appoint Shilubana and not her cousin as hosi, to comply with the right to equality according to section 9 of the Constitution.

As she had been disqualified as hosi in 1968 solely because of her gender, they decided to restore the position to her father's line. The Provincial Executive Council approved the appointment of Shilubana and Nwamita has been challenging it since 2002.

Nwamita maintains that Shilubana participated in the discussions on who would be hosi and did not raise her objections then. He also produced a letter from Shilubana's father saying that he withdrew from the idea of appointing her hosi. The matter goes to the Constitutional Court after Shilubana lost an application to the Pretoria High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The courts ruled that according to tribal custom a hosi is born and not elected. - Sapa

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