The High Court in Mzuzu has thrown out an application for a stay order which Joseph Bongololo Gondwe sought to invalidate the installation of Walter Mtima Gondwe as Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe.
However, the case continues for judicial review as the court has found out that the applicant has a “strong case”.
In his ruling Wednesday, Judge Thomson Ligowe, said: “…Much as I see strong case for judicial review in this case, I see no reason to order a stay after the Paramount chief was installed. This court will soon hear the application for judicial review.”
The case has President of the Republic of Malawi as the first defendant, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development as the second defendant, Rumphi District Commissioner as the third defendant and Walter Mtima Gondwe as the fourth defendant.
The judicial review is premised on that the installation was unlawful because it violates dictates of section 4 (2) (a) and (b) of the Chiefs Act.
“The 4th defendant [Walter Mtima] is not entitled to hold office of Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe under customary law; and the 4th defendant does not have the support of the majority of the people in the area of jurisdiction of the office in question,” he said.
Mtima Gondwe was crowned the Tumbuka chief on October 23 amid chaotic scenes which led to the destruction of Chikulamayembe Office in Bolero, Rumphi.
Reacting to the ruling, lawyer for the defendant, Wesley Mwafulirwa, said they are happy that the court has ruled in their favour as it has refused to grant the stay order.
“In simple terms, Mtima Gondwe remains the Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe. So the case will proceed with the judicial review and we wait for the next stage which is called scheduling conference,” he said.
Lawyer for the applicant, Michael Goba Chipeta, said they will not appeal the case because despite the court seeing that they have a strong case for judicial review, the only reason that the court cannot grant a stay order is that there is no danger.
“We will just concentrate on setting the main judicial review action. The next step is to file a notice in the scheduling conference so that we can go for trial,” he said.
According to Chipeta, the decision to install Mtima Gondwe was procedurally unfair because it also violated the Constitution in that no reasons in writing was given to the applicant.
“The majority of the royal families, prior to the installation of the 4th defendant, and pursuant to customary law and a High Court Order of 17th June 2019, had chosen the Applicant [Joseph Bongololo Gongwe] as rightful heir to the chieftaincy, a choice which was duly communicated to the 1st and 2nd Defendants through the office of the 3rd Defendant,” he said.
Themba la ma Themba Chikulamayembe XII, Walter Gondwe, died in November last year and his son Mtima has been acting chief.
The Bongololo camp claims, Chikulamayembe chieftaincy rotates within 12 royal families and this was their turn.