FOUR traditional leaders have petitioned the Constitutional Court, seeking a determination and declaration that every Chief and deputy Chief be paid subsidies to enable them discharge their functions and maintain the dignity and status of their office.
The four Paramount Chiefs – the Litunga of Barotseland; Kalonga Gawa Undi of the Chewa people in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique; Mwine Lubemba Chitimukulu and Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people – have cited the Attorney General as the respondent.
They are seeking a determination and declaration that Section 2 of the Chiefs Act, insofar as it defines the word ‘chief’, is unconstitutional, and therefore null and void.
The four are further seeking a determination and declaration that the chiefly institutions of Paramount Chief, senior Chief and other Chiefs continue to exist and are guaranteed under Article 165 (1) of Constitution of Zambia.
They also want the court to determine and declare that every Chief and deputy Chief shall be paid such subsidies as may be determined in accordance with the Constitution, for the purpose of enabling such Chief to maintain the dignity and status of the office of the Chief and discharge the functions of the office under African customary law in a fit and proper manner.
The four further want the court to determine and declare that when a Paramount Chief recognizes or dethrones a subordinate chief in accordance with the traditional and customary practices, and informs Government accordingly, the State shall acknowledge and accord to such chief, or , in the case of dethroning, cease to accord to the chief the honour and dignity befitting a Chief.
According to their Petition filed in the Constitutional Court, Wednesday, the four Paramount Chiefs stated that in February this year, the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, in a letter addressed to permanent secretaries in Western, North-Western, Northern and Luapula provinces, advised that no new Chief was eligible for payment of subsidies after the Constitutional Court judgment in the case of Webby Mulubisha and the Attorney General.
“On February 26 this year, the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs in a letter addressed to Permanent Secretaries in Western, North-Western, Northern and Luapula Provinces advised, inter alia, that: ‘ …the Ministry has been guided that considering that the Constitutional Court in the case of Webby Mulubisha and the Attorney General declared Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Chiefs Act to be inconsistent with Article 165 of the Constitution and are, therefore, unconstitutional and void, there is no legal basis upon which a Chief is to be paid. In view of the foregoing, it has been directed that no new Chief is eligible for payment of subsidies after the judgment of the Constitutional Court dated November 27, 2019’,” read the petition.
The four Paramount chiefs, however, stated that in terms of Article 165 (1) of the Constitution, Act No 2 of 2016, the institution of chieftaincy and traditional institutions were guaranteed, and shall exist in accordance with the culture, customs and traditions of the people to whom they apply.
They added that according to article 167, a Chief may own property in a personal capacity and enjoy privileges and benefits bestowed on the office of Chief by or under culture, custom and tradition and attach to the office of chief as prescribed.
“Article 1(1) and (2) provides that the Constitution is the supreme law of Zambia and any other written law, customary law and customary practice that is inconsistent with its provisions is void to the extent of inconsistency. Further, any act or omission that contravenes it is illegal,” read the petition further.
They stated that the position taken by the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs was at variance not only with the provisions of Article 165, 166 and 167 of the Constitution, but also the definition of ‘chief’ in Article 266 .