Dilemma of a youthful chief

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
“When you are young no one trusts your judgments even when your decision could be the best. The elders would be saying ‘singeke salalela umfana omncane kanti vele wazini?’ (We can’t listen to a young boy, what does he know?). This is one of the predicaments of being a young chief,” said Chief Nkalakatha (29) from Nkayi.

“Even your social life is stolen once you are appointed a chief. There are certain things that you are not expected to do, even just playing social soccer because you are a chief.

And those who want you to hold a certain standard in life forget that they also did the same things when they were just the same age as you are.”

Chief Nkalakatha, born Zwelani Ndiweni is one of the few youthful chiefs in the country, who due to their royalty assumed the roles that were bestowed to them at birth.

Chief Nkalakatha assumed the traditional leadership role in 2018 aged 25 following the death of his father Gilford Ndiweni in 2014.

Speaking to Chronicle, Chief Nkalakatha said it has not been an easy road to take the traditional role because in most cases he leads communities with people mostly older than him. He said as a young chief he would navigate between dealing with community elders and even civil servants.

“Even when inputs are being distributed, senior chiefs stand to benefit before you get an allocation and sometimes you are sidelined because of your age.

Even when important dignitaries such as the President or ministers visit your community, you are sometimes not invited because of your age but other senior chiefs will attend those meetings,” he said.

“Due to the little respect that was being given to me, I initially would transfer cases that were brought to my court to the magistrate court as some people did not respect the judgements I would have made.”

Chief Nkalakatha said in his four years as a chief, he has learnt to listen to counsel from both family members and those who served closely with his father and grandparents.

A final year local governance student at the Midlands State University, Chief Nkalakatha said he expects to better serve his community once he attains his degree, which is also in line with his traditional leadership expectations. He however, feels young people should not be appointed chiefs as they still fall into a lot of pitfalls.

“In my view, for someone to be appointed a chief, they should be 40 and above. At that age I believe you will be more mature to handle the community and its challenges.

Because, as it stands the moment people find you in certain gatherings they start condemning you saying what you are doing is not expected from a chief. They forget that we are people as well,” he said.

A senior leader, Chief Sikhobokhobo, also from Nkayi said young chiefs face a lot of challenges as some of them fail to adapt to their new roles.

“They will want to still hang around with their peers yet their roles would have changed. Even their language and dress code should change. Sometimes, we try to engage them and inform them of their new roles but this does not mean that we succeed every time in engaging them,” said Chief Sikhobokhobo.

“While they might be younger than us, we are equals in terms of our duties and positions. So even when I discover that something is wrong there is nothing that I can do.”

He said there are a lot of cultural rites that are conducted in communities but the young chiefs may sometimes not understand the issues as well.

“I think some workshops should be conducted for the junior chiefs to understand their roles. This used to be done but not anymore. They need to be taught on how they should conduct themselves,” he said.

Chief Sikhobokhobo said it was expected that members of the public would badmouth a chief but if traditional leaders showed leadership qualities they would earn the society’s respect.

Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo said there is nothing much Government can do to regulate the operations of chiefs as they are an independent institution.

“Chiefs are the ones who are running their jurisdictions. Issues to do with misconduct are dealt with legally. There are things that are not expected of chiefs.

Issues to do with chiefs are dealt with in the National Council of Chiefs. As Government we respect the chieftaincy of this country,” said Minister Moyo. – @nqotshili.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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