I was close friends with late Chief Vezi Maduna: Mnangagwa reveals at installation of new chief

President Emmerson Mnangagwa claimed that the late Chief Vezi Maduna of Filabusi in Matabeleland South was a personal friend of his, which is why he chose to preside over Dambisamahubo Mafu’s installation as substantive chief on Saturday, a ‘historic’ first for Zimbabwe since independence.

Usually, the Minister of Local Government and Public Works is one who officiates at chief installations.

Chief Maduna died on February 13, 2021, and was a strong-willed leader who frequently criticised the Zanu PF-led government but President Mnangagwa stated the two were “close friends”.

“Today we honour and pay tribute to the late Chief Maduna for his consistency and persistence in the fight against colonial rule that brought dignity and independence. May his soul continue to rest in eternal peace,” said President Mnangagwa at the installation held at Dekezi High School.

“During his tenure, he was arrested and detained due to his strong views, political activism and resistance to colonial rule.”

The president said after independence Chief Maduna was reappointed as substantive chief on August 5 1980.

“The late chief suffered the same fate as his father who was constantly subjected to indiscriminate suspensions and removals by the oppressive white minority and administration,” he said.

President Mnangagwa further claimed his great-grandfather, Muvengo, worked with the current Chief Maduna’s great-grandfather in the Insiza district.

“He was not called Mnangagwa but was known as Muvengo,” he said, joking that the Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe must not expect him to attend other chief installations.

“They must not be jealous of this young chief because my attendance is due to our family relations.”

President Mnangagwa presiding over the installation of Chief Maduna of Filabusi

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga also made this claim when introducing President Mnangagwa as the guest of honour, saying “Muvengo worked in the homestead of King Mzilikazi as a youngster.”

“As Muvengo grew up, he joined King Lobengula’s Imbizo regiment under the command of General  Mtshane Khumalo who gallantly fought and defeated Allan Wilson’s patrol in the battle of Pupu some 127 years,” said VP Chiwenga who had accompanied the President with his wife Miniyothabo who is from Filabusi alongside Zanu PF Second Secretary Kembo Mohadi, some government ministers including service chiefs plus members of the ruling party and politburo.

In his speech, President Mnangagwa also commended the Maduna family for the “smooth and swift manner with which they selected Dambisamahubo Mafu to be substantive Chief on January 23, 2023.

“The Maduna Chieftainship is passed down from father to the eldest son. It derives its roots from the Nguni tribe who migrated from South Africa in the 1850s led by Dambisamahubo Mafu, the great-great grandfather of Chief Maduna, as the Godlwayo Regiment Leader settling first in the Malungwane area in Umzingwane District. The clan later moved to the Nyoni area in Insiza District where they are still settled up to this day,” he said.

President Mnangagwa also emphasised to Chief Maduna that he was a “close friend of your father, if you make any mistake, I will beat you,” drawing laughter from the crowd.

The president narrated the Maduna Chieftaincy as having been formed in 1880, with Mthikani Mafu, who led the Spear Battalion of the Godlwayo army, as the first Chief Maduna.

“Mthikani Mafu was also married to King Lobengula’s sister Makwa Khumalo. At his demise, the chieftaincy was handed down to his eldest son, Ndunazofanini Mafu and then to Sikhathini Jim Mafu in March 1936,” he said.

During this time, the Pioneer Column had settled in Matabeleland and the incumbent chief was subjected to the racist colonial White settler regime.

“This period was also characterised by arbitrary removals, suspensions and reinstatements of Chiefs across the county. Following the death of Chief Sikhathini Jim Mafu in 1969 local chiefs headmen and elders decreed that Vezi Maduna Mafu, his firstborn, becomes the acting chief. He was subsequently confirmed on July 7 1974,” said President Mnangagwa.

Chief Maduna was born in Kaizen Godlwayo Communal Lands in Insiza.

He is a holder of a Chartered Accounting Certificate from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administration of Southern Africa and a Diploma in Education from Hillside Teachers College.

He taught at several schools, including St Josephs, which President Mnangagwa visited last month. He worked for companies such as Netcom Solutions, World Vision South Africa, Amtec Motors, and Wilsgrove Ware Pottery, where he held senior managerial positions as Accounting, Finance, and Human Resources Manager.

Following his retirement, Chief Maduna is now an established farmer in Insiza.

President Mnangagwa said Chief Maduna’s rich background and wealth of experience will “undoubtedly see him quickly acquainted with the national constitution, Traditional Leaders Act and Rural District Councils Act,” which spell out the duties and roles of traditional leaders.

“More importantly as an ex-officio member of the Insiza RDC, I trust that Chief Maduna will be a motivation and provide the requisite guidance in the implementation of initiatives under the devolution and decentralisation programmes,” he said, advising that concerns of the community must always be advanced and their priority issues are given due attention.  

President of the National Chiefs Council, Chief Caharumbira described the day as the “greatest” of their traditional leadership institution since independence while his deputy Chief Mtshane Khumalo joked that as senior traditional leaders they were “indeed jealous” as they would also have wanted to be installed by a sitting president.

“This is a demonstration of the highest respect and dignity,” said Chief Charumbira, noting that the chilly, windy, and almost cloudy weather was an indication the ceremony had been “blessed by ancestors and God.”

President Mnangagwa presented Chief Maduna with a lion skin and two leopard skins, one was yet to be delivered.

VP Chiwenga and his wife gifted Chief Maduna US$10 000 while Mohadi pledged US$10 000 and five heifers.

Zanu PF National Political Commissar Obert Mpofu pledged five Brahman heifers while Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs Minister, Abednico Ncube gifted a cow and a heifer.

The other chiefs in attendance also showered Chief Maduna an undisclosed amount of money.

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