‘We are looking for our lost sheep’

One of the oldest cultural groups in Malawi, the Chewa Heritage Foundation (Chefo) is protesting the emergence of a new cultural group called Bwalo la Achewa Foundation. The group, just like Chefo targets to promote the Chewa culture making it a parallel cultural group to Chefo. Edith Gondwe engaged Chefo secretary general Richard Mdyetseni to hear how the group plans to move forward now that there is a parallel cultural group for the Chewa in Malawi.

Gawa Undi, king of the Chewa in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique

Q

: Chefo has been around for over a decade now. It has been representing the Chewa in Malawi. Now a new grouping which started a few months ago as a pressure group now claims to also represent Chewas. Can you tell us what is happening?

A

: Thank you. Whatever is happening is inconsequential. First, Chewa Heritage Foundation was formed upon instruction from His Majesty Gawa Undi Mkhomo V, king of Chewas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambuque. It represents three aims: First, to preserve, protect and promote Chewa culture. There is no other known group approved by Gawa as head of the Maravi and as such it does not represent the interests of the Chewas, wherever.

Secondly, Chewa leadership and chieftaincy is blood line and does not come from a system of voting for leadership.

Q

: The new grouping has named Paramount Chief Lundu as its patron and leader while Chefo has Zambian chief Gawa Undi as its head. What is the history of these two chiefs and their connections to Chewas in Malawi? Why is Chefo paying homage to Gawa Undi and not Lundu?

A

: The grouping is lacking. Even its statutes are null and void. Its actions too are inconsequential. Lundu’s appointment has no bearing and is without mandate. In short the appointment is illegal and inconsequential.

Historically and by appointed mandate, Lundu is head of Chewas (Chipetas, Nyanjas, Mang’anjas, etc) in Malawi. Undi by birth and royalty is the head of all Chewas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique and he has jurisdiction over Lundu. Lundu is merely paramount chief while Undi is King, far much ahead. That said, the paramouncy of Lundu is statutory and contestible. There can as well be several paramounts but not possible with king. So comparing the two is futile and not worth it.

Chewa clan, therefore, pays homage to Gawa Undi as a king. By colonial boundaries he is in Zambia whilst the Chewa nation is borderless.

The role of Lundu is to ensure unity and continuity of uChewa in Malawi and report to Gawa Undi on agreed basis. In fact he needs to lead in paying homage. Unfortunately this will remain the case for a long time

Q

: Now that we have two groups, how are things going to be handled? Are Chewas going to be choosing which group to belong to? Or you are going to be handling different aspects of the Chewa culture?

A

: There will not be two groups. The splinter group will fail and come back to its original fold. Chewas are one and peaceful. The king is one and the rest are subjects irrespective of any laws to the contrary. We at Chefo are not anticipating any change in our mandate and activities. We are looking forward to the return of our lost sheep. Greed and ignorance, perhaps imbalances in mental judgement may be prevalent causes. Lundu claims to be patron for Chewas and on another platform he patronised Mgumamo wa a Sena na Mang’anja. When you are such, you feel pity for our chief. He needs rescue.

Q

: Have you tried dialogue with the new group so that a compromise can be reached or you can even work together as your objectives are the same?

A

: Dialogue is possible but improbable. You do not negotiate with a group which is not recognised and perhaps operating illegally. We need to look exhaustively into how it was registered without endorsement of its mother body or leadership of the Chewas. We could be having a case of fraudulent and inadequacy at law here. The moment we recognise the illegitimate then it becomes legitimate and perhaps feed into other rebellious conducts. So let Gawa give direction first, which he has not.

Q

: Concluding remarks?

A

: So far, Bwalo la  a Chewa lacks wide acceptance, it operates short of the recognisable procedure and its actions may cause trouble and divisions. The Chewas have one king, Gawa, who cannot be barred from entering or exercising his overall jurisdiction and has no borders. Peace and unity are pillars of Chewas and no amount of effort can change that. Lundu remains an appointed paramount for Chewas in Malawi and will always pay homage to his senior, Gawa. President Kamuzu Banda even pointed out to Lundu that he is subject to Undi as he was being sworn-in in 1969. n

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