The Attorney General (AG) chambers last week declined to represent the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Nsanje district commissioner (DC) in a case they were sued for meddling in the succession of Traditional Authority (T/A) Ngabu of Nsanje.
Three royal families of T/A Ngabu dragged the two government agencies to court to restrain them from installing and/or inaugurating Steven Chakuuma, who was imposed as inheritor of T/A Ngabu.
Besides the ministry and the DC, the royal families also sued Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator for Nsanje Central Francis Kasaila, who is also Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Senior Chief Tengani, Chimombo and Chakuuma, their preferred heir.
The matter commenced after the High Court granted an injunction to Tony Chapo, on behalf of the royal families, stopping the six accused from proceeding with their intentions.
But when the matter came before Justice Jack N’riva, it transpired that all the defendants did not do anything despite being served with court documents and the senior chief addressed the court on behalf of Nsanje DC.
According to a court file we have seen, the traditional leader said he was delegated by Nsanje DC to speak in court after the AG chambers had refused to represent them in the matter.
The court document further indicates that Tengani confessed meddling in the chief’s succession and advised the court they were reversing their decision to install Chakuuma as T/A Ngabu and instead the royal families could proceed to choose their preferred successor as per their Sena customary law.
There was no immediate comment from the Attorney General chambers when contacted on why they declined to represent the two agencies.
Court documents show that the T/A Ngabu chieftaincy comprises the Kanyama, Kamembe and Ngabu families. The throne fell vacant following the death of Frank Wolesi from the Kamembe family.
In an interview, Tengani confirmed confessing before Justice N’riva and seeking an out of court settlement, but declined to comment further.
Lawyer for the royal families, Kuleza Phokoso, said it was doubtful the matter would proceed for trial unless the defendants act contrary to the concession they made that would render an out of court settlement impossible.
He said he was not surprised with the defendant’s decision to reverse their decision as that had been his clients’ position that installing Chakuuma was a violation of their succession rules.
“Their concession in court vindicated our position. Nevertheless, as the court rules allow alternative dispute resolution, this means T/A Ngabu royal families are now free to engage in mediation with the defendants and agree on the settlement terms,” said Phokoso.
Justice N’riva then extended the injunction and gave the two parties 14 days to report back to court on the progress of their discussion.