Concourt weighs woman's chieftaincy

South Africa’s Constitutional Court convened on Tuesday to examine the right of a woman to be the chief of her tribe, a position formerly held by her father.

Tinyiko Nwamitwa-Shilubana is claiming the position of chief, or hosi, of the Valoyi in Limpopo, currently held by her cousin, Sidwell Nwamitwa.

The only daughter of former chief Fofoza Nwamitwa, who died without a male heir in 1968, Shilubana was not able to succeed him as custom did not allow women to lead the tribe.

Instead her uncle, Richard, took over, and he died in 2001, leaving the chieftaincy in the hands of his son, and since 2002 Shilubana has been fighting through the courts to gain the title of hosi.

She is referring back to a 1994 agreement with Richard that she would eventually become chief, which was approved by the tribe.

Her main argument is that tribal customs are constantly evolving and that the advent of the Constitution, which favours gender equality, makes her appointment as chief possible.

But her cousin, Nwamitwa insists he inherited the title legitimately from his father.

The Pretoria High Court ruled in favour of Nwamitwa, a decision later upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal, with both courts agreeing the decision had been based on lineage and not on her gender.

The case was initially set down to be heard by the constitutional court on May 17, but was postponed and would now be heard on November 27, as both parties have problems with legal representation.—Sapa

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