A majority of the 41 chiefs from the province, largely influenced by traditional leaders from Binga which has 18 chiefs, took the decision during a Provincial Council of Chiefs meeting held at a Bulawayo hotel on Saturday. Chief Ndiweni was present.
Chief Ndiweni has vowed to fight the plot, which his supporters say is a conspiracy involving pliable traditional leaders working with Zanu-PF secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu.
The chiefs want to strip Ndiweni of the Ntabazinduna chieftainship and replace him with Joram Ndiweni who is the first born, said to be a son of the late Chief Khayisa Ndiweni born out of wedlock.
They argue that Joram is the late paramount chief's eldest surviving son, and should therefore be elevated ahead of the Ndiweni clan's preferred heir.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa's spokesman George Charamba hailed the move, which now awaits rubber-stamping by the national body of the chiefs.
Chief Ndiweni has exhibited an independent streak that has unnerved the leadership of the whipped Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs which sees itself as an appendage of Zanu-PF. His strident criticism of the Mnangagwa regime over its mishandling of the economy has won him plaudits from opposition ranks but rankled the government.
Charamba said on Twitter: "I saw this coming sooner than it eventually did. Apart from issues of troubled primogeniture, the gentleman needed to be released from self-arrogated chieftaincy to pursue politics fulltime."
Chief Ndiweni's lawyer Dumisani Dube of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers said they would go to court to torpedo the plot.
"The purported suspension of Chief Ndiweni has no force, no effect and therefore a legal nullity. It's null and void. The Matabeleland North Provincial Council of Chiefs' assembly has no authority to rescind a decision which was made by the Ndiweni family and also assented to by the President (Robert Mugabe) five years ago," the lawyer said.
He said they had not been formally advised of the decision by the chiefs, and Ndiweni was "continuing with his cultural and constitutional duties as a chief."
Wilson Bancinyane Ndiweni, the eldest surviving brother to Chief Khayisa Ndiweni who died in 2014, said the family would not be told by the Council of Chiefs who should occupy the chieftainship.
"I'm the head of the Ndiweni family. It's my son they say they are suspending and as a family we are asking ourselves who are these people purporting to make decisions for the Ndiweni family," Ndiweni said, speaking in a video supplied by the family to reporters.
"Our family would like to know who is saying Nhlanhlayamangwe should not be our chief, and what's their standing in the Ndiweni clan? To the Council of Chiefs which is reported to have made this decision, have they ever seen us coming to discuss their chieftainships in their kitchens? What empowers them to talk about the Ndiweni chieftainship? It's a complete show of respect. We demand respect."
Some of the chiefs involved in the conspiracy, according to Ndiweni's supporters are Chief Siansali of Binga, Chief Mtshane of Bubi, Chief Shana of Jambezi in Hwange, Chief Mathuphula of Tsholotsho, Chief Mabhikwa of Lupane, Chief Ngungumbane of Mberengwa and Chief Ntabeni of Zhombe.
Ndiweni was in August convicted with 23 Ntabazinduna villagers over an incident which happened in July 2017 when prosecutors said he ordered the villagers to destroy the home of one of his subjects who had been banished from the chief's jurisdiction for sexual immorality.
Ndiweni was jailed for 18 months, but was freed on bail pending appeal in a case which the Royal Crown Council said is a "profoundly dangerous precedent."
"If we set ourselves on a slippery road of jailing magistrates, judges and chiefs exercising a judicial function for having made decisions we don't like, and allow people to open criminal cases against presiding officers instead of appealing adverse decisions as is the civilised norm, we will destroy the fabric of the rule of law, enact anarchy and undermine the very foundation of the country as a constitutional republic," the Royal Crown Council said.
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