The Supreme Court has declared Chief Mpepo as the duly appointed paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba people.
This is in a chieftaincy wrangle where the late Paison Chilekwa Yambayamba, the senior chief Mwamba sued Ackson Chilufya Mwamba the chief Mpepo over succession to the throne of paramount Chief Chitimukulu.
On March 31, 2006, the Lusaka High Court had declared senior chief Mwamba as the rightful and legitimate heir to the Chief Chitimukulu throne.
The High Court verdit displeased Chief Mpepo hence the appeal to the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Judge Sandson Silomba has opted to overturn and set aside the High Court ruling on grounds that Chief Mpepo was duly appointed paramount Chief Chitimukulu by the ‘Bashilubemba’.
Justice Silomba says he is aware that chief Mpepo has by Statutory Instrument been recognized as paramount chief Chitimukulu.
He contends that the Bashi Lubemba have the final say over who takes over as Chief Chitimukulu and are not restricted to the system of ladder climbing and seniority.
Justice Silomba’s opinion is that it is not the duty of the Court as the High Court seemed to imply, to choose or impose a chief on a community.
He adds that in the case of the Bemba customary law of succession, it was agreed by the parties that a chief below Chief Chitimukulu was chosen or appointed by the paramount chief-in-council.
The Court said that the position of senior chief Mwamba was of very strategic importance in deciding who the next Chief Chitimukulu should be, although it may not be the only criterion.
Mr. Justice Silomba stated that when the choice of a Chief Chitimukulu is in issue, the body mandated to make the appointment is known as ‘bashilubemba’
Mr. Yambayamba had claimed that for one to aspire to become paramount chief Chitimukulu, under Chandamukulu’s chieftainship, one had to start as chief Mpepo, before ascending to chief Nkolemfumu and later senior Chief Mwamba which succession line was called the ‘Kasama side’
Yambayamba was declared rightful heir to the throne by the high court but died shortly after the judgement.