Publication Date



This was an appeal against the High Court decision relating to succession disputes for the Kapijimpanga chieftaincy in North Western Zambia. The incumbent chief died on the throne in 2008. Duly following the traditional succession process, the traditional electoral college (composed of certain members of the royal family) gathered in September 2010 to choose the next chief. Six contenders emerged and were all considered eligible. The electoral college could not agree on which one of them should be chief and the process ended in a deadlock. In consequence, the electoral college executed a written agreement among themselves to enlist a third party, Chief Mujimanzovu, to break the deadlock by choosing one of the six to be the chief. Mujimanzovu, as requested, chose the Appellant, Kilolo Ng’ambi, as the new chief. No reasons are given for the selection, or at least the judgment does not mention any.

Dissatisfied with the decision of Chief Mujimanzovu, the respondent and others asked the High Court to nullify the selection of the appellant, arguing in part that the method of his selection was not in line with the established succession customary law of the Kaonde people. The High Court nullified the selection of the appellant.

The Supreme Court set aside the decision of the High Court. It took the capricious and narrow view that since the electoral college, which was entitled under Kaonde customary law to select a chief, asked Chief Mujimanzovu to break the deadlock, the electoral college had ‘delegated’ its powers to him. The decision of Chief Mujimanzovu appointing the appellant, therefore, stood as he was a delegate of the electoral college. The Supreme Court held that the appellant was, therefore, correctly chosen as the rightful heir to the throne of the Kapijimpanga chieftaincy.