Why this woman is fighting to become chief in one of Africa’s oldest kingdoms

Nduta Waweru September 18, 2018
Photo: stories from Lesotho.

Although Africa is making a lot of progress when it comes to women’s rights, some events still highlight many other facets of laws that prohibit African women from enjoying certain rights.

In Lesotho, such prohibition comes in the form of succession. According to traditions, only men can inherit the chieftaincy title.

Now, one woman, Senate Masupha, wants to change all this.

Masupha is the daughter and only child of David Masupha, a former paramount chief of the Ha Mamathe, Teyateyaneng, Thupa-Kubu and Jorotane villages and a direct descendant of King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of the Basotho people.  When her father died in 1996, her mother took up the position as tradition allowed widows of chiefs to become custodians of the title until a male heir is up to the task.

Unfortunately, her mother passed on in 2008 and the title went to her uncle, her father’s younger brother.

“My parents were chiefs for all of their lives — that was their right. I felt very secure when I was growing up. But when my mother passed on, I was taken out of my comfort zone,” she said to CNN.

She decided to take the matter to court when the family started considering evicting her from her father’s house.

Masupha filed a case against the Kingdom’s Chieftainship Act in 2010 at the Lesotho Constitutional Court, arguing that it is discriminatory and thus unconstitutional.  Acknowledging that Lesotho is lagging behind in gender equality, the court dismissed the case stating that the law was justifiable with regard to Basotho culture.

Masupha took the case to the Court of Appeal, but it was also dismissed with the judges saying that modernising the law is the responsibility of the Parliament.

The case caused discussions across the Southern Africa nation. Not so many people support the move but are now more aware of the entrenched patriarchial traditions they have been enforcing.

Unlike Lesotho, many African countries including South Africa, Kenya and Ghana have invalidated laws that prohibit women’s right to inheritance and succession.

Masupha has not given up on her fight. She continues to campaign for the rights of women in Lesotho.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: September 18, 2018


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