Traditional leaders must be apolitical
By Obert Gutu
The MDC is a social democratic political party that solidly believes in the preservation of the institution of traditional leaders. Traditional leaders are the custodians of our cultural values and ethos and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Our traditional leaders should not be viewed as objects of pity and ridicule who can easily be manipulated for narrow and selfish political purposes. Indeed, traditional leaders should be cultural icons and beacons who shouldn’t dabble in partisan political activities.
Section 280 (2) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe specifically provides that traditional leaders must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics.
They must not further the interests of any political party or cause or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person. In this respect, therefore, recent remarks made by the President of the Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira, cannot go unchallenged.
At the recently ended Chiefs’ Council conference that was held in Bulawayo, Chief Charumbira is quoted as having openly called upon chiefs to campaign for Zanu PF in the forthcoming general elections.
Sadly, this public pronouncement by Chief Charumbira is a blatant and naked violation of Section 280 of the supreme law of the land. As a Parliamentarian who sits in the Senate, Chief Charumbira should be well – versed with the basic tenets of the supreme law of the land, particularly as it relates to the institution of traditional leaders.
The MDC is deeply aggrieved and disturbed by the unconstitutional pronouncement that was uttered by Chief Charumbira, more so considering the fact that he is also the head of all traditional leaders in Zimbabwe. He should be strongly censured for bringing the institution of chieftainship into serious disrepute. The people of Zimbabwe respect their traditional leaders and the last thing that they expect from these cultural icons is to have them flagrantly and blatantly utter public statements that are clearly contrary to the constitutional provisions on traditional leaders.
Chiefs are held in very high esteem, especially in rural areas and as such, Chief Charumbira should not be allowed to bring contempt and ridicule to the otherwise well–respected institution of traditional leaders.
We know Chief Charumbira to be a highly educated man who actually actively participated in the constitution – making process under COPAC.
He should be the last person to trash and bastardise the supreme law of the land. In all fairness, therefore, Chief Charumbira should publicly apologise to the people of Zimbabwe for violating the Constitution by openly and publicly calling for chiefs to campaign for Zanu PF. In addition, Chief Charumbira should proceed to immediately retract the offending and grossly unconstitutional remarks that he recently uttered at the chiefs’ conference in Bulawayo a few days ago.
It is one of the key functions of traditional leaders to take measures to preserve the culture, traditions, history and heritage of their communities, including sacred shrines. Certainly, this function doesn’t include openly dabbling in politics along partisan lines.
Chief Charumbira should be brought to order. The MDC is acutely aware of the fact that the majority of the chiefs who heard Chief Charumbira’s rabidly unconstitutional remarks were actually grossly offended and insulted. Our chiefs are generally very good and honourable people who are keen on maintaining friendly and cordial relations with all their subjects. In fact, that is the way it should be.
As a matter of principle, an MDC government will institute measures and policies that will restore the dignity and respect of all our traditional leaders. Our traditional leaders shouldn’t be used and abused as political canon fodder whose interests are only catered for when it’s time for elections.
An MDC government will ensure that at all times, our traditional leaders are not reduced into paupers and beggars who have to loudly sing for their supper before political leaders. The colonial regimes trashed and ridiculed the institution of chieftainship.
The Zanu PF regime simply took the ridiculing and trivialization of chiefs a step further. This shameful and abusive practice has to be immediately stopped. We would want to maintain the dignity and honour of all our traditional leaders by making sure that they stay away from political activities, in true conformity with the dictates of the country’s supreme law.
Obert Chaurura Gutu, MDC National Spokesperson