WASHINGTON — The Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai says Zimbabwe’s traditional leaders should desist from engaging in political issues as they represent many people in the country’s rural areas.
In a statement, the MDC-T said Chief Fortune Charumbira’s remarks that chiefs have agreed to back President Robert Mugabe in next year’s presidential elections violate some provisions of Zimbabwe’s constitution.
He said traditional leaders are custodians of Zimbabwe’s cultural values and ethos and as a result, they are supposed 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.”
The MDC-T said in this respect, recent remarks made by the president of the Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira, are worrying.
At the recently ended Chiefs’ Council conference held in Bulawayo, Chief Charumbira is quoted by various media houses 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.”
The MDC-T noted that chiefs are held in high esteem, especially in rural areas and as a result, Chief Charumbira should not be allowed to bring contempt and ridicule to the 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.”
Chief Charumbira was not available for comment as he was not responding to calls made to his mobile phone.
Some chiefs have, since the colonial Ian Smith regime, been associated with sitting governments.