OPEN FORUM: Chiefs: Custodians of (corrupt) culture?

OPEN FORUM: Chiefs: Custodians of (corrupt) culture?
President of the Chief’s Council, Fortune Charumbira

President of the Chief’s Council, Fortune Charumbira

ZIMBABWE’S traditional leaders often arrogate to themselves the rather lofty position of being custodians of its land and customs.
But their record in the country’s history, both pre-independence and post-independence, suggests they are nothing more than gatekeepers for regimes virtually holding the people in custody.
Across the country, there are tales of how successive colonial administrations toppled legitimate chiefs and imposed puppets who would do their bidding.
After independence, chiefs have maintained a slavish relationship with power.
Where many of them kowtowed with colonial administrators for generations, they have mutated into willing tools in ZANU-PF’s power-retention agenda.
This is despite the fact that this position inevitably divides communities and alienates many exercising their constitutional right to express and pursue their own political inclinations outside a ruling party that has never really abandoned its futile one-party state fantasy of the 1980s.
This is also despite the fact that Zimbabwe’s Constitution clearly outlaws any partisan conduct by the chiefs.
Chapter 15 Section 281(2) of the Constitution states that:
Traditional leaders must not–
a. be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics;
b. act in a partisan manner;
c. further the interests of any political party or cause; or
d. violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.
Last weekend, chiefs, recent beneficiaries of a $10 million vehicle largesse from President Robert Mugabe’s government, fell over each other to back his candidature in next year’s election.
“As chiefs, we agreed during the 2014 congress that Cde Mugabe is our candidate for the 2018 elections. We are all united and he is still our candidate. We have been supporting him and we can confirm that winning is guaranteed,” leader of the chiefs’ council, Fortune Charumbira, told an annual gathering of the traditional leaders in Bulawayo last week.
This brazen disregard for the Constitution and open bribery of chiefs by the Mugabe government does not surprise anyone.
Nor does the corrupt role chiefs play in ZANU-PF’s election strategy centred on coercion and intimidation.
Despite their presumptuous self-image as custodians of society, the chiefs are nothing more than compromised feudal relics.
Begowned custodians of a corrupt culture.

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