SW Radio Africa (London)

12 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Chiefs in U-Turn Over Draft Charter

Zimbabwe's constitutional debate has taken yet another interesting twist after traditional leaders had a 'change of heart' and came out in support of the draft constitution.

Two weeks ago the disgruntled chiefs were seeking an audience with President Robert Mugabe to discuss their concerns about the draft, which centred on the administration of land.

The chiefs were particularly unhappy with Clause 15.3 of the Copac draft, which states that traditional leaders would have no authority over any land, except communal land.

During a debate in the Senate last week Thursday the chiefs, through their leaders, said they would after all be campaigning for a "yes" vote when the draft constitution goes to a referendum.

Chief Ngungumbane, who is the deputy leader of the chiefs' council, told Parliament they support the draft and emphasised the drafting of the new constitution was a job well done.

It is not clear what has prompted the sudden about-turn, but Chief Ngungumbane said although the chiefs had initially protested against the draft, as it curtailed their traditional powers, they were now fully behind it as they had realised it 'captured the views of the people.'

MDC-T Member of Parliament for Makoni South, Pishai Muchauraya, welcomed the chiefs' decision and applauded them for respecting the voice of the people.

He said: "The draft constitution is a product of an outreach programme and there is no reason for chiefs to throw spanners in the works, and as the MDC-T, we think it is wise for them to follow the wishes of their people."

One of the chiefs contacted by SWRA refused to comment, but it is expected that they will issue a statement after the chief's conference, scheduled for tomorrow.

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