Zimbabwe: Chiefs Face Axe

THE new draft constitution has barred chiefs from supporting political parties and provides mechanisms for their removal by the President for any misdemeanours.

The new constitution, expected to be subjected to a plebiscite on March 16, says chiefs must treat all persons within their areas equally and fairly and must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics, act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.

The new supreme law proposes the setting up of an Integrity and Ethics Committee whose three functions are to develop and enforce integrity and ethical conduct on the part of traditional leaders, resolve disputes between traditional leaders and deal with complaints against traditional leaders.

The proposed constitution stipulates that an Act of Parliament must be promulgated to deal with matters concerning traditional leaders: chiefs, headperson or village heads.

"An Act of Parliament must provide for the following, in accordance with the prevailing culture, customs, traditions and practices of the communities concerned...but - (i) the appointment, removal and suspension of chiefs must be done by the President on the recommendation of the provincial assembly of chiefs through the minister responsible for traditional leaders and in accordance with the traditional practices and traditions of the communities concerned," reads part of the new draft charter.

"(ii) Disputes concerning the appointment, suspension and removal of traditional leaders must be resolved by the President on the recommendation of the provincial assembly of chiefs through the minister responsible for traditional leaders; (iii) the Act must provide measures to ensure that all these matters are dealt with fairly and without regard to political considerations."

It adds that the Act must also provide measures to safeguard the integrity of traditional institutions and their independence from political interference. It further states that Parliament must come up with another law to fix the remuneration and benefits of traditional leaders, with payments being charged upon and paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The proposed constitution also provides for a National Council of Chiefs and traditional leaders from each province to be equitably represented.

"Elections of the President, Deputy President and members of the National Council of Chiefs must be conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. (5) Each provincial assembly of chiefs must elect, in accordance with the Electoral Law, chiefs to represent the province in the Senate," the new charter further states.

Former United States ambassador Christopher Dell, more or less warned in a leaked cable that rivals who trust President Mugabe do so at their own peril.

The American diplomat said the ZANU-PF leader was "a brilliant tactician and has long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalise the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda."

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