17 January 2018

Zimbabwe: Traditional Leaders Must Remain Impartial and Non-Partisan

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Heal Zimbabwe expresses grave concern over President of the Chiefs Council, Fortune Charumbira utterances during a traditional leaders' meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 13 January 2018 in Gweru. In his address, Chief Charumbira openly declared allegiance to ZANU PF. "We work with Government and the ruling ZANU PF," he said. "I know people say this should not be said but that is the truth. We are ZANU PF", he said.

This is not the first time Chief Charumbira has publicly declared allegiance to ZANU PF. In October 2017, in Bulawayo he openly declared his allegiance to the then President, Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF in clear contradiction of the Constitution. He even went further and promised that Traditional leaders were going to campaign for ZANU PF ahead of the 2018 elections.

Heal Zimbabwe notes that such utterances are not only unconstitutional but compromise the independent role played by Traditional leaders in the discharge of their constitutional duties such as mediating and resolving disputes within their communities. Such sentiments also violate Section 282 of the constitution that forbid Traditional leaders from actively participating in partisan politics or further the interest of any political party. Added to this, Section 7 of the Traditional Leaders Act stipulate that a Chief can be suspended by the responsible Ministry of Local Government for misconduct which involve participating in partisan politics or further the interests of any political party.

Heal Zimbabwe fully appreciates that traditional leaders if left to discharge their duties independently, can be effective mediators and adjudicators in their communities who can spearhead positive traditional forms of conflict resolution and intervention on behalf of victims of injustice. In light of this, meddling in politics by Traditional leaders greatly compromises this important role that help build peaceful communities and social cohesion within communities.

Heal Zimbabwe calls for the realignment of the traditional Leaders Act to the Constitution. The constitution clearly stipulates in Chapter 15 section 281 (2) 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."

The organization further calls for the setting up of the Integrity and Ethics Committee as espoused in section 287 of the Constitution. An Act of Parliament must be put in place which provide for the establishment, membership and procedures of an Integrity and Ethics Committee of Chiefs to exercise the following functions:

To develop and enforce integrity and ethical conduct on the part of traditional leaders.

To resolve disputes between traditional leaders.

To deal with complaints against traditional leaders.

HZT further appeals to Traditional leaders to respect the constitution and reassure citizens that they are non-partisan and shall perform their duties and responsibilities in a professional and non-partisan manner that allows all citizens regardless of political affiliation equal access to resources and guaranteed non-discrimination on partisan basis.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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