20 April 2018

Zimbabwe: Chiefs Blast Constitution for Blocking Them From Partisan Politics

Chief Serima of Gutu has scorned the country's constitution for allegedly violating the rights of traditional chiefs through barring them from partisan politics.

He was speaking during plenary at a Harare meeting Tuesday called for stakeholders by the Election Resource Centre to brainstorm over proposed amendments to the Electoral Act by Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi.

Participants, among them MPs who sit in relevant portfolios, took time to condemn acts of partisanship often displayed by the country's traditional leaders.

But Chief Serima, born Vengai Rushwaya, would have none of it as he insisted that traditional leaders also had their own political biases and were unfairly barred from expressing them by the constitution.

"Do you know that a chief is the only one forbidden from campaigning for their own choice of candidate in Zimbabwe when the rest are allowed under the Constitution?" Chief Serima said while speaking in Shona.

"Is that not a violation of our rights as fellow Zimbabweans? Even presidential candidates can campaign for themselves and voting for themselves but in Zimbabwe, chiefs are the only ones stopped from being partisan; you can cast a vote, but you are not allowed to confide in anybody who you voted for. Is a chief not human?"

Chief Serima, once sued for assault and pointing a firearm at a Masvingo businessman, said this was an oversight by the constitution.

"Is it not the case that Zanu PF and MDC presidents vote for themselves and campaign for themselves and yet if I find potential in someone being an MP, I am not allowed to express my wish. My only contribution is just to vote. Where are my rights as a chief? Am I not a Zimbabwean like everyone else?

"That is where we clash. We are saying you are trampling on our rights. Allow me to campaign for whoever I want to vote for because it is my right as a Zimbabwean."

Zimbabwe's partisan traditional leaders have often come under fire for railroading their subjects to vote for Zanu PF.

During elections, chiefs are often accused of frog-marching villagers under their jurisdiction to polling booths with orders to vote for the ruling party.

Only recently, Chiefs Council President Fortune Charumbira publicly pledged Zanu PF support on behalf of his colleagues in this year's elections, drawing wide condemnation from Zanu PF opponents for allegedly overstepping their mandate.

Government has also not been spared the criticism for pampering traditional leaders with expensive vehicles, installing electricity and piped water in their homes.

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