HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsChiefs hear no evil, see no evil

Chiefs hear no evil, see no evil

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“Rhodesia is a peaceful country; there is no war here. The talk of the overseas people is the only thing that could cause war here.

Our only trouble is from terrorists with bombs from Russia and China, communist countries with no freedom of speech or opposition parties.

We plead with you to come and visit us in our country to see for yourself what a peaceful country it is.

“Why should the UN, which is made to keep the peace, come and interfere with us in this country where we are already so peaceful.

In our Sindebele language we say, ‘You cannot have two bulls in one paddock’. We have our bull in this country, which is our Government. We do not wish to be ruled or interfered with by anyone else.”

This is an excerpt from an invitation letter written to the Secretary General of the UN by “one of the highly respected senior Matabele leaders, Chief Sigola,” so states Ian Smith (now late) in his memoirs.

The use or rather abuse of Chiefs for cheap political mileage has always been a popular dish on the political menu.

Even Southern Rhodesian and subsequent Rhodesian regimes resorted to this subterfuge.

And the Chief, for the love of the pittances and trinkets they receive, often play ball.

Just how a chief would know anything about the workings of the UN and have the wherewithal to even know where to address his letter of so intricate a matter boggles the mind.

One needs not be a rocket scientist to know who was pulling the strings in this debacle.

When governments resort to using Chiefs in this fashion, they are desperate.

In 1923, when Rhodesia obtained “responsible government” an Indaba of chiefs was consulted and similarly on the declaration of war in 1939.

When discussions for the formation of the Federation were taking place in 1951, the then British Labour government sent their Secretary of State, Patrick Gordon Walker to the Chief’s Indaba.

The Monckton Commission set up by the British government in 1960 to report on the Federation stated that: “It is important that nothing should be done to diminish the traditional respect of the chiefs.

In Southern Rhodesia it is part of the government’s policy to increase the prestige, influence and authority of the chiefs in their tribal areas.” All this was in a bid to use the chiefs to endorse imperialist intrigue.

In 1961, chiefs were herded like cattle and gave thier “unanimous” support for independence based on the 1961 Constitution.

Arthur Bottomley and Harold Wilson routinely refused to accept the opinion of the collective grouping of chiefs as representing African political opinion, as suggested by Ian Smith, opting instead to want to hear the nationalists’ opinion.

The nationalists were of the strong view that chiefs did not represent the African political view, as they were mere traditional and cultural leaders, nothing more, and were being used by Ian Smith as stooges.

The nationalists were dead right.

This view was strongly supported and backed by successive British governments, the OAU and the Commonwealth.

The British Prime Minister even refused to meet the chiefs when they visited Britain.

Chiefs are vulnerable soft targets and are often used as mouth-pieces for official ventriloquism.

Those that refuse to be used often end up unceremoniously dispensed with on some dubious pretext.

We all know what happened to Chiefs Rekayi Tangwena and Mangwende.

You would think that after independence the neo-colonial psyche would change, only to discover that, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In the political realm, each chief’s opinion is personal, non-representative of his chiefdom and counts for one.

There has been vexatious attempt to try and portray the impression that what chiefs say in their individual capacity or collectively, is the official opinion of the chiefdom and the people of their jurisdiction.

This is absolutely heretical.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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