Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is incensed with traditional leaders over their decision to endorse President Robert Mugabe’s candidature in elections likely to be held next year yet they are supposed to be apolitical.
Tsvangirai summoned the president of the Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe, Chief Fortune Charumbira, and two others last week to his Munhumutapa Building offices and ordered them to stop dabbling in politics.
Sources yesterday said the Prime Minister read the Riot Act and told Charumbira during the no-holds barred meeting that their actions were at variance with the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which gave birth to the inclusive government.
The sources said Tsvangirai was angered by the chiefs’ endorsement of President Mugabe at the recent chiefs’ council meeting held in Kariba.
The chiefs announced they wanted President Mugabe to be declared life president despite his advanced age.
The endorsement was mired in controversy after it emerged some traditional leaders from Matabeleland and Midlands had distanced themselves from such machinations.
Zanu PF provinces, including Manicaland, Harare and Masvingo, have also endorsed President Mugabe as the party’s candidate for next year’s elections.
The Zanu PF women and youth leagues have done the same.
President Mugabe has announced the country will go to the polls next year to choose a new government because the inclusive government was not functioning smoothly.
The 86-year-old leader has said traditional leaders should participate in politics and fight for the empowerment of the communities.
Traditional leaders have in past elections played a pivotal role in oiling Zanu PF’s election campaigns. The sources said Tsvangirai was candid during the meeting with Charumbira at Munhumutapa Building, telling him and his colleagues to stop dabbling in partisan politics and concentrate on their roles as traditional leaders.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, yesterday confirmed the Prime Minister was concerned with the involvement of traditional leaders in Zanu PF politics.
“Indeed, the Prime Minister held a meeting with the chiefs following disturbing statements by the chiefs that they support a particular political party and a particular candidate which is a clear and blatant violation of the GPA which states that traditional leaders must be apolitical,” said Tamborinyoka.
“It is in this context that the Prime Minister, who is a disciple of constitutionalism and respect for the law called a meeting with the chiefs to discuss this very important issue.”
But Charumbira appears to be adamant.
“The Prime Minister asked why we support Zanu PF and I told him that Zanu PF is the party with the history that we know. Also, most people in the MDC-T do not respect us and they engage in direct confrontation with traditional leaders,” Charumbira told journalists.
President Mugabe and his party are already geared for elections and their campaign machinery appears to be in full swing.
War veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda is on a whirlwind campaign, travelling across the country campaigning for President Mugabe. Sibanda has been accused of using intimidation as a campaign tool.