Zanu PF last week clashed with traditional chiefs with Vice-President John Nkomo and praise-singing historian and Mashonaland East governor Aeneas Chigwedere shooting down their demands for diplomatic passports, guns, farms, new vehicles and to be part of the community share-ownership schemes.
They accused the chiefs of hedonism arguing the traditional leaders will abandon their core business of representing their subjects in their communities to pursue business.
At their annual Chiefs’ Council conference in Bulawayo last week, the chiefs made a list of demands to government.
Nkomo believes some chiefs will abandon people to spend most of their time at the mines. “That is not what we want. You must not abandon the people.
People look up to you for leadership and control.”
According to Chigwedere, “the focus of the chief was the happiness and prosperity of his people. What is our focus today as chiefs?
“Is it the welfare of the people or is it our personal welfare or family welfare? Then do we expect our people to respect us?”
That is why his remarks drew the ire of the president of the Chiefs’ Council Fortune Charumbira, who averred their image in society was important.
“I think it is unfair for anyone to imply that if we talk of allowances, we are reducing ourselves to trade unions. If the traditional leadership has no power, it is despised, it is without a voice. They have no land and they walk on foot (sic). Is that fitting of their power and influence? You cannot expect a Head of State to use a bicycle,” Charumbira retorted.
It is ironic that Zanu PF rejected the traditional leaders’ unending demands. Zanu PF nurtured the chiefs’ insatiable appetite for the “royal life” through the distribution of freebies — Mazda BT50 trucks to loyal traditional leaders who campaigned for the former ruling party.
When it became clear Zanu PF was losing political ground to MDC-T, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo launched a scheme to benefit “dependable” traditional leaders by allocating them new vehicles, farms, and hefty allowances.
Non-partisan chiefs were left out.
So what has changed now? Has Zanu PF now realised the traditional leaders are now supporters of its protagonist MDC-T, disqualifying them for the giveaways?
Chiefs may be correct after all based on their relationship with Zanu PF. They are now wondering what could have changed when a good number have benefited in the past.
Charumbira himself was at some point appointed a government minister by Zanu PF, a post he used to wrest power from former Chiefs Council president Chief Jonathan Mangwende a couple of years ago.
Obviously, something does not wash. No wonder there’s a swirl of corruption charges around our politicians these days.
But our politicians and their unaccounted-for money are old hat. It is a welcome development that they are increasingly coming under scrutiny from the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Society at large is not against chiefs making money, but it wants accountability, fair play and a level playing field. Corruption distorts society and makes it unequal. Politicians enjoy too much power and too much influence to manipulate things in their favour or in the favour of their cronies.
The message to chiefs and politicians is make your wealth, but show us the sources and show us that it is not illegitimate.
Traditional leaders’ greed cannot be at the cost of our hunger. That the politicians would be the perennial target of uncomfortable questions is obvious.