Suspicion over demands by traditional chiefs to be issued with guns was confirmed recently after Chief Svosve, born Weston Zvenyika Kuwandikira, was sanctioned by the High Court for firing gunshots to scare a villager.
At their national annual conference in Bulawayo last month, chiefs demanded firearms saying they wanted to protect themselves, especially from politicians whom they said had no respect for them and were beating them up or threatening them daily.
But entrusting them with such weapons has proved dangerous after Chief Svosve used his gun to scare away Noel Nhire, following a dispute over a piece of land in Wedza.
There have been fears that chiefs wanted guns for political reasons, hence issuing them would create chaos.
It is no secret that some of the traditional leaders have in the past been used by political parties to coerce villagers to support them.
Chief Svosve’s case must serve as a lesson to the licensing authorities when they make decisions on who should be given guns. Given the Svosve episode, there is high possibility that if given firearms, the chiefs will become a law unto themselves and harass innocent villagers. It would appear traditional leaders are promoting chaos in their areas of jurisdiction. Chiefs are expected to be role models, not rogues.
Chief Svosve’s behaviour is deplorable. The courts should deal with such characters in exemplary fashion to deter like-minded individuals from abusing the society that they seek to lead.
Chiefs are there to settle disputes amongst their subjects and it should be taboo to find them having to defend themselves in the courts. How does Chief Svosve expect to get respect from his people when he behaves like a bull in a china shop?
After their demands at the Bulawayo indaba — including diplomatic passports and increased allowances — the chiefs appear to behave like spoilt brats. Whatever privileges they get, traditional leaders must know that they should be earned. In giving them $300 monthly allowances and servicing vehicles for free, the government is doing well enough and the chiefs must not start believing they are employed by some rich private company.
After all, these same chiefs receive all sorts of gifts, some solicited while some are demanded from villagers. They also receive and enjoy whatever fines they charge by their courts. Practically such fines should be enough payment for the traditional leaders. Giving them guns would be taking things too far.