Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa could not have been serious when he said traditional leaders are expected to be pro-Zanu PF and can never be apolitical.
Needless to say that as the minister responsible for the Justice portfolio, he was the author of the Constitution which specifically provides to the contrary. According to the Zimbabwe Constitution, chiefs are not allowed by law to belong to any political party, let alone Zanu PF.
It is therefore irresponsible for the second-in- command of any constitutional government, to publicly encourage a breach of the same laws that he crafted and must uphold.
What makes it even more astounding is the fact that he was speaking to a meeting of public officials in the Ministry of Justice who were involved in constitutional advocacy. To say such things to people who should uphold the Constitution raises questions about whether this government will ever make an effort to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution of the land. Zimbabweans United for Democracy (Zunde) political party totally condemns such blatant and callous disrespect for the Constitution and the rule of law.
Zunde has said this before and it is important that we restate our position as clearly as possible.
Telling public servants entrusted with Constitutional advocacy to disregard the law enshrined in the Constitution is striking at the very core of the rule of law.
Every civilised nation needs to respect the rule of law otherwise the nation descends into a state of anarchy. Without the rule of law the nation falls to the whims and caprices and desperate statecraft of tyrants. For a Vice-President to do that in the full glare of the nation he serves speaking to a team of public servants tells a lot about the state of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Chieftaincy is and has always been part and parcel of African culture, a governance system that has existed in Africa for centuries. It was cleverly designed to guarantee stability, peace and progress including a peaceful and rigid process for transition of power from one family to another among those of royal blood.
The chief was not designed to rule alone. Tyranny and despotism are alien to the African concept of good governance. The chief ruled with his own council of elders who gave him advice and direction on the general polity of affairs of his community.
It was designed to ensure that the chief does the right thing. Under this system there was no room for tyranny, despotism and kleptocracy. As PT Bauer described it, “Despotism and kleptocracy do not inhere in the nature of African cultures or in the African character; but they are now rife in what was once called British colonial Africa.” Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe are entirely a product of post-colonial Africa and have no moral right to expropriate the institution of chieftaincy because they have absolutely nothing in common.
The office of chieftaincy in African experience is regarded as a sacred office. George BN Ayittey describes it aptly as a repository of the ancestral spirits who watch over us in order to constantly reward us when we do right and punish us when we do wrong.
Epidemics, famine, and other calamities that befall us in Zimbabwe today are as a matter of African religion seen as an expression of ancestral anger when those above see or hear the cries of their children as they suffer every day at the hands of one man. Families have been torn apart and for decades now we have not been able to bring our families together to communicate with and remember those who have left us.
Zanu PF has no sense in calling upon chiefs to belong to or support them. Zanu PF is ruled by a despot who has trashed all that was good that was and is represented by chiefs. In Zunde, we believe chiefs cannot and should not and will not belong to any political party. They represent a constituency of the spiritual realm and they are the best form of local governance that guarantees stability and gives a sense of belonging to every individual in tribal society.
Spirits cannot belong to a political party; particularly a murderous one like Zanu PF. Chiefs cannot be part of a despotic regime. In their hearts they know they are being forced to be part of a system that is alien to African culture. They deserve full respect as they represent everything that is African. The Vice-President must stop pouring scorn on our chiefs as if they do not really matter and can be used by those who want to keep power in their hands at all cost. Don’t we remember the story of Chiefs Chirau and Ndiweni who were once belittled and used by Ian Smith’s oppressive regime? Is it history repeating itself?
Let us always remember that the institution of chieftaincy particularly in Africa has been around for a very long time indeed.
Zanu PF came into being recently — in 1963. Many of those born in tribal areas belong to a certain chiefdom whether one likes it or not. Mugabe hails from Chief Zvimba while Mnangagwa hails from Chief Mapanzure in Zvishavane. These are where they belong or come from. Not the other way round.
Zanu PF has trashed many things and the country is now on its knees. They should stop acting like rabid dogs on an unstoppable trail of destruction. They must stop attacking the cultural health of our people by forcing chiefs to belong to them.
Chiefs should be and have always been chosen by their communities according to their cultural, spiritual and family lineages and not by Zanu PF. They should be answerable to their people and not to Zanu PF. It is a national taboo to ask them to belong to a mere political party; and to Zanu PF of all institutions.
Benjamin Paradza is vice-president of Zunde and an exiled Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe. Currently, he is Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand.