by TATENDA CHITAGU/VENERANDA LANGA
ZIMBABWE National Army (ZNA) Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba last week ordered traditional leaders to play a leading role in ensuring that President Robert Mugabe wins next year’s presidential election.
Addressing chiefs during commemorations of the Traditional Leaders’ Day at 4 Brigade headquarters in Masvingo last Friday, Nyikayaramba described chiefs as key players in ensuring a Zanu PF victory.
“This is a very important day. It unites government, traditional leaders and soldiers,” he said.
“We should keep reminding each other about the history of this country, where we are coming from, and where we are going, chiefs are the custodians of the country, the nerve centre of the country.
“We saw it fit as soldiers to dedicate a day to meet chiefs while reminding them where we came from.”
Nyikayaramba said just like the way chiefs were not told to resign from their posts due to old age, the same should also apply to Mugabe.
“The British are not giving up on Zimbabwe. They want to play divide-and-rule tactics on us,” he said.
“Did anyone ever say to a traditional chief that you are old, leave the chieftainship for me?
“That is unheard of. What will happen to the chief’s aides? We need to remind each other.
“No chief was voted for. No son has ever ordered his father to step down from his role as leader of the family, so the same applies to our case with President Mugabe.
“That is what we should remind each other when we meet. Whites want divide-and-rule, and they saw that Mugabe is the nerve centre of the country.
“Let us not sell the country for the love of sugar. We are here to strengthen the relationship between chiefs, the President and the army.”
Nyikayaramba said Mugabe’s leadership was endorsed by the country’s spirit mediums and there was a prophecy of him ruling this country, hence, he was not going anywhere.
Opposition parties have often accused traditional chiefs of siding with Zanu PF and forcing their subjects to vote for the ruling party during elections.
Nyikayaramba spoke as MDC-T senators accused traditional leaders seconded to the Senate of being biased towards the ruling Zanu PF party, saying this compromised their integrity and independence.
This followed a recent development where all 18 chiefs in the Senate joined Zanu PF Senators to vote for the passage of the Constitution of Zimbabwe No. 1 Amendment Bill.
Soon after passage of the Bill, MDC-T Manicaland Senator Antony Chimhini raised his concerns with Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, saying that the move by the traditional leaders was against the Constitution, which mandated them to be apolitical.
“The Constitution is very clear in terms of traditional leaders that they are supposed to be apolitical. However, what happens is that when we vote in the Senate, the traditional leaders or the chiefs publicly vote with a political party,” he said.
“Is it not violation of the Constitution and are they not compromising themselves when we go to elections in 2018, when we know that they publicly vote for a political party?”
But, Mphoko defended the chiefs, saying when they vote in the legislature they would be doing so in their individual capacities.
The 2013 Constitution bars chiefs from actively involving themselves in political party activities.
It also directs Parliament to enact legislation to ensure that the appointment, suspension, succession and removal of traditional leaders is done fairly without regard to political considerations, as well as to safeguard the integrity of traditional leaders and their independence from political interference.
Last year, Mugabe announced during the official opening of Parliament that the government would introduce the Traditional
Leaders Bill to guide their operations, but it never happened.