Chiefs aren’t Zanu PF commissars: Charumbira

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Chief Fortune Charumbira

CHIEFS’ Council president Fortune Charumbira has denied allegations that traditional leaders were in the habit of frogmarching their subjects to vote for the ruling Zanu PF party

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Charumbira yesterday said he was disappointed that traditional leaders were being wrongly accused of turning themselves into de facto Zanu PF political commissars.

The statement came after President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in his State of the Nation Address on Wednesday, pledged government’s commitment to entrenching a democratic society driven by respect for the Constitution, rule of law, mutual tolerance, peace and unity, adding that the government would do all in its power to ensure that the 2018 general elections were credible, free
and fair.

“Actually, as chiefs, we support the President’s statement on free and fair elections to the fullest extent because chiefs are the winners if the country undergoes very peaceful elections as we are the custodians of peace and security in the country,” Charumbira said.

“It is a misnomer to accuse chiefs of violence because we are not participants and are not fighting for any office, and so we can never be used by any political party during elections.”

MDC-T parliamentary chief whip Innocent Gonese, however, insisted that traditional leaders were one of the biggest players during elections, as they were well known for attending Zanu PF party events such as rallies and meetings in contravention of the Constitution, which requires them to be non-partisan.

“They attend Zanu PF conferences and meetings and during elections, they are used to force-march people to vote for that party. Truly, they must not assist any political party in campaigns. They can have their own political views, but these must not be made public and they should not force people to vote for a certain political party,” Gonese said.

Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust executive director John Makamure said it was important for elections to be free and fair so that they would be adjudged credible.

“What government needs to do now is to ensure they strengthen the policy and legal framework to do with elections and ensure that there is no voter intimidation, as well as to ensure that all voters are registered. If there is need to extend registration deadlines, then let it be done, so that everyone is registered,” he
said.