LOCAL human rights watchdog, Heal Zimbabwe Trust has called for the alignment of the Traditional Leaders Act to the Constitution after Chiefs’ Council president, Fortune Charumbira declared allegiance to Zanu PF when traditional leaders met with President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Gweru on Saturday
BY SILAS NKALA
In his address, Chief Charumbira said: “We work with government and the ruling Zanu PF. I know people say this should not be said, but that is the truth. We are Zanu PF.”
The watchdog said the Constitution clearly stipulates in Chapter 15 section 281(2) that: “Traditional leaders must not (a) be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics; (b) act in a partisan manner; (c) further the interests of any political party or cause; or (d) violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.”
Heal Zimbabwe said Charumbira’s utterances were unconstitutional and compromised traditional leaders’ roles.
“Heal Zimbabwe notes that such utterances are not only unconstitutional, but compromise the independent role played by traditional leaders in the discharge of their constitutional duties such as mediating and resolving disputes within their communities,” the body said.
The organisation said such sentiments also violate section 282 of the Constitution, which forbids traditional leaders from actively participating in partisan politics or furthering the interests of any political party.
“Added to this, section 7 of the Traditional Leaders Act stipulates that a chief can be suspended by the responsible ministry for misconduct, which involves participating in partisan politics or furthering the interests of any political party,” Heal Zimbabwe said.
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The organisation also called for the setting-up of the integrity and ethics committee as espoused in section 287 of the Constitution.
“An Act of Parliament must be put in place, which provides for the establishment, membership and procedures of an integrity and ethics committee of chiefs to exercise the following functions: To develop and enforce integrity and ethical conduct on the part of traditional leaders, to resolve disputes between traditional leaders and to deal with complaints against traditional leaders,” Heal Zimbabwe said.
The rights watchdog said traditional leaders must discharge their duties independently, to be effective mediators and adjudicators in their communities, who can spearhead positive traditional forms of conflict resolution and intervention on behalf of victims of injustice.
“In light of this, meddling in politics by traditional leaders greatly compromises this important role that helps build peaceful communities and social cohesion,” the rights watchdog said.
Heal Zimbabwe Trust said this was not the first time Charumbira had publicly declared allegiance to Zanu PF. “In October 2017, in Bulawayo, he openly declared his allegiance to the then President, Robert Mugabe, and Zanu PF in clear contradiction of the Constitution,” the organisation said.
“He even went further and promised that traditional leaders were going to campaign for Zanu PF ahead of the 2018 elections.” The watchdog urged traditional leaders to respect the Constitution and reassure citizens that they are non-partisan and shall perform their duties and responsibilities in a professional and non-partisan manner.
The Election Resource Centre has since sued Charumbira over his October remarks.