THE European Union (EU) has criticised political partisanship among the country’s traditional chiefs, reiterating its stance that co-operation with the new authorities of the land can only be through shared values of democracy and the rule of law. Speaking at the Zimbabwe Justice Sector programme launch yesterday, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme expressed his concern at the reported cases of political bias being shown by some traditional leaders.
BY TINOTENDA MUNYUKWI
Van Damme reminded the government that this could compromise the credibility of the forthcoming general elections, which most international bodies have set as a yardstick for Zimbabwe to prove its willingness to embrace agreed principles of democracy. “The EU is concerned about the government’s failure to publicly dissociate themselves from the partisan and discriminatory statements and attitudes. Partisan behaviour by officials and traditional leaders compromises the fairness and credibility of the electoral process.
“Impartiality, fairness and non-partisanship are among the qualities of a traditional leader espoused in the Constitution,” Van Damme said.
Traditional leaders have repeatedly been accused by opposition parties of campaigning and being manipulated by the ruling party to garner votes in rural areas, where over 60% of the Zimbabwean population resides
Last week the European body reaffirmed its availability to engage constructively with the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. But it underlined that this was only possible under guidelines of “a mutual commitment to shared values focused on human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law”.
The Zimbabwe Justice Sector Programme has injected $17 million for the promotion of justice and the rule of law, with a specific programme being run with the Legal Resource Foundation to capacitate chiefs and headmen in the correct application of the law and respect for human rights.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi’s reiterated government’s commitment to promoting and preserving justice and the rule of law in the run-up to the imminent general elections.
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“There is need to respect each other, our rights and our position and to have everyone live freely in this country. We are committed to ensuring that we have credible and fair elections, and the credibility of elections is hinged on the way we behave ourselves and all this is premised on how we respect the rule of law,” he said.