President Emmerson Mnangagwa will next week meet traditional leaders, as part of efforts to rope them into his developmental agenda ahead of elections this year.
By Everson Mushava/strong>
This will be Mnangagwa’s first meeting with traditional leaders since taking over power from former President Robert Mugabe with the help of the military two months ago.
Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, in a statement yesterday, said the meeting will be held in Gweru on Friday next week.
“As part of the ongoing programme to connect and acquaint himself with the thinking of different echelons, interests and players of our nation, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is scheduled to hold a day-long indaba with the country’s 282 chiefs in Gweru on January 12, 2018,” Charamba said.
“The President is expected to take advantage of the meeting to get views and expectations of different communities on government’s performance and services, while also briefing our traditional leaders on the vision, programmes and expectations of his new administration and these relate to rural areas where the majority of Zimbabweans live.”
Zimbabwe is going for polls this year in an election that will largely test Mnangagwa’s popularity.
Mnangagwa’s ascendancy was engineered by the military from the capital Harare and the meeting with the chiefs will present him with an opportunity to introduce himself to the rural stakeholders.
In past elections, Mugabe, Mnangagwa’s predecessor, used the chiefs to ramp up rural support and neutralise electoral competition from Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T that enjoyed strong urban support.
Last year before his ouster, Mugabe met the chiefs in Bulawayo, where he unveiled a fresh vehicle scheme for the chiefs ahead of this year’s polls, triggering an opposition outcry, particularly from Tsvangirai’s
MDC-T, who took the move as synonymous with vote-buying.
Charamba said: “Government’s emphasis on an agriculture-led economic recovery makes national traditional leaders key players in mobilising and orchestrating national development through community involvement and empowerment, and within the framework of a progressive national value system.
“The meeting will also address the welfare issues of chiefs and their respective communities.”
Chiefs, who according to the Constitution should be apolitical, have been accused by opposition parties and civic organisations of intimidating their subjects to support Zanu PF.
At the Zanu PF special congress in December last year, president of the Chiefs’ Council, Fortune Charumbira, revealed that the traditional leaders would do everything in their capacity to ensure a Zanu PF electoral victory.
Charumbira, however, later retracted his statement, but the damage had already been done.