PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has pledged to turn around the welfare of traditional chiefs by piling benefits and a share of the $310 million set aside for devolution in the 2019 National Budget.
BY BRENNA MATENDERE
He made the pledge yesterday in response to a tall list of demands presented to him by the traditional leaders at the ongoing national chiefs council conference in Kadoma.
The development comes at a time when government has not made such pledges for civil servants who are planning to down tools and plays into suspicions that Zanu PF pampers traditional leaders for political gains.
Mnangagwa was accompanied to the event by his deputies, Kembo Mohadi and Constantino Chiwenga and his Cabinet ministers.
“In this second republic, the importance of chiefs is going to be upheld highly. There is a $310 million that has been budgeted for devolution next year. If you divide that by 10 provinces you will realise that each province will get $31 million. Now, every chief comes from a particular area of a province. So what I am saying is that as chiefs of a particular province, sit down and discuss among yourselves how much of that money will go towards your welfare. That way the grievances on increases of allowances and fuel allocations will be solved,” he said.
Mnangagwa also assured chiefs that the vehicle scheme will stay despite protests from members of the public.
“Your packages are different from those of civil servants because you are part of the governance structure. So you will find out even if a pastor preaches how good, they will not be given cars by government. But you will get them because it is your entitlement. Your welfare is clearly spelt out in the Constitution,” he said.
The President also promised that chiefs will soon be exempted from land tax. He also promised more land and livestock for the traditional leaders.
“The Constitution clearly spells out that chiefs are custodians of our culture, values and land. So if they are custodians of land, why should they pay tax for the land that they own? This is something we are going to correct. There are also chiefs who did not get land during the land reform programme,” he said.
“That exercise is past now, but we have land audit going on where we are repossessing land lying idle and cutting to size farms that are more than 500 hectares each. On the other hand, we are repossessing farms from multiple owners. Accordingly, all the chiefs who do not have land will get it from the farms we are taking in the process of the audit.”
Mnangagwa also said chiefs should get first preference on the presidential inputs programme and other government agricultural subsidies.
“Chiefs cannot be made to queue for the inputs. How then will their dignity be preserved? So we are going to take heed of your demands on that issue so that you get first preference,” he said.
Mnangagwa also promised that chiefs in Matabeleland who did not get cattle during the command livestock scheme will benefit in the near future.
Chiwenga, who delivered closing remarks, urged the traditional leaders to in turn play a critical role in aligning the rural folk with interests of the government and rein in people with dissenting voices.
“Chiefs, even in the past enjoyed high honour. Look at King David in the Bible or King Solomon. They were all people of great standing in society. The importance of chiefs must, therefore, be preserved in this country and throughout the continent of Africa. We have been doing fairly well on that regard as Zimbabwe. However, as chiefs, you also need to teach people in the rural areas good morals and respect for government,” Chiwenga said.
“Chiefs must contribute in furthering the policies of government and its vision. If we hear a bad-mouthed child, we should ask the chief of that area to explain the waywardness of such a child. We do not want people with wire-brushes in their mouths in the rural areas. We do not want the country to be like an animal farm where citizens have no respect for elders and behave haphazardly.”