BY BLESSED MHLANGA
PRESIDENT of the Chiefs Council Fortune Charumbira leapt to the defence of traditional leaders during a Zimbabwe Electoral Commissions (Zec) post-election review conference when election observers suggested that punitive measures be introduced against them for dabbling in politics.
United States’ International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute co-director Jessica Keegan stirred a hornet’s nest when, in her recommendations to Zec, said traditional leaders who violated the Constitution and dabbled in politics should be hit by punitive sanctions.
Keegan said the Electoral Act should be aligned with the Constitution to ensure that any acts that are not in line with the Constitution, including chiefs getting their fingers in politics and abuse of food aid, face the law.
“This also includes the recommending or legal mechanisms to mitigate the abuse of State resources, including punitive measures for traditional leaders who engage in partisan acts, so the legal framework must be reviewed and discussed,” she said.
Charumbira, who has in the past declared his allegiance to Zanu PF and has been dragged to court over allegations of dabbling into politics, was not amused with the word “punitive”.
“I agree we need to sit down, that’s basically what should be the recommendation, not punitive measures. No, no, no, that’s wrong language, because even Members of Parliament, political parties, have never heard that language against political parties, even when they misbehave. That word is never used
anywhere and it’s wrong to be used for traditional leaders. That language is disrespectful for our institution,” he said.
Charumbira said chiefs and traditional leaders were owners of the land and ran small governments in their areas of influence and, therefore, should be respected.
Many MDC supporters have clashed with traditional leaders for allegedly being forced to support Zanu PF.
Keegan said a lot had to be done by Zec for them to meet the threshold of holding credible elections, including changing the electoral laws.
“In the short-term, I think it’s important to have a comprehensive review of the legal framework. This includes steps to ensure that the Electoral Act is aligned with the Constitution and holding dialogue on specific pieces of the Act which need to be amended or rewritten or reformed to improve the integrity of the elections,” she said.