BY Brenna Matendere
CHIEF Samambwa, from Midlands province, has spilled the beans, revealing that traditional leaders in the province campaigned for President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the 2018 general elections and vowed to do the same in the 2023 plebiscite.
Constitutionally chiefs are not allowed to dabble in politics, but in the past elections, the MDC has accused Zanu PF of abusing traditional leaders, forcing them to show open bias towards the ruling party.
Speaking at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s field day event at his Pricabe Farm in Sherwood, just outside Kwekwe, Chief Samambwa said all the chiefs from the province would rally behind the Zanu PF leader in the 2023 general polls.
“I have been failing to get an opportunity to thank the people who voted for our son (President Mnangagwa),” he said.
“Today, I got it because the majority of you here voted for him. You listened to us when we said vote for him because he is wise and intelligent. Here I am speaking on behalf of all the other chiefs because they sent me to say these words.”
Chief Samambwa was giving closing remarks at the field day event attended by Cabinet ministers, Zanu PF heavyweights and bussed in party supporters.
In April 2018, the chief made headlines after bootlicking Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga for heading Operation Restore Legacy that put an end to the late former President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
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He claimed the end of Mugabe rule restored his Samambwa chieftainship, which he won after a court battle.
“The chiefs have also sent me to say to you President that in what is coming (2023 elections), we will stand by you. Here, you (Zanu PF supporters) are all in my area of jurisdiction and I am favoured to say these words to you. As the chiefs, we are saying we will stand by this man (Mnangagwa),” Samambwa added.
The statements triggered delight in ministers such as Mthuli Ncube (Finance), Oppah Muchinguri (Defence), Monica Mutsvangwa (Information), July Moyo (Local government), Owen Ncube (State Security) and Cain Mathema (Primary and Secondary Education) who attended the event.
Chiwenga, who was billed to be the guest of honour, did not attend.
During campaigns in rural areas, chiefs are perennially accused of victimising villagers believed to be sympathetic to the opposition MDC.
The traditional leaders also reportedly force their subjects to vote for Zanu PF and threaten to withhold food handouts, apart from grabbing their pieces of land if they support the MDC. In 2018, the chiefs in Midlands led a campaign dubbed Vhotera Musha (Vote for Land) in which they threatened to grab farms of resettled farmers who would have voted for the MDC. MDC deputy spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday said revelations by the chief that they dabble in partisan politics was an affront to democracy.
“This is exactly what is wrong with our elections. We have Zanu PF abusing our traditional leaders against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Traditional leaders are not supposed to further or dent the interests of any political party,” he said.
He said Chief Samambwa was simply confirming that polls in Zimbabwe have never been free and fair.