THE Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) has urged Parliament to amend the Traditional Leaders Act because it is not consistent with the country’s Constitution.
MIHR said this while appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government to speak about their petition which they sent to Parliament calling for amendment of the law on the basis that currently it gives village heads a lot of power and responsibilities.
Presenting oral evidence in Parliament yesterday, MIHR co-ordinator Khumbulani Maphosa said: “The Act exhibits inconsistency in enforcing local accountability as the same Act provides for the ward assembly which is chaired by the headman, and holds accountable the ward development committee which is chaired by a councillor — but such a principle is not applied at the village assembly and village development committee level.”
Maphosa said the Traditional Leaders Act (Chapter 29:17) mandated the village head to preside over the village development committee, to co-ordinate its work and to submit the resolutions and plans of that committee to the village assembly for consideration, and where appropriate, to implement the plans.
He said it also called upon the village head to chair and preside over every meeting of the village assembly — whose functions include electing and supervising the village development committee and — to review and approve any village development plan before its submission to the ward development committee among other functions.
“We recommend the amendment of the Act to allow for the meritorious election of competent local private individuals as chairpersons of village development committees, and the village head continues only being the chairperson of the village assembly as is consistent with other local development structures provided by the same Act," Maphosa said.
Chairperson of the Local Government committee Miriam Chikukwa said the committee would look into the issue by consulting more stakeholders, which include village heads as well as villagers before making any recommendations.