Traditional chiefs have landed themselves in soup with opposition parties and civil society groups, after they recently publicly pledged to whip their subjects to rally behind President Robert Mugabe in next year’s general elections.
Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira assured Mugabe of their unwavering support at the just-ended traditional leaders’ conference in Bulawayo, after the Zanu PF leader promised to pamper them with all kinds of luxuries including brand new twin cab trucks, ahead of the polls he faces stiff challenge from a coalesced opposition.
Charumbira’s remarks triggered heated debate yesterday, with opposition parties accusing the chiefs of dabbling in Zanu PF politics in violation of the national Constitution.
“As the MDC, we respect the chiefs and we will accord them the respect they deserve and our government will not, like Zanu PF abuse them to get political support and endorsements. It is clear that after being bought with cars in what was clear vote buying, they were left with no choice but to dabble in politics violating the constitution of the country,” MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
Chapter 15 section 281 (2) of the Constitution read: “Traditional leaders must not–(a) be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics; (b) act in a partisan manner; (c) further the interests of any political party or cause; or (d) violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.”
But Zanu PF politburo member and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo tried to defend the chiefs, saying they were exercising their democratic right, but was ruled offside by European Union ambassador Philippe Van Damme.
“Politically, traditional chiefs can, as they always have, support Zanu PF without being members of the Party in the technical sense,” Moyo twitted before Van Damme called him out saying “That’s not what your #Constitution says. In their public function, & yesterday’s was public function, they should be party-politically neutral.”
Moyo then told Van Damme off, saying the diplomat should be more worried about the Spanish problem where Catalonia voted for independence and leave Zimbabwe alone.
“I will not defer the interpretation of Zimbabwe’s Constitution to an @EU_Commission ambassador. Deal with Spain’s constitution on Catalonia,” he hit back!