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Chiefs demand political rights

By Daniel Chigundu
Traditional leaders have demanded that they are allowed to publicly declare their political affiliations just like everybody else in the country.
According to the Zimbabwean constitution, traditional leaders are not supposed to actively participate in politics or declare their political affiliation although they are allowed to vote during elections.
However, some chiefs including Chief’s Council president Fortune Charumbira and Chief Musarurwa have been quoted in the media on several occasions declaring their allegiance to Zanu PF.
As if that is not enough the same chiefs have been seen regularly at Zanu PF meetings in direct violation of the country’s constitution.
Speaking during the Electoral Amendment Bill Conference organised by Election Resource Centre (ERC), Chief Serima complained that it was not fair for Chiefs to be deprived of their right to association which is enjoyed by everyone else but them.
“We are allowed to vote, but we should not talk about people we want to vote for, are chiefs not people, this is a constitutional issue that I think is a result of an oversight.
“I am talking as a Zimbabwean, how do see it as fellow Zimbabweans, why are traditional leaders barred from politics, yet leaders of political parties are allowed to campaign, for example I would want someone to be MP in my area then I am told I am not supposed to say I want so and so to be MP in my area.
“I am just told that I only vote, what about my rights as a chief what has happened to them, am I not a Zimbabwean like others, why am I the only one who is not supposed to talk about people I want to vote for, this is where we clash, you are oppressing us.
“Allow us to campaign and talk about people we want to vote for, allow us to campaign for candidates that we see to be good for our areas because we have rights as Zimbabweans,” he said.
Speaking at the same meeting Musikavanhu legislator Prosper Mutseyami took time to explain to the chief why it was proper for chiefs not to declare their political affiliation publicly.
“Chiefs are regarded as the soil of the land, they are supposed to accommodate everyone and anyone despite their political affiliation and when a chief has declared his affiliation publicly it becomes difficult for people from the other party to work with him and him with them.
“For example, if there is violence between a supporter of a certain party and the supporter of a party to which the chief is affiliated when they bring their case to the chief, his judgement will be seen from a political perspective even if it was a fair judgement,” he said.

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