ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is greatly concerned by the blatant disregard of the Constitution by the leader of traditional leaders Chief Fortune Charumbira.
On 28 October at the official opening of the 2017 National Conference of Chiefs in Bulawayo, Chief Fortune Charumbira, who is the President of the Chief’s Council, called upon chiefs to campaign for President Robert Mugabe in the 2018 national elections. Chief Charumbira also said that the chiefs must support President Mugabe as the ZANU PF 2018 presidential candidate because, so he claimed, he recognises and respects traditional leaders. He further indicated that President Mugabe was the candidate for chiefs in 2014 as agreed during the congress at the time.
Such statements by a public servant are not only reckless but dangerous but have far reaching implications. Chief Charumbira’s statements interfere with the basic freedom of all traditional leaders and community members to exercise their right to support candidates of their choice without fear of reprisals. The provisions of the Constitution on traditional leaders are very clear. They call on all traditional leaders, as provided in section 281(1)(a) of the Constitution to act in accordance with the Constitution and in section 281(1)(c) of the Constitution to treat all persons in areas under their jurisdiction equally and fairly. It goes without saying that once traditional leaders dabble in party politics and openly declare their support to one political party they will not be able to discharge their traditional roles and duties impartially.
The Constitution also enjoins traditional leaders to remain apolitical and impartial.
According to section 281 (2)(a-b) of the Constitution, traditional leaders are not supposed to be members of a political party or in any way participate in partisan politics while section (281)(2)(c) of the Constitution provides that they must not act in a partisan manner and further the interests of any political party.
Chief Charumbira’s statements are not only reckless and unfortunate but a blatant violation of the Constitution. Further, it is greatly disturbing that Chief Charumbira’s statements were made after Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere announced that the government had purchased 226 Isuzu twin-cab vehicles for the chiefs of Zimbabwe.
ZLHR strongly condemns affiliation and active participation of traditional leaders (chiefs, headmen) in party politics as this compromises the impartial discharge of their traditional duties and is a violation of the Constitution.
ZLHR calls upon Chief Charumbira to lead by example and ensure that the provisions of the Constitution are respected.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
No. 98 Baines Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 4 764085/705370/708118
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