HARARE - President of the Chiefs’ Council Fortune Charumbira has stirred a storm after declaring that chiefs will back President Robert Mugabe to the hilt.
Charumbira told the Zanu PF provincial coordinating meeting in Masvingo on Sunday that traditional leaders were rallying behind Mugabe, remarks that legal experts said were a blatant violation of the Constitution that prohibits traditional leaders from meddling in politics.
The remarks confirmed fears that traditional chiefs have been unwittingly and gradually drawn into the political fray by the State, becoming agents of coercion for Mugabe’s Zanu PF, contrary to their much-vaunted role as custodians of national culture and traditional values.
Respected lawyer Alec Muchadehama said chiefs are not allowed to support any political party under the new charter and should remain apolitical.
Mainstream MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Section 281 (2) of the Constitution categorically states that traditional leaders must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics.
“Traditional leaders are also barred from furthering the interests of any political party or cause. I have known Charumbira for many years and in fact I respect him a lot. When I was Chisipite senator during the tenure of the seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe, I had the opportunity to debate and interact with him at various forums.
“I was utterly surprised when I recently heard him making some very unconstitutional statements calling upon chiefs to be actively involved in Zanu PF politics. He was a very active participant in the Copac process that delivered the new Constitution of Zimbabwe. He is an educated and very knowledgeable man.”
Gutu said Charumbira himself knows that the Constitution prohibits chiefs from engaging in active politics.
“I am sure he is going to apologise to the nation and thereafter concentrate on his role as a traditional chief and desist from behaving like a Zanu PF political commissar.’’
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said chiefs must back the interests of all Zimbabweans not those of political parties.
“It’s illegal and unpatriotic for chiefs to back one political party. Mugabe is now outdated and due to his advanced age, he is now becoming a security threat to Zimbabwe so how can chiefs rally behind such person?” he queried.