BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has elevated three Shangaan headmen to chiefs in a move that has been described as a plot to douse the simmering tension between Zanu PF and the Shangaan community.
This follows a proclamation that Mnangagwa made on June 26, 2021, upgrading headmen Chilonga, Gezani and Mpapa to substantive chiefs.
Predictably, the vocal and radical headman Vhelemu, who opposed the Chilonga land grab in Chiredzi recently, was left out.
Last year, government gazetted acquisition of land in Chilonga for a lucerne farming project. The project will displace over 12 000 villages from their ancestral land.
Headman Vhelemu resisted the move which triggered protests in June last year when Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga visited the area.
Vhelemu and other traditional leaders told Masvingo provincial leaders that they wanted to be served with letters first before meeting Chiwenga. This resulted in Chiwenga booking a closed-door meeting with the headmen at Gibbo Stadium in Triangle, several kilometres away from Chilonga.
The agenda of the meeting was to calm down tempers that were simmering across the Shangaan community since the government threatened to displace villagers to pave way for the lucerne project.
The promotion of three headmen was announced by Chiredzi district development co-ordinator Lovemore Chisema during the burial of the late Chief Tshovani at Chizvirizvi in Chiredzi a fortnight ago.
“I am happy to inform you that headmen Chilonga, Gezani and Mpapa have been upgraded to chiefs,” Chisema said.
“The three headmen were upgraded because they applied to the Local Government ministry, reminding it that they were once chiefs during the colonial era and they wanted their chieftainship resuscitated,” he said.
According to Chisema, Mnangagwa approved the establishment of Chilonga, Gezani and Mupapa chieftainships with effect from June 26 2021 in terms of section 3(1) subsection 2(a) of Traditional Headman Act (Chapter 29) section (12).
In 2018, Mnangagwa revived Neromwe chieftainship and elevated three headmen to chief status, bringing the total number of substantive chiefs in Chiredzi district to seven. These include chiefs Tshovani, Sengwe and Gudo.
MDC Alliance vice-president Tendai Biti yesterday said Chiredzi district did not have so many chiefs before, adding that the move would exert pressure on the national fiscus.
“Firstly, if we look at the legalities of the move, we will find out that the move is unconstitutional. Mnangagwa is trying to put puppets that are not going to resist when government comes for their land. This is not a just a mere appointment, but a power retention strategy.
“Secondly this is going to put unnecessary pressure on the fiscus. This means more vehicles and unbudgeted allowances,” Biti said.