BY PROBLEM MASAU/KENNETH NYANG
LOCAL Government deputy minister Mariam Chombo has disclosed that government is planning to splash on traditional leaders to cushion them against economic turbulences.
Chombo, who said she was not at liberty to disclose the figures, told NewsDay early this week that traditional leaders played a significant role and deserved a comfortable lifestyle.
She said government would review their allowances, put them on medical aid, service their vehicles and allocate them fuel.
The opposition Citizens Coalition Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday accused Zanu PF of trying to buy the loyalty of traditional leaders with trinkets ahead of the 2023 general elections.
CCC spokesperson accused the ruling party of trying to bribe chiefs ahead of the elections to ensure they force-march their subjects to vote against the opposition party.
“We condemn this brazen attempt to buy the loyalty of chiefs with trinkets. We respect the role and importance of traditional leaders but we are opposed to them being used to participate in partisan politics,” Mahere said.
“Traditional leaders must be non-partisan and put the interests of the citizens they lead ahead of any partisan agenda.”
Chapter 15.2 of the Constitution forbids traditional leaders from being members of any political party or in any way participating in partisan politics.
Traditional leaders have faced accusations of being Zanu PF appendages with Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira openly declaring his allegiance to the ruling party.
But Zanu PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi said: “The ruling party does not believe in bribing people to vote for it. Our secret to victory is servant leadership and development.
“The chiefs are the custodians of our traditions and culture, besides their role in local governance and development. These values are embodied and well represented by the Zanu PF government. There is, therefore, no need to bribe chiefs to vote for what is theirs.”
Last year, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga warned chiefs that they risked being stripped of their positions for criticising the Zanu PF government.
Ideas Party for Democracy leader Herbert Chamuka said Zanu PF was returning to its default settings of using traditional leaders for political gain.
“It is high time traditional leaders realise that they are just pawns in the Zanu PF power matrix. Zanu PF only wants to use them to regain power,” Chamuka said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said the government should also show the same zeal to improve the welfare of civil servants.
“Our traditional leaders deserve to live dignified lives and the same basic services accorded to these Chiefs should be extended to our hard working civil servants,” Masaraure said.
“It will be, however, unfortunate if the chiefs choose to sell their souls and go on to illegally campaign for the ruling party in the 2023 elections. The resources they are receiving are from State coffers not from the party and the constitution criminalises partisan activities on the part of traditional leaders.”
The late former President Robert Mugabe did not hesitate to pamper chiefs, and at one time said they could get any car they wanted and the government would bankroll the purchases.
In 2012, traditional leaders demanded that the government treat them the same way as judges and magistrates, arguing that they handled a lot of cases in rural areas.
Meanwhile, traditional leaders in Mutare South constituency in Manicaland province are reportedly backing central committee member Esau Mupfumi to wrest the seat from fellow party member Jefrey Ngome.
Mupfumi is reportedly eyeing a rural constituency after he lost to Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC)’s Prosper Mutseyami in the March 26 by-election for the Dangamvura/Chikanga constituency.
The South African-based legislator Ngome who has businesses in the neighbouring country stands accused of neglecting his constituency.
NewsDay Weekender is reliably informed that there is an outcry in the constituency with villagers claiming that they are not being fully represented.
Mupfumi told NewsDay Weekender that: “It is true that I was approached by traditional leaders to represent them in Parliament for the Mutare South constituency, so who I am I to reject their offer.”
Ngome, however, dismissed allegations that he had deserted his constituency.
“I am on the ground and yesterday I was at funeral and I don’t know what people are saying,” he said
Former Nyanga North MP Hubert Nyanhongo is eyeing Chido Sanyatwe’s seat.
In Mutare North, former MP Batsirai Pemhenayi (Zanu PF) has reportedly hit the ground running to wrestle the seat away from the incumbent Mike Madiro who is the Manicaland provincial chairperson.
In Buhera South constituency, Zanu PF MP Joseph Chinotimba is facing a challenge from Ngonidzashe Mudekunye.