CHIEFS have been urged to uphold constitutionalism, stay away from politics and focus on their mandate of fostering development and resolving disputes among their subjects.
The remarks were made by Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) executive secretary Delis Mazambani during a pre-election workshop for political parties and other stakeholders held at a hotel in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
Mazambani said the country’s Constitution forbade traditional leaders from being members of a political party.
“Section 282 of the Constitution states that traditional leaders who include chiefs, village heads and headmen have several functions that include facilitating development and resolving disputes in their communities in accordance with customary law,” said Mazambani.
“The Constitution bars traditional leaders from being members of any political party or participating in any way in partisan politics, acting in a partisan manner, furthering the interests of any political party or cause.”
Zanu PF has perennially been accused of using chiefs to drum up support for the ruling party.
Zanu PF politburo member Elphas Mashaba, however, defended the chiefs for dabbling in politics saying they will be “defending the gains of the liberation struggle”.
The Constitution states that chiefs must be apolitical, and “must not in any way participate in partisan politics, act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person”.
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The Constitution recognises and formalises the authority and legitimacy of the institution, explicitly listing a variety of powers and responsibilities of traditional leaders.
Historically, traditional leaders drew their authority and legitimacy from an unwritten body of local customary law and practice.