…as he affirms traditional leaders’ support for Zanu PF ahead of 2023 elections

By Clayton Shereni

A SEEMINGLY unapologetic Chief Fortune Charumbira last week gave a ‘middle finger’ to a high court judgment that compelled him to withdraw his statements on supporting Zanu PF as a traditional leader.

Charumbira who was ordered on May 14, 2018, by High Court judge Justice Clement Phiri has not retracted his statements publicly 5 years on, but has rather continued with his crusade of rallying traditional leaders to support the ruling party.

Chief Charumbira had been hauled before the courts by election watchdog Elections Resource Centre (ERC) which won the case but he continues to be in defiance of a standing high court order.

Appearing on ZBC TV’s 8 pm news bulletin on 26 June, 2023, while addressing people gathered at the installation of Chief Gezani in Chiredzi over the weekend, Chief Charumbira told the gathering that traditional leaders are rallying behind Zanu PF ahead of the watershed August 23 polls.

Zimbabwean law dictates that traditional leaders must be non-partisan and mustn’t be proxies of any political party.

According to the constitution, Section 281 (2) prohibits traditional leaders from being members of any political party or in any way participating in partisan politics, acting in a partisan manner, furthering the interests of any political party or cause, or violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.

Speaking to Centre News, ERC Director, and Barbra Bhebhe expressed disappointment with Charumbira’s defiant utterances which she said are in contempt of court.

“We are taking that as a contempt of court because there is a standing court order in that regard. We do not think what he is doing is the right thing. Traditional leaders preside over people that belong to different political parties so when they start to behave in a partisan manner that stifles the voices of some of their subjects that support other parties,” said Bhebhe.

Traditional leaders have hogged the limelight on numerous occasions in previous election periods as they help the ruling party in mobilizing supporters.

In some instances, cases of villagers being force-marched to Zanu PF political gatherings have been reported.

With the election season now in full swing, chiefs, headmen and village heads have been urged to respect the law and not to be political activists or to infringe on the rights of their subjects.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson, Obert Masaraure, told Centre News that they are worried by Charumbira’s utterances and implored other traditional leaders not to follow suit, a move that will be in clear contrast with the supreme law of the land.

“Chief Charumbira is notorious for violating the laws of the land with some stinking impunity. The constitution bars traditional leaders from wearing partisan jackets. Traditional leaders must be impartial since they lead citizens from diverse political persuasions,” said Masaraure.

Chief Charumbira could not be drawn to comment as his mobile was not reachable and did not respond written questions sent to him via WhatsApp.

Masaraure however urged citizens not to trust chiefs that show allegiance to one political party.

“We urge citizens to withdraw support and confidence from partisan Chiefs. A ZANU PF chief must never be trusted to impartially preside over community disputes and preserve our cultural heritage.

“The era of complaining should come to an end, citizens must show a middle finger to all partisan Chiefs,” added Masaraure.