Gokwe’s Chief Njelele has labeled as ‘insane’ opposition supporters hoping for the ouster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the forthcoming 2023 harmonised elections.
CCC activism not tolerated
The traditional leader was addressing farmers during a Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) organised event in Hurungwe in Mashonaland West, last week.
Chief Njelele, born Moses Misheck Njelele, said traditional leaders were rallying firmly behind the incumbent Zanu-PF first secretary and any activism for the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) was not tolerated in his jurisdiction.
He insisted that there was no prospect of an opposition presidential hopeful taking over reins at State House.
“Chiefs were the ones dispossessed of their ancestral land by enemies, and not political parties,” he said.
“The land has been repossessed and you say there is this person coming out of university who must come and rule this country … are you normal, are you sane? Does it work?”
He added: “l don’t want to hear that in my jurisdiction (Gokwe). Where the President is, Chiefs are there, and where the Chiefs are is where Zanu-PF is.”
Chief Njelele is violating the Constitution
According to the country’s Constitution, traditional leaders must be apolitical and not be involved in partisan politics.
During the event, which was also attended by Zanu-PF national political commissar Mike Bimha, members of a shadowy outfit called Cotton Farmers4ED were paraded.
Cotton producers have for years complained about poor prices, forcing many to accept payment using groceries, Njelele said.
“I came here specifically with a single aim; to give an update on our visit to the President to register displeasure by cotton farmers who have not been paid since 2020,” said Chief Njelele
“You saw some being paid with Mazoe (drink), cooking oil and other groceries. We then said what kind of a country have we become, which does such things,” the chief told the gathering.
Following a series of letters of complaint, Njelele said, he met Mnangagwa who fumed over continued neglect of cotton producers, and pledged immediate action to redress the matter.
Chief’s council leader Fortune Charumbira is chief culprit
Chief Njelele is not the first traditional leader to disregard a High Court ruling of May 2018 which barred the chiefs form partisan politics. The chief’s council president Fortune Charumbira, who was the direct subject of that ruling, has continued disregarding it and preaching partian politics at ruling party gatherings.
According to that ruling, all traditional leaders who include chiefs, head persons or village heads as provided in section 280(2) of the Constitution, must not be involved in partisan politics as this is a violation of the right to a free and fair election as provided in section 67 (a) of the Constitution
Conducting of campaigns on behalf of the ruling party by traditional leaders (chiefs, head persons or village heads) was declared unconstitutional and a violation of the right not to be treated unfairly in a discriminatory manner on basis of political affiliation.
In Chapter 15 of The Zimbabwe Constitution, in Section 281, sets out the guidelines and principles governing the office of traditional leaders. Traditional leaders are responsible for performing the cultural, customary and traditional functions of a Chief, head person or village head, as the case may be, for his or her community.
Section 281 on principles to be observed by traditional leaders states that:
- Traditional leaders must—
- act in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of Zimbabwe;
- observe the customs pertaining to traditional leadership and exercise their functions for the purposes for which the institution of traditional leadership is recognised by this Constitution; and
- treat all persons within their areas equally and fairly.
2. Traditional leaders must not—
- be members of any political party or 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.
Legal experts say while Section 58 assures citizens of the right to freedom of assembly and association and Section 67 speaks to the rights of a citizen to join and to participate in the activities of a political party of their choice, it is a right that one forfeits, constitutionally, by virtue of accepting the office of a traditional leader in the country.