Traditional leaders in Zimbabwe were feasting, wining and dining in Bulawayo a few days ago.This was supposed to be their annual conference or something like that.Chiefs and their wives (and probably their girlfriends and boyfriends too), were treated to a huge party. Of course, the State picked up the tab and the total cost must run into thousands, if not millions of dollars. And our chiefs have certainly developed a taste for high society.
Not only do they want new motor vehicles, diplomatic passports and bodyguards; they now also demand guns. Yes; guns. This is what you get when the otherwise noble institution of chieftainship has been trashed, trivialised and bastardised by errant and unpopular politicians.
The history of chiefs in Zimbabwe has not been without its own fair share of controversy. Under the colonial regime,most traditional leaders were stooges and pawns of the settlers. They were willing tools in the suppression of their own people.
Only a few brave chiefs like Chief Rekayi Tangwena were patriotic enough to resist the machinations of the colonial regime. Most Chiefs acted as spies and sell-outs. At Independence they promptly transferred their allegiance to the new government – an act of opportunism, greed and expediency. They were simply courting their new masters in order to ensure that they continued to benefit from the new political order.
As they sensed that their acts of tyranny and kleptocracy had made the majority of the people to loathe them, Zanu (PF) designed a new role for the traditional leaders. For a few pieces of silver, traditional leaders were reduced to become virtual political commissars of the party.
They were stripped of their dignity – reduced to pathetic figureheads who were simply there to parrot Zanu (PF) propaganda.
It is, indeed, a tragedy to see our chiefs falling over each other endorsing the candidature of a certain politician in the forthcoming Presidential election. Whereas the global political agreement (GPA) that was signed by the three political parties in government today clearly and unequivocally states that traditional leaders should be apolitical, our chiefs have decided to become Zanu (PF) activists on a fulltime basis. It is dangerous for our chiefs to choose to side with the minority at the expense of the majority. Traditional leaders should understand that respect is earned and not demanded. If they choose to conduct themselves as renegades and political thugs, then they can be assured that the people will respond in kind.
Chiefs should be advised that the people are not the enemy. The real enemy is a certain political party that has reduced the country from being a bread basket into a basket case.
The real enemy is a certain political party that has trashed the people’s fundamental freedoms over the years. Instead of clamouring for diplomatic passports and other niceties from the government, chiefs should be more concerned about the general welfare of their subjects. Instead of demanding guns, chiefs should be demanding roses to give to their subjects as a symbol of peace!
The nation should now seriously start to debate whether or not the institution of chieftainship should be maintained in its present form.
Why should Treasury be burdened by funding an institution of people who have become abusive and terroristic against their own loyal and peace-loving subjects?
And, of course, for as long as the institution of chieftainship remains bastardised, I will not claim my title to the Gutu chieftainship! – Gutu is Senator for Chisipite, MDC Harare province spokesperson and Deputy Minister of Justice & Legal Affairs.Post published in: Opinions & Analysis