HARARE, November 1 – Rights are concerned next year’s elections in Zimbabwe will be credible after chiefs were ordered to campaign for President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.
Fortune Charumbira, the President of the Chief’s Council, ordered the traditional leaders to ensure their subjects also endorsed Mugabe (93), claiming the veteran leader recognised and respected the leaders.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) criticised the call made during the just-ended National Conference of Chiefs in the second city of Bulawayo.
The order came after Local Government Minister, Saviour Kasuwere, also announced that the government had purchased 226 twin-cab vehicles for the chiefs.
“Such statements by a public servant (Charumbira) are not only reckless and dangerous but have far reaching implications,” the lawyers group warned.
ZLHR said Charumbira’s statements interfered with the basic freedom of traditional leaders and community members to exercise their right to support candidates of their choice without fear of reprisals.
“It is goes without saying that once traditional leaders dabble in party politics and openly declare their support to one political party, they will not be able to discharge their traditional roles and duties impartially.”
The lawyers group thus condemned affiliation and active participation of traditional leaders.
Together with liberation war veterans, chiefs are credited with keeping Mugabe and Zanu-PF in power for almost two decades.
In traditional strongholds, they are accused of violence against opposition supporters, denying them food aid and other government inputs.
The war veterans have refused to endorse the beleaguered Mugabe and his increasingly influential wife, Grace, ahead of the 2018 polls.
Mugabe and his party are weakened by divisions ahead of elections.