Friday 14 July 2023


THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has issued a veiled caution to the ruling Zanu PF party for abusing traditional leaders in political campaigns.

“Political parties should desist from using traditional leaders to further their political interests as that is inconsistent with section 281(2) of the Constitution and should promote peace-building activities in a bid to de-escalating political violence; and to continuously encourage and train their members on human rights-based approaches in the conduct of their party political business,” ZHRC said in a statement.

Zanu PF is the only party known for perennially seeking the services of traditional leaders, especially during election seasons.

Some traditional leaders, including Chiefs’ Council president Fortune Charumbira, have in the past attracted criticism for openly dabbling in partisan politics.

Chiefs, headmen and village heads have been accused of force-marching their subjects to vote for the ruling party despite the Constitution prohibiting the traditional leaders from participating in partisan politics.

The Constitution states that chiefs should 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”.

Already, there are reports of traditional leaders who are intimidating their subjects ordering them not to support the opposition.

In 2018, High Court judge Justice Clement Phiri ordered Charumbira to withdraw a public statement in which he said traditional leaders would support Zanu PF presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa ahead of that year’s disputed elections.

The judge said Charumbira’s remarks, made on October 28, 2017 and on January 13, 2018, were a violation of the Constitution, which says traditional leaders should be apolitical.

According to a report by the Election Resource Centre on its Election Credibility Indicator, traditional leaders continue to dabble in partisan politics.

“The electoral environment has seen a worsening of the conduct of traditional leaders, chiefs and headmen actively mobilising citizens to vote on election day in rural areas, potentially impacting the secrecy and integrity of the vote,” the report read.

No comment could be obtained from Zanu PF commissar Mike Bimha and party spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa.

The ZHRC also called on political parties to encourage their supporters to practise tolerance to de-escalate tensions and reduce incidents of political violence.

“To ensure that their members exercise restraint in their activities by promoting political tolerance and diversity of views as well as accepting political pluralism and ensure that their members, in garnering support for their candidates, desist from advocating and resorting to violence in speech and action and not to use force and threats as that has an effect of violating the rights of other individuals,” ZHRC said.

“The ZHRC encourages the public at large to practise political tolerance and maturity, respect divergent views and to co-exist with one another, to avoid violating human rights and fundamental freedoms of other citizens in the pretext of supporting political parties of their choice as well as to report threats of violence or acts of violence to the Zimbabwe Republic Police for investigations.” Newsday


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