HomeOpinion & AnalysisSundayOpinion: Like Smith, Mugabe is abusing chiefs

SundayOpinion: Like Smith, Mugabe is abusing chiefs

Likewise Zanu PF’s malevolent abuse of Zimbabwean traditional chiefs will end one day.

Clearly this regime has perfected the art of using chiefs for their own political gains. It’s an art they inherited from Ian Smith’s regime.

After realising how sacred traditional chiefs were regarded in their communities, Smith saw gains in illicitly using them as his political superintendents in the rural areas.

These regime appointees were used not only to spy on freedom fighting activities but also to illegally kill the spirit of democracy among the blacks who were the majority.

Loyal and puppet traditional chiefs were appointed and some of them openly disassociated themselves from freedom fighters who were fighting to liberate Zimbabwe.

Bootlicking Smith, these appointees expressed despair at the activities of brave Zimbabweans who had braced themselves for the armed struggle to free this nation.

The then minister of Information, Immigration and Tourism Pieter van der Byl would appoint puppet chiefs who were against the Chimurenga struggle.

These chiefs included Jeremiah Chirau and Khayisa Ndiweni etc. Thus, the institution of chieftaincy during Smith’s time became an entrenched organ of settler control in rural areas.

Highly censored racial media would spend acres and acres of space covering appointment ceremonies of these imprecise chiefs. Statements of chiefs denouncing the freedom struggle were also made headlines in order to mislead the whole world.

The African Times, which was the Smith regime mouthpiece masquerading as the state newspaper, just like The Herald, praised chiefs for their stance against fellow citizens who were engaged in efforts to free Zimbabwe.

On November 7 1973, The African Times carried the headline “Chiefs back government against terrorism” and went on to report that over 1 000 chiefs and headmen had been consulted and condemned the Zimbabwean heroes for taking arms and fighting for their freedom.

As if that was not enough, the same paper on December 12 that year had a bold front story, “Treat them as outcasts, says chiefs”. The paper reported that chiefs had absolutely rejected the liberation struggle and wanted all our dead and living heroes at that time to be treated as unwanted elements in the society.

Chiefs were used to silence all voices which were against the Smith government.  More so, chiefs were deliberately made to speak on behalf of the people thereby making misleading statements aimed at derailing the spirit of the Chimurenga Struggle.

However, little did we know that the Zanu PF government would use the same dirty tactics to silence democratic voices in independent Zimbabwe.

This regime has embraced Rhodesian tactics after realising how fast it was losing grip among their once fully-fledged supporters.

The regime is appointing its own loyal chiefs to act as watchdogs against their political opponents.

Bootlicking and puppet chiefs who blindly worship Zanu PF and the ageing president have questionably been crowned by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo.

Hefty and unexplained benefits are being dished to the chiefs in an effort to make them pliable. Last year we were informed by The Herald that the chiefs were allegedly satisfied with President Mugabe and did not want anyone except Mugabe to lead this country.

The chiefs belittled their own integrity to the extent of not seeing any future after Mugabe. The Sunday Mail of October 31- November 06 2010, just like the aforesaid Smith newspaper, carried the headline “Chiefs want President Mugabe for life”.

The paper alleged that chiefs, led by their president Fortune Charumbira, had resolved to have Mugabe for life presidency.

Is that not a wanton blow to the values and ethos of democracy? If chiefs can appoint someone for life presidency, so why are we wasting precious resources going for an election?

To simply rubber stamp their choice!

That’s exactly how the Smith regime abused traditional chiefs in order to kill variant views.

These days all chiefs, except for a few level headed ones,  are Mugabe apologists and enemies of the MDC and all other political parties with different views from those of ZANU PF.

I am not an MDC supporter but just a mere sympathiser and my heart bleeds when traditional chiefs treat this party’s supporters as outcasts or unwanted elements who deserve no space in the country. I really feel for those who wish to democratically and legally express their voices in rural areas but are met with heavy backlash from some notorious chiefs and headmen.

These villagers are sometimes made to pay fines and even face evictions from their areas for the simple reason that they support or voted for the MDC, which is a a legal political party in Zimbabwe.

It is disheartening to note that today the institution of chieftaincy with the manipulation of ZANU PF has become an entrenched organ of ZANU PF control especially in rural areas where this regime has since lost its once popular support. Can’t we have brave chiefs like Rekai Tangwena?

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