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The height of intolerance

Editorial Comment

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to remove chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni did not come as a surprise to many that have been following the traditional leader’s fight with the government unfold.

The process to remove the Ndebele paramount chief began last month where the Matabeleland North provincial chiefs council met at the behest of the Local Government ministry to purportedly deal with the Ndiweni chieftainship dispute.

Following last week’s events where it was announced that Mnangagwa had officially stripped the outspoken chief of the chieftaincy, it has become clear that the alleged dispute within the Ndiweni family was used to silence the traditional leader.

Ndiweni was installed in 2014 after late president Robert Mugabe approved submissions by the family that he should succeed his father Chief Khayisa Ndiweni, despite one of his brothers laying claim to the chieftaincy.

Over the past few months, Zanu PF and government officials have come out in the open to say they are not happy about the Ntabazinduna chief’s stance on governance issues.

The government officials believe that by openly criticising the president and the ruling party, Ndiweni is being sympathetic to the opposition.

A letter directing government officials to seize the chief’s car and regalia clearly showed the vindictive nature behind the decision to remove him.

Predictably, the Ndiweni family was not amused by Mnangagwa’s actions, which they said was tantamount to interference.

Traditional leaders, unlike presidents and ministers cannot be imposed on people, even through hard power that is at the disposal of state apparatus.

According to the laws of this country, the Ndiweni clan will have the final say on who is their chief and indications are that they are clear that Felix Nhlanhlayangwe remains their chief.

The chief has already been subjected to arrests and harassment by ruling party activists and his clan has remained steadfast in supporting him.

Mnangagwa’s decision was a throw back into the Rhodesian days where Ian Smith’s racist regime became notorious for dethroning chiefs that were critical of the government and replacing them with stooges.

Some imposed traditional leaders became instruments of oppression on behalf of the settler regime. It was one of the reasons black people took up arms to liberate themselves.

The Ndiweni chieftaincy saga is yet another episode that contradicts Mnangagwa’s statement soon after the 2017 coup that ushered him into power that Zimbabwe was on the cusp of a “new and unfolding democracy.”

In a democracy leaders tolerate criticism and they do not manipulate the laws to silence their critics.

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