Zanu-PF has been accused of abusing the chiefs’ car facility for its own political mileage ahead of the impending 2023 general elections with the ruling party using such trinkets to maintain its grip on power.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa Tuesday handed over 18 Isuzu twin cab vehicles to traditional leaders as part of the government’s ongoing facility to empower them.
The chiefs who got vehicles are a fourth batch, with some having received theirs in the previous batches.
However, political observers were quick to point out that the timing of the distribution of the vehicles ahead of the election was in its own a campaign strategy.
“It’s very clear from this gesture that Zanu PF is oiling its rigging machinery,” said Mkhululi Tshuma, a political analyst.
Tshuma said the influence of chiefs in rural areas should not be underestimated.
“Chiefs have been very influential,” said Tshuma.
“However, that influence continues to fade away especially as a result of social media which somehow has managed to dismantle certain misconceptions. Moreover, failure by Zanu-PF to tame the economic downturn has made the life of everyone who will want to campaign for Zanu-PF, chiefs included, very difficult.”
He added: “The best that chiefs can do is try to use force to get people to vote for Zanu-PF but still I didn’t think that will produce any meaningful outcomes. Even some chiefs are now openly questioning Zanu-PF leaders publicly which never used to be the case during Mugabe’s era. The myth that the rural vote solely belongs to Zanu PF is seriously under threat as 2023 approaches.”
Tshuma challenged Zanu-PF to respect the country’s constitution adopted in 2013, which obliges chiefs to be apolitical.
“However, our current leaders have shown great contempt for the constitution,” he bemoaned.
“We don’t need more laws to protect the institution of chiefs. We just need respect for the current subsisting laws. As things stand, Chief Charumbira (president of the Chiefs’ Council) refused to respect a court order which sanctioned him from delving into politics. What kind of a nation is that where people are allowed to disrespect the courts with impunity?”
Sipho Nyoni, another political analyst, also questioned the timing of the distribution of the vehicles.
“The timing of the handover of vehicles to these chiefs is meant to ensure that they do the bidding for Zanu-PF come election time and to also ensure that at any time they can be used for Zanu-PF’s end purposes,” Nyoni told CITE.
“The chiefs are very much influential in mobilising the rural vote for Zanu-PF. This is obviously because if statistics coming from the government are to be believed, the majority of Zimbabwe population lives in the rural areas hence a system is in place enforced by the chiefs that ensure loyalty to Zanu-PF is the norm. In most villages, food for example is distributed through them and any form of donation passes through them so they wield immense power over their subjects.”
Nyoni called for the redefinition of the roles and duties of chiefs to guard against their abuse by the powers-that-be.
Opposition MDC Alliance Bulawayo provincial spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza said it was unfortunate that Zanu-PF continues to abuse state resources to prop up its image.
“It (abuse of state resources) is one of the things that has seen our economy being mired in doldrums,” said Chirowodza.
“The abuse of state resources means Zanu-PF assumes an unfair advantage over its opponents. It is indeed rigging the poll before the poll. The chiefs are influential in so far as abuse of state apparatus is concerned.”
He added: “Some chiefs are involved in the functioning of violence against MDC cadres, in denying aid and government assistance to MDC members. Some chiefs enable rigging to take place. Zanu-PF needs to respect the fact that chiefs are installed by tradition and not by politics. The chiefs are custodians of our culture.”