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Rights 'defenders' tell chiefs to 'stay in your lane'

by Staff reporter
09 Jul 2021 at 12:17hrs | Views
HUMAN rights defenders yesterday urged traditional leaders to desist from pressurising their subjects to vote for a particular political party as the country gears for the 2023 elections.

In the past elections, villagers have been coerced to vote for the ruling Zanu-PF party, and threatened with violence or eviction if they did not do so.

Zanu-PF recently also ordered teachers in rural communities to vote for party candidates in the 2023 elections.

Heal Zimbabwe Trust spokesperson Rawlings Magede said it was against the country's Constitution for traditional leaders to pick a political side.

"Traditional leaders are obligated by the law to be apolitical," Magede said.

"Section 281 of the Constitution highlights that traditional leaders must not further the interests of any political party or cause. They must not act in a partisan manner. If they do so, they will be violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of persons."

"It is very feasible for traditional leaders to be apolitical, but what is lacking is the political will to respect the Constitution. Traditional leaders are just victims of the patronage system which over the years has been used to constantly whip them into line and keep them subservient to the dictates of politicians," he said.

In a recent report on human rights issues in the country, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) alleged that Zanu-PF had captured the country's electoral systems by using traditional leaders to enhance its political agenda.

"On June 6, 2021, Zanu-PF representatives were moving around ward 4, section 12 and section 13 of Mbizo in Kwekwe listing down people's names to create Zanu-PF cell groups. The group comprising two women and a man informed residents that the lists were also going to be used for future food distribution programmes," the report read.

"This goes against food distribution principles that provide that every deserving beneficiary must get aid regardless of political affiliation. In Chimanimani, Zanu-PF hijacked council works programmes by taking over the recruitment processes of the general and casual workers for a road rehabilitation programme that began early June in Chimanimani, and they only took in those who are in the Zanu-PF branch structures."

"All of this is clearly part of the scheme to use all available resources and platforms to coerce people to join Zanu-PF ahead of 2023," the ZPP report read.

However, Zanu-PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo has denied the reports.

Source - newsday