CHIEFS Council president Fortune Charumbira traditional says chiefs are in full support of President Robert Mugabe’s re-election bid next year, adding winning was “guaranteed” while exposing Zanu PF’s alleged attempts to bribe the influential community leaders ahead of the crucial polls.
Charumbira was speaking during the national annual conference of chiefs in Bulawayo on Saturday.
His comments come after Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere announced this past week government was buying 226 Isuzu twin cab vehicles for local chiefs who are set to take delivery of the acquisitions in two weeks time.
The decision to pamper traditional leaders few months before elections has raised a furore with opposition MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu saying the Zanu PF led government was trying to recruit the community leaders into performing its commissariat functions.
Kasukuwere was soon to hit back at Gutu insisting the outspoken MDC-T official was being disrespectful of traditional leaders in alleged attempts to shoot down government efforts to better their livelihoods.
But Charumbira, also a Zanu PF officia, put the matter beyond doubt when he said the country’s chiefs shall rally support behind President Mugabe next year.
“As chiefs, we agreed during the 2014 congress that Cde Mugabe is our candidate for the 2018 elections. We are all united and he is still our candidate. We have been supporting him and we can confirm that winning is guaranteed,” he said.
Charumbira also waded into Zanu PF’s factional politics when he said traditional leaders were behind President Mugabe’s candidature within the ruling party.
Mugabe is under fire from a faction routing for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s take over as party leader in place of the veteran leader who, at 94, is set to become the world’s oldest presidential candidate.
But Charumbira, representing traditional leaders and according to a State media report, “took advantage of the annual platform to warn factionalists in the ruling party to keep their distance from chiefs who said they are not recruitable in factional fights as they are a symbol of unity in the society”.
National People’s Party spokesperson Methuseli Moyo said traditional chiefs were being deliberately placed in an invidious position of having to choosing luxury ahead of principle.
“I suppose the chiefs have no option but to plead loyalty and support to Mugabe, lest they be omitted or victimised in the allocation of the brand new Isuzu twin cabs and other vote-buying schemes by the Zanu PF regime.
“In as much chiefs and other traditional leaders deserve being looked after by the state, politicising them in this manner is wrong and demeans their value in the eyes of the people. It is as if the chiefs have been bought by a political party. In a way, Zanu does not respect chiefs. They are cheapening them,” Moyo said.
PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume said Charumbira only represented the chiefs and not their personal views.
“The heading (that chiefs endorse Mugabe) is misleading as Chief Charumbira represents the chiefs but does not necessarily represent their views,” he said.
“The opposition has no argument with the chiefs but as they get goodies from the government, they must also remember that their people need a good government.”