By Moses Chibaya
THE Election Resource Centre (ERC) has petitioned authorities to take a stand against local traditional chiefs who recently vowed to support Zanu PF leader and State President Robert Mugabe’s re-election 2018.
This follows Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira’s declarations at an annual chiefs conference in Bulawayo that traditional leaders were firmly behind the Zanu PF presidential candidate.
The statement has invited strong condemnation from Zanu PF opponents with the MDC-T saying Charumbira should publicly apologise to Zimbabweans while also slamming recent actions by the Zanu PF led government to “bribe” chiefs with 226 brand new Isuzu twin cab vehicles.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, similarly, rubbished the Zanu PF apologist for “reckless” pronouncements they say violated the country’s supreme law.
But the ERC has gone a step further to urge the public censure of the Chiefs Council for partisan conduct.
The top elections watchdog has written to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) over the matter.
“The ERC calls upon the Commission (ZEC) to issue a public statement reprimanding the Chief’s Council against acting unconstitutionally,” said the group in a statement.
“Importantly, the pronouncements by the traditional leaders have severe implications on the credibility, freeness and fairness of Zimbabwe’s electoral processes.
“It is within ZEC’s mandate to safeguard principles of elections as espoused in Section 155(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
ERC cited Section 281(2) of the national Constitution which states that traditional leaders must neither be members political parties nor be involved in partisan politics.
The constitution further prohibits any actions that seek to show partisanship or deemed as furthering interests of any political party among traditional leaders.
In a letter to ZHRC, the ERC said the previous roles of traditional leaders in the country’s past acrimonious elections were well documented.
“In recent years, traditional leaders have been fingered by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) in Hurungwe West by election conducted in 2015.
“The ERC looks forward to the Commission comprehensively and decisively addressing this issue as it has the potential of singularly deciding the fate of 2018 harmonised elections,” reads part of the letter.
The ERC noted that “public caution and reprimand will do justice towards detecting and deterring possible abuses and unconstitutional practices” ahead of the 2018 harmonised election.
The election based NGO urged police “to detect, investigate and prevent crime” and also uphold the constitution and to enforce the constitution without fear or favour.
“The ERC looks forward to urgent and decisive action against such threats to the peace of the Zimbabwe,” reads part of the letter to the police.
The think tank and advocacy institution insisted that early warning mechanisms need to be instituted urgently.