FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
As Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) we wish to call on all traditional leaders in Matabeleland, that is Village Heads, Headpersons and Chiefs, to refrain from participating / being involved in partisan political activity and from forcing people to participate or be involved in any political activities against their will, as doing so will be a blatant violation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and thus a criminal activity.
Chapter 15 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) is very clear that traditional leaders must not be involved in any political and partisan political activities.
Section 281 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on the principles to be observed by traditional leaders clearly states that traditional leaders –
- Must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics;
- Must not act in a partisan manner;
- Must not further the interests of any political party or cause; or
- Must not violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.
As MIHR we therefore wish to advise and ward all the traditional leaders that the citizens of Matabeleland shall be monitoring and documenting their behaviour as we head towards the 2018 Zimbabwe general elections and any evidence of any traditional leader violating these constitutional provisions shall be used after the elections against the traditional leader(s) concerned.
Some of the activities that traditional leaders have been found doing in the past which violate this constitution which our Human Rights Monitors and the general community shall be monitoring include:
- Traditional leaders who declare their allegiance or membership to any political party;
- Traditional leaders who campaign or canvas for votes for any political party;
- Traditional leaders who wear any party regalia (t-shirts, hats, etc);
- Traditional leaders who attend political party events and do slogans there;
- Traditional leaders who mobilize or force citizens to attend political party meetings;
- Traditional leaders who endorse any political party or candidate.
We also wish to remind the traditional leaders that they must act in accordance with the law as they are not above the law and are not immune to persecution.
Section 281(1)(a) of the Constitution clearly states that traditional leaders must act in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of Zimbabwe.
Traditional leaders must be reminded that any violation of the Constitution, they shall be held liable as individuals. The time for violating human rights with impunity is over.
We also wish to take this opportunity to remind the people of Matabeleland to closely observe and monitor their traditional leaders and if any if found violating human rights especially on issues related to forcing people to attend political gatherings and voting for certain parties / candidates; or anyone found mobilizing political events should be documented and reported to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
We also urge citizens to use their cellular phones to record pictures and videos of traditional leaders who participate in partisan political activities.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is an independent human rights lobby group that exists to enhance the promotion, protection and fulfilment of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Matabeleland as espoused in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and international human rights law.
Mr. Benedict Sibasa
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights