BULAWAYO — Government has failed to pay chiefs their monthly allowances for the past three months, courting the ire of the traditional leaders who accuse politicians of neglecting their welfare.
According to Section 282 of the country’s Constitution, functions of traditional leaders include resolving disputes among people in their communities in accordance with customary law, promoting and upholding cultural values of their communities and promoting sound family values.
They are also expected to take measures to preserve the culture, traditions, history and heritage of their communities, including sacred shrines.
Chairperson for Matabeleland South provincial chiefs’ council, chief Vezi Maduna Mafu, said despite their allowances being very low, it was regrettable that they had gone for three months without getting paid.
“I am even ashamed of telling you how much we are getting lest I shock you by this,” Mafu told a gathering at King Mzilikazi’s commemorations in Matobo recently. “We haven’t been paid for the past three months. We do not want chiefs to continue suffering because of this non-payment.”
Traditional leaders recently asked Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko to intervene by ensuring government paid their allowances during his visit to Insiza district in July.
The remuneration of traditional leaders is paid from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, according to the Constitution. Currently, chiefs are getting a monthly allowance of US$300 per month.
Mafu said their conditions of service were very poor, with cars, provided by government, having since broken down, making it difficult for them to travel to attend meetings.
“Chiefs now cycle to meetings, meetings with people who would have come by cars. Who can listen to such a chief who would have come by bicycle to address a meeting of people who are driving?” asked Mafu.
He said chiefs without bicycles went to meetings by donkey-drawn scotch carts, something he said was demeaning to their status.
“Can this thing come to an end in Zimbabwe and chiefs must be well looked after as leaders of the people; they must be respected. It is only government that can make chiefs either respected or disrespected by the people through what it does to them,” said Mafu.
Chief Nhlanhla Ndiweni of Ntabazinduna, Matabeleland North, weighed in, arguing that Zimbabwean chiefs were lagging behind compared to their counterparts on the continent.
“You go to West Africa, you go to East Africa, a chief will have a functioning office with a secretary and a proper vehicle right there,” said Ndiweni.
He said it was improper for government to continue undermining traditional leaders when at the same time it considered them custodians of culture and national heritage.
“If you want to undermine them (chiefs), please get rid of them, they must cease to exist,” he said.
He said if Zimbabwe was serious about good governance, openness and transparency, the country’s political leadership should reconsider its treatment of traditional leaders “as soon as possible”.
He said the payment of allowances rather than salaries to chiefs was wrong.
“I would like to know how many judges in Zimbabwe would settle to be given that kind of payment,” asked Ndiweni, maintaining that chiefs were also judicial officers.
He said the US$300 allowance was a mockery.