Headman Chigodora’s traditional court drama breaches freedom of worship Headman Chigodora and his traditional court assessors

Dr Masimba Mavaza

After our article on the unfairness and intimidation in headman Chigodora’s courts, many families have requested a follow up article.

This week we explain further the alleged injustices and extortion in Chief Chigodora’s court.

In choosing to be adjudicators, we should set aside our own personal morality and strive to find those reasons which best serve the public interest and uphold the law.

We have respect in traditional Chiefdoms throughout the country, we appreciate the great job done by those who practice mostly public interest law as custodians of our customs, tradition and culture.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe protects the right of individuals to choose and change their religion as well as to privately or publicly manifest and propagate their religion through worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Article 60 of the Constitution guarantees “freedom of thought, opinion, religion or belief; and freedom to practise and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief, whether in public or in private…”

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on religious belief and provides for freedom of religion and the freedom to practice, propagate and give expression to one’s religion in public or in private and alone or with others.

It recognises the right of prisoners to communicate with and receive visits from their chosen religious counsellor.

Any such law must not impose greater restrictions on these rights than is necessary to achieve the purpose of the law.

Although the law restricts freedom of assembly, expression, and association in practice, it specifies that it is not meant to apply to public gatherings “held exclusively for bona fide religious, educational, recreational, sporting, or charitable purposes.”

The citizens are obviously deserving of fruitful exercise and enjoyment of their Article 60 of the Constitution’s right.

Now, with Headman Chigodora we have come to sadly both observe and experience that the area of the law relating to freedom of worship is being abused.

What makes his court suspicious is that every problem in any family, according to Headman Chigodora, is spiritual and someone in the village or family is bewitching the other.

Like in the viral YouTube video, his solution is always ready. He refers everyone to a witch doctor called Sekuru Tasvu.

Headman Chigodora calls Tasvu and tells him that he has referred some witches to him. By the time the people arrive at Tasvu’s shrine, their purpose of the visit is already known.

The scam continues where the elderly people are threatened by Tasvu and they are humiliated in as the whole procession is recorded and streamed live on Facebook and YouTube by Karanganda TV.

The headman is flanked by six men called assessors. Of note there are two rude ones who are so disrespectful.

They treat the scared people as toddlers. They scream and shout at them and do not allow anyone to talk or answer them.

They embarrass people in front of a crowd that will be cheering them. The two assessors need training. Headman Chigodora’s court has became an embarrassing arena meant to humiliate and embarrass the villagers who seek traditional justice.

He comes to court ready with an answer. He would have been told the story beforehand  by the complainant and he comes to court with a decision on how the case should proceed. Even our traditional justice system does not allow a case to be tried in the accused’s absence, and only come when a judgment is already known.

Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.

Headman Chigodora’s assessors are so quick to punish anyone who tries to claim their rights under the constitution.

The headman’s court is a total disregard of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and is not aligned with the Traditional Leaders Act, Chapter 29:17, hence the need to approach and come before the High Court seeking, not legal advice, but that the legal position relating to ordering a person to abandon his religion and be forced to attend a witch doctor’s session is unlawful.

This is the more necessary as the institution of, and the traditional chiefs’ functions, when conducted properly, lie at the core of the desired approaches to national peace.

In the meantime, Headman Chigodora must receive training on how to handle cases that come before him.

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