Vice President Kembo Mohadi yesterday met chiefs from the Midlands Province to consult on national healing, peace and reconciliation mechanisms as part of efforts to address issues of Zimbabwe’s fractious past.
This follows President Mnangagwa’s policy to open up and resolve historical conflicts, including the 1980s’ civil disturbances in the Midlands, south-western and Matabeleland provinces, commonly referred to as Gukurahundi.
VP Mohadi has already been to four provinces — Mashonaland Central, Matabeleland North, Mashonaland East and Matabeleland South — consulting all chiefs in their areas of jurisdiction on how to build and sustain peace in the country as well as how to resolve conflicts that arise from time-to-time.
Yesterday, he met chiefs from the eight districts in the Midlands Province in Gweru.
“I am coming to the chiefs, our traditional and cultural leaders, to learn as they are the reservoirs and fountains of our rich cultural heritage. Peace, ukuthula, runyararo has been and remains a permanent ideal and aspiration as well as a right and duty according to Preis and Mustea. They go on to state that sustainable peace must uphold the dignity of every man and woman. The same researchers observe that development is not sustainable if societies are not at peace with themselves and with their neighbours,” he said.
Vice President Mohadi said maintaining peace is among the main roles played by traditional leaders in many African countries adding that their influence goes a long way in resolving disputes between family members within and among communities and occasionally across state lines.
He said even the late VP John Landa Nkomo preached peace when he said, “peace begins with me, peace begins with you, and peace begins with all of us.”
“Our Constitution recognises the status and the role of our traditional leaders and clearly articulates their functions which are to promote and uphold cultural values of their communities and in particular to promote sound values, to take measures to preserve the culture, traditions, history and heritage of their communities, including sacred shrines, to facilitate development and to resolve disputes involving people in
their communities in accordance with the customary law,” said VP Mohadi.
“The constitution is not stating anything new that we as Africans don’t know. It is only affirming what we know culturally as the roles of our traditional leaders. It is for this reason that I have taken upon myself, within the mandate that His Excellency, the President assigned me of promoting peace in our country, to engage our traditional leaders nationally in this important dialogue of peace building and conflict resolution,” he said.
The Vice President said there is need for a panacea of peace rooted in culture that is protected by the traditional leaders.
Meanwhile, VP Mohadi expressed worry about magistrates who summon traditional chiefs to their courts as witnesses in matters they would have dealt with, which is tantamount to looking down on their esteemed office.
He told chiefs that the office of the traditional chiefs ought to be respected as they were the reservoirs and fountains of the country’s rich cultural heritage which is the backbone of the peace and tranquillity enjoyed in the country.
He said as such, President Mnangagwa has tasked the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi to craft a law that gives traditional chiefs extra powers so that they are not summoned by the magistrates after making judgments at their customary courts.
“As I engage chiefs in their provinces on this very important subject of peace building and conflict resolution, it has become very apparent to me that for chiefs to effectively perform this important role of peace building and conflict resolution their status and powers have to be enhanced. Chiefs have complained of how their status is undermined by their being dragged to magistrates courts after they have made judgments in their customary courts.”
“Chiefs complained that they are called as witnesses by magistrates. Why doesn’t the magistrate get called by a High Court to be a witness? This means that they are looking down upon the chiefs and we don’t want that. We engaged His Excellency and the Minister of Justice has been asked to look into the matter and come up with rules and regulations so that it doesn’t happen in future because we want the chiefs judgments to be respected,” he said.