‘We’ll revive chieftainships abolished by colonisers’ President Mnangagwa hands over a vehicle to Chief Masuka (right) at the National Chiefs Conference in Bulawayo yesterday. Looking on are Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga (second from left), Chiefs Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira and Ministers July Moyo (left) and Dr Anxious Masuka. — Pictures: Eliah Sauhsoma

Mashudu Netsianda

Bulawayo Bureau

President Mnangagwa has said Government will continue resuscitating chieftainships that were abolished by the Rhodesian settler regime and implored chiefs to foster peace and unity as the country heads towards the harmonised elections.

In 2019, Government under the Second Republic resuscitated the Bere chieftainship in Mashava, which was abolished almost a century ago by the Rhodesian settler regime. The President also urged traditional leaders to be at the forefront of preserving culture and identity to help fight drug and substance abuse, and child marriages.

Zimbabwe is witnessing an upsurge in drug abuse cases and most of those abusing drugs are young people, while according to the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZimStat) about 34 percent of girls under the age of 18 are married countrywide and 2 percent of boys also get married before reaching the age of 18.

Traditional leaders have on many occasions condemned the practice of marrying off under-age children as a vice that is not just illegal, but also opposed by tradition and custom. Addressing delegates during the 2023 National Chiefs Conference at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) grounds in Bulawayo yesterday, President Mnangagwa said under the Second Republic, Government recognises the critical role played by traditional leaders in terms of preserving culture and identity.

“Under the Second Republic, we recognise that traditional leadership remains the guarantor of our culture against contamination by practices advanced by foreigners in our country. “This is why we are fighting drug and substance abuse by our young generation, which is destroying our culture, and foreign countries will then take advantage of us because we would have destroyed our own identity,” he said.

“We are here today and owe this to our forefathers who preserved our culture and the way of life that has allowed us to survive up to today. It is critical for us, the current leaders, to carry this philosophy and respect traditional knowledge, wisdom and culture to preserve our identity as African people of this county.”

President Mnangagwa challenged traditional leaders to play a leading role in eradicating child marriages.

“There is an issue of child marriage and therefore as chiefs, you have a responsibility to protect our children. I have heard about cases where a girl aged 8 or 9 years was impregnated and this is because our culture is not being followed and as parents,” he said.

The President also lashed out at citizens who are in the habit of denigrating the country to secure asylum in countries such as the United Kingdom.

With the country heading towards the polls, President Mnangagwa said the country also depends on traditional leaders to foster peace, unity and harmony.

“We are going to have elections around the end of July or August, we have hope in our traditional leaders to defend the identity of our culture and land by voting for the revolutionary party. For 22 years we have been under sanctions, which failed to succeed because citizens refused to follow the dictates of those who imposed them,” he said.

Responding to issues raised by chiefs during a briefing, President Mnangagwa noted that there were concerns among some headmen who were stripped of their chieftaincy. He said Government will resuscitate those chiefdoms.

“The challenges that were raised by chiefs covered the entire country, and no district, province or community was left out because every aspect of Zimbabwe was represented. When the chiefs were giving me their developmental challenges and aspirations, I immediately came up with the idea that from now on all Cabinet ministers should attend the Chiefs Conference so that they are able to attend to the concerns raised,” said President Mnangagwa.

“Some of the challenges that were raised by chiefs such as problems relating to boundaries between resettlement areas and those falling under their jurisdiction can be resolved by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development.”

President Mnangagwa said to mitigate the country against the effects of climate change and boost food security, his administration has come up with a number of programmes such as the introduction of Pfumvudza/ Intwasa.

“You are the owners of this country hence you should be at the forefront of building Zimbabwe and that is how the Chinese built the Great Wall of China. For us to be able to build our country, we should be food secure,” he said.

“So, as Government under the Second Republic, we are saying for the country to be food secure, we need to first address food security at household level. We have decided as Government that we introduce Pfumvudza/Intwasa to address food security at household level.”

President Mnangagwa said the philosophy of food security at the household level is not new as it was practised by the country’s forefathers.

“Our forefathers were aware of this food security concept and then introduced the Zunde raMambo/Isiphala seNkosi concept so that those who are lazy are catered for. As the Second Republic, we, therefore, introduced Pfumvudza/Intwasa for the security of the family, but we still have to preserve the Zunde raMambo/Isiphala seNkosi concept,” he said.

“We now know that there is climate change so we have mitigatory measures against the effects of climate change and this is why we are building dams throughout the country so that when there is drought we still have enough water and irrigate throughout the country to produce enough food for our people each year and each season.”

The President said at the national food security level, Government has implemented agricultural programmes and models to secure food security for the country.

“With this approach by the Second Republic to ensure food security, no one should die of hunger under my Government,” he said.

The President said Zimbabwe is rich in terms of minerals such as lithium. He said Government is in the process of crafting laws to ensure that locals benefit from resources in their locality.

“We have more minerals in this country than in most countries on the continent. We have lithium and we now know that the country has the fifth largest reserves in the world and we are number one in Africa,” he said.

“When lithium was discovered, some of the Chinese investors wanted to take it raw to their country without beneficiating it. We said ‘no, lithium can’t leave the country without beneficiation’. If we start processing it, we create more value, more employment, and also attract new technology, new competencies and skills.”

President Mnangagwa said each community must look at its needs so that Government directs universities to provide the products and services.

“In Matabeleland North, we have the Lake Gwayi Shangani project which was mooted in 1912 and there have been successive governments failing to implement it until the Second Republic came in. Under the Second Republic, we are constructing a number of dams across the country using our own engineers and resources,” he said.

“If we are determined and united, there is nothing that we will fail to do or achieve as a country. Under the Second Republic, we gave ourselves at least three years, which is one year from now, to never again import electricity because we have the sun from January to December and coal.”

The President said unlike in the past when Government contracted foreign companies to construct roads, under the Second Republic local firms are being engaged.

“I always say we will build our country brick by brick, stone upon stone and it is everyone’s responsibility to build our country. It is not enough to just eat and sleep, but we need development in the country,” he said.

“The level of development we found should be uplifted and made better than what it was. We should utilise universities and colleges by equipping our children with engineering skills to produce the goods we want.”

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