President of the National Council of Chiefs (NCC) Fortune Charumbira is facing jail after failing to comply with a court order that directed him to issue an apology for rallying other chiefs to support the ruling Zanu PF in this year’s elections.
Charumbira was given seven days within which to issue the apology, which expired on Thursday. This followed an application lodged by the Election Resource Centre (ERC).
In terms of the country’s laws, chiefs are not allowed to participate in political activities or to be seen to be pushing the interests of a particular party.
ERC director Tawanda Chimhini told the Daily News that they will follow procedure to bring Charumbira to book over the issue, adding that court orders must be respected to show sincerity in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mantra that elections will be free and fair.
“The ERC will be proceeding using all available remedies to ensure that consequences follow the disregard shown by chief Charumbira. With all due respect to the chief, our chief, my chief, it is unfortunate that he has decided to go down this road.
“Other traditional leaders out there are encouraged to take the court order seriously. Consequences will accrue to every individual that sees it fit to disregard the court order instructing traditional leaders to stay out of partisan politics.
“For the avoidance of doubt, traditional leaders are citizens and have a right to support a political party of their choice. However, they cannot use their role as traditional leaders to compel communities they preside over to support a political party that they have chosen,” Chimhini said.
ERC managed to serve the court order on Charumbira a week ago, which was received by his sister Nyaradzo.
“Court order served on Nyaradzo Charumbira, the sister of chief Fortune Charumbira, who accepted service on behalf of the first respondent (chief Charumbira) at 15:30hrs,” the return of service reads.
The order came after an application by ERC, demanding Charumbira to retract statements in which he rallied other chiefs to support the ruling Zanu PF in this year’s elections.
According to the application, Charumbira, National Council of Chiefs and Local Government minister July Moyo, were cited as respondents.
Trust Maanda, who is ERC’s chairperson of the board of trustees, in his affidavit,
said Charumbira’s statements demanding chiefs to support Zanu PF, were unlawful and unconstitutional.
“The respondent (Charumbira) has acted unlawfully and moreover has failed in his constitutional duty to respect and uphold the Constitution of Zimbabwe by staying non-partisan and away from party politics, to respect the institution of traditional leadership and not bring the institution into disrepute and to not infringe the rights and fundamental freedoms of people,” Maanda argued in the court papers.