Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s angry threats against a chief from Masvingo, who warned that President Emmerson Mnangagwa risked losing the 2023 elections, has drawn further ire from the traditional leader.
Chief Murinye angered the authorities when he accused Mnangagwa and his top executive of entertaining corruption.
The chief was addressing mourners at the funeral of Public Service Commission official Elson Gonye.
Mnangagwa summoned chiefs to the capital in Harare on Friday where his deputy Constantino Chiwenga read the riot act and warned that criticising the President in public was unacceptable and would not be tolerated.
He said Murinye, born Ephias Munodawafa, would be investigated.
But Murinye in an interview with The Standard yesterday stood his ground and human rights’ lawyers accused the presidency of violating the constitution by threatening traditional leaders.
“I am a chief in accordance with the tradition and my clan,” Murinye said.
“I am satisfied that what I said was not out of malice. It was because of my love for my party (Zanu-PF) and my president.
“I don’t have questionable allegiance.
“The problem is in every system when you step on other people’s toes — who think you are disrupting their bread and butter means, they make that noise.
“I am not afraid of being investigated.
“I don’t have a problem with that. At the moment, that is what I will say.”
Last night the chief confirmed it was him speaking in an audio recording where he says he dares the politicians to kill him for saying out his mind. He accuses government officials of seeking to kill him for lashing out at Mnangagwa.
Before Chiwenga’s threats, Murinye had told The Standard that he was receiving threatening messages and calls from anonymous people, a known tactic used against government critics.
“I have plans to engage Mnangagwa on the issue I raised recently,” he said.
“The issues of corruption have to be addressed.
“Mnangagwa has the chance to remove the criminals surrounding him by reshuffling the Cabinet.
“The people whom he is sending on the ground are the ones, who are misleading him.
“We love our president and he is doing wonders, but the problem is the criminals around him.”
In audio clips that have gone viral on social media, Murinye threatens to expose corrupt Zanu PF members to Mnangagwa.
“If the president asks me about it, I will expose you,” he said.
“In South Africa they go nine kilometres underground looking for diamonds, but here in Zimbabwe we literally pick our diamonds from the surface.
“What are we doing with the proceeds of the diamonds?
“If I inquire then you call me an MDC member. Kill me if you want, I don’t care.
“Even if I am dethroned, I will stand for justice.”
Rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama said Chiwenga had no constitutional rights to preside over chiefs.
“Zanu PF has over a very long time used traditional leaders to advance their interests, so if they (chiefs) then speak against the ruling party, the leaders are riled,” Muchadehama said.
“Chiefs are prohibited by the constitution to support political parties.
“Government should not forget that just like any other citizens, chiefs are entitled to enjoy rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
“Government could have made use of the chiefs’ council or the chiefs’ ethics and integrity committee to take action against the chief.”
Political analyst Fidelis Duri said Chiwenga’s utterances showed that the ruling party wanted to control chiefs in violation of the constitution.
“Traditional leaders have always been the number one enemy to the ruling party since independence, but the leaders have pampered them with material things to buy their allegiance,” Duri said.
Chapter 15.2 of the constitution states that “traditional leaders must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics, act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person”.
Duri added: “That is why if the leaders act contrary to the expectations, the government goes after them.
“It is not new. We have seen Chief Ndiweni who was deposed after criticising the president.”
In December 2019, government dethroned outspoken Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni of Ntabazinduna in Matabeleland North.
The Ndiweni clan protested his removal saying the government was interfering in the running of their chieftainship.
Chapter 283 of the constitution of Zimbabwe stipulates that the appointment, removal and suspension of chiefs must be done by the president on the recommendation of the provincial assembly of chiefs through the National Council of Chiefs and the minister responsible for traditional leaders and in accordance with the traditional practices and traditions of the communities concerned.
– The Standard