MASVINGO - About two months ago there were celebrations by the general populace following the ruling by two High Court judges based in Bulawayo and Masvingo that traditional chiefs must not dabble in politics.
The High Court rulings were timely as the nation prepared for the watershed general and presidential elections slated for July 30.
What was more interesting on the matter was that National Chiefs' Council president, Chief Fortunate Charumbira, who openly declared allegiance to Zanu PF during a meeting with former President Robert Mugabe in Bulawyo last year, was given an ultimatum to apologise to the nation for the reckless utterances.
Chief Charumbira, however, defied the High Court by declining to publicly apologise to the nation. More interestingly, chiefs have continued to flock to Zanu PF events particularly in Masvingo where they even chant slogans at Zanu PF's Provincial Coordinating Committee (PCC) meetings.
It is the people's hope that one day chiefs, particularly their president will be charged with contempt of court. Maybe one day!
The unrepentant behavior of chiefs is an affirmation that they are Zanu PF appendages. In fact the recent Isuzu twin cabs vehicles which were doled out to chiefs make them feel like they owe Zanu PF in a big way; little do they know that they deserve much better than that from any government of the day.
However, some of the chiefs who are yet to get the vehicles are really bitter and they are not sure if they would ever receive them after elections. The situation is even getting worse in Masvingo North where the chiefs frustrations seem to be increasing due to the alleged arrogant conduct of the incumbent legislator Davis Marapira, who is also the ruling party candidate in the forthcoming elections slated for July 30.
Masvingo North has more than four chiefs namely Zimuto, Musara, Chikwanda, Mugabe and Murinye. The majority of these chiefs have a sour relationship with Marapira whom they accuse of being arrogant and disrespectful. Marapira has denied these allegations though.
The chiefs also say Marapira should go to his rural home area which is Zaka as they want candidates who were born and bred in Masvingo North to be given chance to contest.
"There will be a lot of surprises this time around; we assisted politicians who are arrogant and disrespectful to win in 2013, but that will not happen this time around. We have also realised that for any meaningful development to take place, we need an MP born and bred in the constituency," said one chief who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.
"We have seen other chiefs receiving vehicles but the majority of us in Masvingo are yet to get the cars. Maybe those who were prioritised are the ones who will mobilise votes for Zanu PF because some of us will take a back seat," said another chief.
Marapira won the ticket to represent Zanu PF after the ruling party controversially disqualified candidates like Pascal Mudzikisi who seemed to have more supporters than the deputy minister. Other Zanu PF candidates accused Marapira of conniving with the provincial party leadership to disqualify candidates that appeared to be favourites ahead of him.
Mudzikisi has since filed his papers at the nomination court as an independent candidate and it appears more chiefs have a soft spot for him. Even disgruntled Zanu PF members are rallying behind Mudzikisi.
Marapira has lost grip in Chief Zimuto, Musara, Mugabe and Murinye areas. The resettled farmers in Summerton also seem to have lost faith in Marapira due to his alleged bullying tendencies. Farmers claim that they had been threatened several times by the deputy minister that they will lose their farms if they do not vote for him in the forthcoming elections. Marapira, however, denies these allegations.
His stronghold now is the area that stretches from Roy to Mbungo estates where he enjoys support from his in-laws, the Mutendis who command a huge following from their Zion Christian Church (ZCC).
Mudzikisi probably needs to seriously engage the chiefs, headmen and village heads in Masvingo North so that they assist him in terms of strategy.
Though chiefs cannot publicly declare their displeasure with Marapira and Zanu PF for fear of victimisation, they are really fed-up and they want a new legislator. They say they are ready to work with any candidate who puts the interests of people of Masvingo North first regardless of political affiliation.
"What we want is development of our area and we do not care who brings that development. After all these candidates from other parties and independent ones are all our children – we should treat them equally and fairly," the chief said.
The chiefs' comments seem to be accommodating Mudzikisi, whom they feel was unfairly disqualified from the Zanu PF primaries.
Mudzikisi must capitalise on this disgruntlement so that he has the blessings of these chiefs – it is an open secret that traditional leaders have a lot of influence on the electorate.
He really needs to work the ground; understanding the needs of the electorate. TellZim News established that Mudzikisi is gaining ground in areas like Summerton, Zimuto, Musara and Chief Mugabe areas. However, he is said to be not visible in the rest of the constituency. He therefore needs to employ an inclusive approach if he really wants to win the seat.
Speaking to TellZim News in an interview, Mudzikisi said he was a development-oriented person aiming to develop his home area.
"I was born and bred here in Zimuto; this is where my umbilical cord was buried. My aim is to develop and assist my fellow brethren. We are doing a number of income-generating projects which I am sure will continue to benefit the people even after elections," said Mudzikisi.
Mudzikisi is a charted accountant and a successful businessman.
Marapira said his relationship with chiefs is intact and those saying otherwise are just bend on soiling his name but it will not work.
"People will say things in this election period but at the end of the day the people will decide. I have never threatened anyone and the people are not foolish, they will not be swayed by cheap politics.
"I have been helping the people in my constituency and I will keep doing so while other people keep taking low blows," said Marapira.politics