Chiefs: Back to basics


WHEN the British colonised us, one of the major stumbling blocks in their attempt to achieve their aim was the unquestioned authority of chiefs over their subjects.
Obedience to chiefs, who were accepted as the link between the the living and the dead, was a given.
It was considered sacrilegious to go against traditional authorities who were accepted as the custodians of all customs, traditions and values
The obligation to obey was total.
Because of the unity, as a result of this voluntary unanimous obligation, it was easy for chiefs to mobilise their subjects whenever need arose.
As commanders-in-chief, allegiance to chiefs meant the people were willingly ready to put their lives on line when called upon to do so.
One such area which the colonisers found disturbing was organised resistance.
This was, especially so, when the resistance meant taking up arms to fight the coloniser in spite of his superior weaponry.
We have examples of chiefs Madamombe Chinengundu of Mhondoro and Makoni Chingaira of Rusape whose heads were chopped off and taken to a London museum.
And their crime was their stiff armed resistance against colonialists.
One of the main reasons which ensured cohesion was the absence of partisanship in the politics of chieftainship.
Chiefs rose to the top through predetermined transparent family lines.
The resultant consensus then guaranteed rapport between the chief and his people.
There was no provision for the alien divisive opposition chief-in-waiting.
But we must admit, the colonisers were no fools.
Realising the importance of chiefs in their communities, they sought to exploit that situation to advantage.
Chiefs were ‘elevated’ to the position of the sole opinion leaders of the blacks and their views were representative of the generality of the indigenes.
Ian Smith would later on try to convince the British that constitutional proposals accepted by chiefs were automatically acceptable to Africans.
To achieve their goal, the settlers began to meddle with the customary way in which chiefs assumed their positions.
Meddling meant non-compliant chiefs were either deposed or their ascension suffered a stillbirth once signs of ‘stubbornness’ were detected.
The end result was that chiefs were reduced to mere appendages of the colonial machine.
And with this went the traditional respect from their subjects the chiefs had been used to.
With the end of colonial rule, there has been conscious effort to restore the dignity of chieftainship.
With the new dispensation centred around economic development, it was appropriate for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to have chiefs as his first port of call.
With our economy mainly based on agriculture and mining, areas which lie mainly in rural areas, co-operation of chiefs, especially where collective effort is required, is a necessity.
We have the example of Zunde raMambo where collective effort under the supervision of a chief is a familiar practice.
With Command Agriculture, this can be updated.
Even care of the environment, knowing what animals or plants to be preserved will need little supervision where the authority of the chief is recognised.
If the Gweru Chiefs’ Indaba, was meant to be a challenge to chiefs to assume their traditional leadership roles, then we expect the cohesion that once existed in rural areas to once more manifest as people work together to achieve economic development.
That’s what the new dispensation is all about, among other tenets.
Of course a lot of things have changed.
But even then, the authority of the chiefs should not be compromised by the alignment of traditional ways to modern trends.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here