Chiefs are the custodians of the country’s resources and should therefore guard jealously these resources. It should be the chiefs who should see to it that the resources in their areas of jurisdiction are protected from plunder. The chiefs should ensure that the exploitation of resources is done in a sustainable way.
Resources such as land or minerals are finite which means that the present generation has an obligation to bequeath these resources to future generations and this is only possible if the exploitation of these resources is done in a sustainable manner. The chiefs as the custodian of the resources should ensure that the environment is protected. It should be the responsibility of chiefs to ensure that their subjects avoid wanton destruction of trees, the pollution of rivers or their siltation. The chief’s role is therefore much wider than just presiding over his traditional court to resolve disputes.
It is because of their critical role that chiefs are ex officio members of the Rural District Councils. It is therefore disturbing to learn that some chiefs are being used by whites who have clandestinely returned to repossess the land that Government had acquired for redistribution. The chiefs are reportedly being used as fronts by these whites who are working on the land and paying them a little fraction of what they are realising from the land. Launching the seven Community Share Ownership Trusts in Masvingo on Friday, the President Cde Mugabe said he was aware of the chiefs who were being used by the whites who wanted to reverse the land reform programme.
Cde Mugabe warned such chiefs saying they risked losing the land allocated to them under the land reform programme. Cde Mugabe said there were also senior Government officials that were also fronting for whites. He said those that were leasing farms to whites also risked losing the same farms to the whites who were determined to repossess the land taken from them for redistribution.
What is worrying is that among those accused of leasing the land to whites are chiefs who are supposed to be the custodians of our resources including land. We look up to chiefs to raise alarm when we have such misdemeanour of individuals wanting to reverse the land reform programme but it becomes complicated when the chiefs are among the culprits. We want to believe that after President Mugabe raised the issue on Friday, the chiefs did some soul-searching to find out ways to rid society of the bad apples.
It is unfortunate that the few chiefs that have chosen to be used by the whites for a few pieces of silver have tarnished the image of traditional leaders who are supposed to be respected by their subjects. Chiefs as community leaders should be individuals of high integrity who are beyond reproach. It was because of the skewed land ownership whereby the few whites owned the bulk of the country’s productive land while the majority blacks were confined to barren land that people took up arms to fight the settler regime.
The chiefs and those senior Government officials leasing land to whites are reversing the gains of our independence and this cannot be allowed to continue. We want to once again implore those leasing the land to stop this forthwith while on the other hand Government should not just warn the culprits but take action. The land being leased should be re-allocated to deserving land-hungry Zimbabweans that are prepared to put it to productive use thereby empowering themselves.
Those that are leasing land to whites are infact working against the empowerment of the people because they are denying the people the opportunity to own the means of production. We want action to be taken as soon as possible so that the land remains in the hands of its rightful owners.