Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
CHIEFS are set to abandon their colonial regalia as it does not reflect Zimbabwe’s traditional heritage and cultural values but cements colonial dominancy.
The red and purple gown and round shaped hat has been part of the chiefs’ identity pre and post independence, but the traditional leaders no longer want to have anything to do with it.
They said the regalia reflects a ‘bastardised’ traditional leaders’ identity which in essence is a symbol of dominance by colonialists.
They said after 40 years of independence, they can no longer be portrayed in the way the settler government wanted them to be seen.
Some of the institutions that remain stuck with colonial regalia include the judiciary as judges are expected to wear wigs before presiding over court cases.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has previously been criticised for spending limited foreign currency importing wigs for judges.
For instance in 2019, it is said more than US$170 000 was spent importing wigs for 64 local judges from the United Kingdom.
In local authorities, town clerks also wear wigs in some of the council official business while mayors also wear robes which reflect coloniality.
Before the country was colonised, chiefs used to put on animal skin regalia associated with royalty which colonialists changed when they enforced their dominance on Africans.
The chiefs said a new traditional leaders’ dress should not take them to the Stone Age but reflect Zimbabwe’s diverse cultures.
National Council of Chiefs president Chief Fortune Charumbira said funds permitting they will be inviting a national competition for designers to come up with chiefs’ regalia which reflects Zimbabwean culture.
He said chiefs were slowly abandoning the regalia as they no longer wear it at most official gatherings.
Some of the traditional leaders opt only to pin shields onto their shirts that identify them as chiefs as opposed to wearing the whole regalia.
“The whole chiefs’ regalia from the head and all the other pins that we put on as chiefs were designed during colonial times for a purpose. The messages in that regalia can never be the same messages of an independent Zimbabwe.
They do not reflect in any way our core values and cultures. For example we want to celebrate as a people where we come from. We want to celebrate that we have artifacts like Great Zimbabwe,” said Chief Charumbira.
“We want to celebrate that we are people that have liberated ourselves, that we’re agricultural people, that we are hardworking people, that we have ubuntu and other values. All these are not reflected in the regalia. It has all to do with what whites thought of us, it was meant to please whites.”
He said for instance the round shaped hat is the core of colonial supremacy as it is a product of the British South Africa Company and its officials gave it to those who directly reported to it like messengers and police who would spy on Africans.
Chief Charumbira said they want a chiefs’ regalia they can relate to and be proud of.
“So we are in the process of inviting competition to design the regalia for chiefs. This will reflect our own values, histories, symbols, artifacts as Africans, not regalia which depicts the ethos and the philosophies of the past colonial government,” said Chief Charumbira.
“There is a budgetary issue, we will see what we are given this time around by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in the 2021 budget. We will see if we have enough resources to do that (set up the competition). The themes in that national regalia should project the diversity of our people. A good designer should ensure all these key elements come out and should tell a story of who we are.”
He said other institutions that are stuck with colonial regalia should also be moving towards changing them.
Chief Charumbira said mental enslavement remains an issue even in independent Zimbabwe, something that should change.
“Go to the Judiciary, Parliament, the dressing is still much of the colonial past. The restraining factor in behaviour has also to do with the culture and values. Culture and values is in symbols, is in what we eat what we wear. How we appear is still more British than African and that’s why we are talking about a disintegrating social fabric, because we don’t have our own fabric. Ours is still very much weakened, diluted, bastardised by the colonial past. We don’t have a standard to follow or a compass because those symbols at the end of the day are the compass that should guide us to the true north,” said Chief Charumbira.
He said it was important for chiefs to be deliberating on their new regalia at a time when a national dress is in the national discourse as well.
“You want to do these things simultaneously. They cannot be separate from each other. They both are carrying the message of national appearance, national posture and national projection.
“You would want to do them concurrently and you would want to say which one should be for Parliament, Judiciary or Chiefs. You want them in some areas to look distinct for example the one for chiefs we want it to be distinct from others,” said Chief Charumbira.
Tsholotsho traditional leader and Senator Chief Mathuphula said traditional leaders have reached a consensus that the chiefs’ regalia should be changed.
“On the issue of the traditional dress, chiefs regalia to be precise, I feel and we feel that the current regalia does not really reflect our traditions and heritage. Our culture or the cultures that we have in our areas and I think there is a need for the people to look at it from the village perspective to ask the local leadership on the ground to come up with a dress that reflects our cultures.
“We need to revisit what we used to put on and design something that we can be proud of and children be proud of. So that we start to have a national consciousness with regards to tradition and culture,” said Chief [email protected]