COMMENT: Chiefs have a role in realigning society President Mnangagwa cuts a ribbon to hand over vehicles to recently installed chiefs after the National Chiefs Conference in Bulawayo yesterday. Assisting him are Vice-President Chiwenga, Chiefs Council President Chief Charumbira, Zanu-PF Second Secretary Cde Kembo Mohadi and Ministers July Moyo, Professor Mthuli Ncube and Dr Anxious Masuka

RECENTLY, this paper carried a story about a Tsholotsho girl who was assaulted by boys from her school and the brutal attack was captured on video that circulated on a number of social media platforms.

The video sparked widespread condemnation with calls for the arrest of the boys captured committing the dastardly act. 

The boys were eventually arrested and appeared in court.

A number of such cases and those of drug abuse, affecting mostly the youth, have been recorded in both urban and rural areas pointing to the moral and cultural decadence in society. 

Traditional leaders, therefore, play a critical role in realigning society and influencing a change from these social ills. 

It is against this background that President Mnangagwa on Wednesday urged traditional leaders to be at the forefront of preserving culture and identity to help fight drug and substance abuse, and child marriages.

Zimbabwe is witnessing an upsurge in drug abuse cases and most of those abusing drugs are young people, while according to the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZimStat) about 34 percent of girls under the age of 18 are married countrywide and 2 percent of boys also get married before reaching the age of 18.

Traditional leaders have on many occasions condemned the practice of marrying off under-age children as a vice that is not just illegal, but also opposed by tradition and custom. 

Addressing delegates during the 2023 National Chiefs Conference at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) grounds in Bulawayo, President Mnangagwa said under the Second Republic, Government recognises the critical role played by traditional leaders in terms of preserving culture and identity.

“Under the Second Republic, we recognise that traditional leadership remains the guarantor of our culture against contamination by practices advanced by foreigners in our country. 

“This is why we are fighting drug and substance abuse by our young generation, which is destroying our culture, and foreign countries will then take advantage of us because we would have destroyed our own identity,” he said.

“We are here today and owe this to our forefathers who preserved our culture and the way of life that has allowed us to survive up to today. It is critical for us, the current leaders, to carry this philosophy and respect traditional knowledge, wisdom and culture to preserve our identity as African people of this county.”

President Mnangagwa challenged traditional leaders to play a leading role in eradicating child marriages.

“There is an issue of child marriage and therefore as chiefs, you have a responsibility to protect our children. 

“I have heard about cases where a girl aged 8 or 9 was impregnated and this is because our culture is not being followed,” he said.

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