Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
VICE President Kembo Mohadi yesterday said Government is crafting a law that will protect chiefs from being summoned by magistrates as witnesses after making a ruling at customary courts.
Addressing Chiefs from the eight districts in the Midlands province in Gweru yesterday, Vice President Mohadi said summoning traditional chiefs as witnesses in matters they would have dealt with is tantamount to looking down upon their esteemed office.
VP Mohadi said traditional chiefs ought to be respected as they were the reservoirs and fountains of the country’s rich cultural heritage which is the backbone of the peace and tranquillity enjoyed in the country.
He said as such, President Mnangagwa had tasked the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi to craft a law that gives traditional chiefs extra powers so that they are not summoned by the magistrates after making judgments at their customary courts.
“As I engage chiefs in their provinces on this very important subject of peace building and conflict resolution, it has become very apparent to me that for chiefs to effectively perform this important role of peace building and conflict resolution, their status and powers have to be enhanced. Chiefs have complained about being dragged to magistrates’ courts after they have made judgments at their customary courts which undermines their status,” he said.
“Chiefs have complained that they are called as witnesses by magistrates. Why are magistrates not called by the High Court to come as a witnesses? We engaged His Excellency and the Minister of Justice has been asked to look into the matter and come up with rules and regulations so that it doesn’t happen in future because we want the chiefs’ judgments to be respected.”
VP Mohadi said he has already been to Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South consulting chiefs on how to build and sustain peace in the country.
He said maintaining peace is among the main roles played by traditional leaders in many African countries.
VP Mohadi said the influence of chiefs goes a long way in resolving disputes between family members within and among communities and occasionally across State lines.
He said the late VP Cde John Landa Nkomo preached peace when he said, “peace begins with me, peace begins with you, and peace begins with all of us.”
“Our constitution recognises the status and the role of our traditional leaders and clearly articulates their functions which are, to promote and uphold cultural values of their communities and in particular to promote sound values, to take measures to preserve the culture, traditions, history and heritage of their communities, including sacred shrines, to facilitate development and to resolve disputes involving people in their communities in accordance with the customary law,” said VP Mohadi.