I SEE that Masvingo governor Josiah Hungwe has challenged chiefs to take a leading role in land reform. Certainly reform of the present mess is needed!
They are t
he custodians of the land – it belongs to them (a novel idea since it doesn’t).
Appointing chiefs to committees like village development committees (Vidcos) is empowering them a little, like making the odd one a minister.
It was of course typical that they should be told to be transparent (un-corrupt) professional and servants of justice “if we are to be accorded the respect we deserve”. Why tell them the obvious?
Most Zimbabweans are too young and ignorant to know chiefs’ history. In Rhodesia they presided over courts and allocated land since Tribal Trust Lands/communal lands were held in trust by the government. Land didn’t belong to chiefs.
In the 1970s, chiefs were not on the side of either Zanla or Zipra. They didn’t like young parrots mouthing bits of Mao’s Red Book and waving AKs under their noses to show who was boss.
A few chiefs were on the freedom fighters’ side and we hear of them – or at least one who helped the escape of President Mugabe but on the whole some thought he and his fighters were fighting their freedom.
So in 1980 their judicial and administrative powers were removed. They became “unpersons” in George Orwell’s sense – never mentioned until many years later, they were made ex-officio members of Vidcos.
However, the birth of a vibrant opposition at the turn of the millennium required the unscription of support. So judges, police, prosecution services, soldiers, etc were politicised and the media prostituted.
The chiefs have been bought. Allowances have been doubled, quadrupled or octupled; for a little work, they earn a teacher’s salary.
Homesteads have been electrified and chiefs have been paid large sums of money to buy posh cars. Headmen have had salaries increased by more than 100%. Flattery has been larded on them by those who 24 yeas ago derided them.
It was once said that a good politician is one who, when bought, stays bought. It seems that mega-billions of dollars have done the trick.
We recall the story of a chief in Ian Smith’s government who used his Mercedes Benz vehicle for ploughing.