Editor's Comment

No politics for chiefs

PRESIDENT Lungu with traditional leaders from North-Western Province at State House in Lusaka yesterday. PICTURE: EDDIE MWANALEZA/STATE HOUSE.

TRADITIONAL chiefs in Zambia play a pivotal role in preserving the nation’s traditions and culture.As the old saying goes,a nation without culture is like a tree without roots.True to the aphorism, chiefs are custodians of the country’s heritage upon which the nation is identified. Their role in customary land administration places them as important partners with Government in the development of the country . However, over the years there has been debate on whether traditional leaders should participate in politics or not.The general view has been that chiefs are not supposed to take part in politics because they are expected to be neutral.This argument is premised on the fact that their subjects belong to differ ent political parties and any bias on their part would divide their communities.But in recent years the nation has seen their royal highnesses getting involved in politics either indirectly or directly .While society has appreciated their influence in the fight against
gender -based violence and early marriages, most people feel some of them overstepped their role in the run-up to the August 12 general elections by siding with the then ruling Patriotic Front (PF).However, it is encouraging to hear that some traditional chiefs have realised their mistakes and feel ashamed for their involvement in politics during the political campaigns.House of Chiefs chairperson Senior Chief Luembe should be commended for bringing this matter out because there is need for respect to be restored among their royal highnesses.While there is consternation in the nation over the involvement of chiefs in politics during the last elections, it is also important to note that some politicians went overboard in their quest to win votes from people in chiefdoms.Some chiefs were evidently compelled to issue political statements by politicians in the hope that their words would influence subjects to vote for a particular political party .Apart from politicians distributing gifts to chiefs like
bicycles and cash, some chiefs were used to mobilise support for particular candidates, which was not supposed to be the case.Certainly , there are a lot of lessons to take from the conduct of some traditional leaders before the August elections.It is good though, that some traditional leaders maintained their neutrality.They received the various political players during the campaigns but they stated clearly that they would not take political sides because their subjects were free to align themselves with whichever political party they so desired.This is what is expected of all chiefs, so going forward, it is also expected that politicians will respect the role of chiefs and desist from using them or trying to use them as pawns in a game of politics.Doing so is tantamount to pitting the traditional leaders against their subjects who hold varied political views at a given election period.Politicians should only engage chiefs on matters of development that benefit everyone regardless of political affiliation.Although politicians are dutybound to take gifts to chiefs when they visit their palaces during political campaigns, these handouts should not be bribes.We also implore traditional leaders at any level not to be swayed by the same gifts to the extent of getting involved in politics.We feel it is a duty of traditional leaders to embrace every politician who visits their palaces because they are expected to work with the government of the day in fostering development. It is understandable that people feel betrayed by their chiefs but we believe the new political dispensation has awakened in them a sense of r
eflection on what they should stick to.Mistakes have already been made but it is time for subjects to continue being loyal to their chiefs, who are custodians of our cultural identity .We urge subjects to help their royal highnesses come out of their pang of shame so that they can continue doing their traditional role with their heads high.We believe the government of President Hakainde Hichilema will continue looking at chiefs as partners in development despite their open involvement in politics before the August 12 general elections.

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