Chiefs Council President Chief Fortune Charumbira continues to be in contempt of a 2018 High Court order (HC 1718/18) which ordered him to withdraw public comments made in support of ZANU-PF.
On 23 February 2018, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) submitted a High Court application against Chief Charumbira citing the comments he made during a National Council of Chiefs calling on all traditional Chiefs to support ZANU-PF were illegal.
The application was premised on the fact that section 281 (2) of the Constitution states that traditional leaders must not act in a partisan manner or further the interests of any political party or cause.
On 14 May 2018 Honorable Justice Phiri ordered that the partisan comments by Chief Charumbira were unconstitutional and the Chief was ordered to retract the statement within 14 days.
However, the Chief is in contempt of the court order and continues to ignore it.
Here is a detailed timeline of events since the comments were made
ERC FILES COURT APPLICATION
23 February 2018
The ERC submitted a High Court application against Chief Charumbira citing that comments made during a National Council of Chiefs calling on Chiefs to support ZANU-PF were illegal.
CHIEF CHARUMBIRA OPPOSITION
Chief Charumira did not file a notice of opposition and the application was subsequently put on the unopposed roll.
14 May 2018
Honourable Justice Phiri delivered the order which stated that; Partisan comments by Chief Charumbira were unconstitutional and the Chief was ordered to retract the statement within 14 days.
APPLICATION FOR RESCISSION OF JUDGEMENT
19 June 2019
That application was filed under case number HC5688/18. Application for rescission of judgment stating that he did not become aware of the judgment.
JUDGEMENT OF APPLICATION FOR RESCISSION
7 February 2019
Honourable Justice Munangati-Manongwa dismissed the application for rescission of judgement filed by Chief Charumbira and reinstated the original judgement.
LETTER TO PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
7 July 2020
The ERC penned a letter to the Portfolio Committee on Local Government detailing to the Committee the defiance of the Court order by Chief Charumbira and the implications of the defiance to constitutionalism.
LETTER TO PRESIDENT
9 July 2019
Letter to President E.D. Mnangagwa detailing the defiance of the Court order by Chief Charumbira and the implications to constitutionalism.
Status: No response from the President’s Office on the issue
RESPONSE FROM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
5 August 2020
The Committee responded stating that the duty to enforce court orders did not rest with the Parliament, thereby absolving themselves of the oversight duty of Parliament on one of its members.
ERC RESPONSE LETTER TO THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT
2 September 2020
The ERC responded to the Committee premised on the fact that Parliament’s duties include exercising oversight on all state institutions including the Ministry of Local Government and the National Council of Chiefs and Chief Charumbira and asking why they continue to defy an existing High Court Order. Defiance of court orders violates principles of constitutionalism.
Status: No response from Parliament on the issue.
On 28 October 2017 at the official opening of the annual conference of the National Council of Chief, Chief Charumbira had stated categorically that chiefs have been supporting, and must continue to support ZANU PF and its President in the forthcoming elections in 2018.
Several private media houses and the public media including the national public broadcaster captured the exact words causing offence that the first respondent uttered.
Said Chief Charumbira, “As chiefs, we agreed during the 2014 congress that Cde (Robert) Mugabe is our candidate for the 2018 elections. We are all united and he is still our candidate. We have been supporting him and we can confirm that winning is guaranteed.” A ruckus ensued.
Concerns were raised about keeping traditional leaders above party politics.