HARARE – The National Patriotic Front (NPF) criticised the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Thursday for inviting Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs president Fortune Charumbira to a post-election review workshop, even as the traditional leader is in contempt of court for elections offences.

The NPF chided ZEC chairperson for inviting Charumbira to speak at the event in Nyanga, describing him as a “rogue chief”.

Chief Charumbira was found by a High Court judge on May 9 last year to have “contravened the constitution of Zimbabwe” after he told the annual conference of the Council of Chiefs on January 13 that “traditional leaders have been supporting and must continue to support Zanu PF and its candidate” in the lead up to general elections held on July 31.

Section 281 of the constitution of Zimbabwe enjoins traditional leaders not to be members of any political party; not to participate in politics, and not to act in a partisan manner or further the interests of any political party or cause.

Justice Phiri ordered Local Government Minister July Moyo to “commence disciplinary proceedings for misconduct” against Charumbira, who was also ordered to retract in writing the statements that he made by issuing a statement to a national newspaper within seven days.

Neither Charumbira nor Moyo acted on the judgement, which became a sore point for opposition parties in the run-up to the elections, and continues to grate as one of the key electoral reforms President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rivals are demanding to be implemented before the next vote.

“The issue of partisan chiefs who blatantly boast about their support for Zanu PF during election campaigns is just as bad as the involvement of the military in our electoral politics,” NPF spokesman Jealousy Mawarire told the conference.

“As it stands, ZEC seems unperturbed by that malpractice especially when the elections management body saw it trite to invite and make the president of the Council of Chiefs a presenter at this conference despite his well-publicised breach of section 281of the Constitution which proscribes traditional leaders from participating in partisan politics.”

The NPF said Charumbira’s “arrogance and contempt of court were not surprising since Zanu PF functionaries believe they are above the law.”

“What is shocking, however, is the fact that the ZC chairperson, a judge of the High Court herself, sees nothing wrong in extending an invitation to the rogue chief to participate and make a presentation at this all stakeholders’ conference. It is clear that ZEC sees nothing wrong with the chief’s blatant violation of the constitution.”