The constitution is very clear about the role of Chiefs in politics.
Article 129 of the constitution states and we quote “A person shall not, while remaining a chief, join or participate in partisan politics.”
This is the law.
The constitution goes further to define chiefs as being, creatures and creation of culture, custom and tradition based on wishes and aspirations of the people to whom it applies.
In short Chieftaincy is not part of the party political body but is an embodiment of the traditional aspirations of a people.
The constitution also adds that a traditional leader or cultural leader shall enjoy such privileges and benefits as may be conferred by the Government and the Local Government or as that leader may be entitled to under culture, custom and tradition. The status of chieftaincy lies with the community and not the Government.
It is against this background that the role of the Chieftaincy in Zambia is increasingly coming under close scrutiny, especially as the string of by elections do their rounds in the rural areas where the Patriotic Front (PF) has won election petitions.
The Chiefs being traditional leaders transcend the narrow political divides that are becoming more apparent as party politics have become the order of the day. It is apparent that with more by elections the country is confronting political divisions that emanate more from “fringe” rather than real issues affecting the people.
Sadly, like most third world countries, the politics of the “tummy” are taking over from the politics of reason.
The result is what we are currently witnessing, violence, badmouthing and empty rhetoric that is taking away from the unity in diversity that this country has enjoyed, since the introduction of multi party democracy in 1991.
For the first time in the history of our country live ammunition has been discharged by civilians in political settings. This was unheard of but with the 75 by elections envisaged, more of the same is likely to occur.
Equally for the first time politically inspired violence is emerging and the police seem incapable of bringing the culprits to book mainly because those involved may be aligned to those in power.
The tragedy however is that rural areas will suffer more if there is a break down in law and order. If political tension seeps into the fabric of rural society the outcome will be more than disastrous because the police have no means of patrolling let alone restoring order if it breaks down.
That is why for law and order and indeed social order to prevail our chiefs should not be lightning rods for political conflict but must serve as the uniting glue of political and social diversity.
We entirely share the view of the Electoral Commission that has decried the politicization of the chieftaincy.