ZESN Position Paper on the Role of Traditional Leaders in Elections

This paper on the role of traditional leaders in elections and electoral processes in Zimbabwe depicts a picture of a traditional authority whose existence is held in tension between the citizen expectations for it to be a neutral vanguard of the traditions, customs and community development on the one hand and, the ruling elite’s demands for it to be loyal and serve the interest of the incumbent party. Despite this, and notwithstanding the political polarisation prevailing in Zimbabwe, the paper shows that there is a consensus in the literature on the institution of traditional leaders regarding its centrality to development at the local government level. In sharp contrast, there is a general opposition to the involvement of traditional leaders in elections and electoral processes. The Constitution is used as the point of reference and authority in this regard owing to its unequivocal provisions that bar traditional leaders from playing any role in elections…more