Chiefs’ Council awaits funding to conduct public hearings on new regalia
Harare (New Ziana) –The Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs (ZCC) is waiting to be allocated funds to conduct public consultations on new regalia for the traditional leaders, which should be acceptable to everyone regardless of political, religious or cultural values.
Debate has been going on for years on the need to change the regalia for chiefs, which was designed by the white settlers as they sought to portray their subjugation and capture of the traditional leaders.
President of the ZCC, Chief Fortune Charumbira said the issue of changing the current regalia should not be hurried, as the dress should be acceptable to the diverse ethnic, religious, cultural and traditional groups in the country.
“The Constitution talks about the diversity of our culture. As we move to the regalia, we need to make sure that we come up with something which is acceptable to everyone. We should not leave anyone and any place behind,” he said.
He said while there was general consensus that the current chiefs’ regalia was outdated and needed to be changed to reflect the true Zimbabwean identity, there was no agreement on how the new one should look like.
It was it therefore important that the new regalia be accepted nationally and not be associated with any political party, church or cultural group, he explained.
“That is what complicates the process,” said Charumbira.
“We do not want a situation where some chiefs will refuse to wear it. Or supporters of a political party will refuse to associate with it. It should be something that every Zimbabwean should be proud to be associated with.”
Charumbira cited the case of a national cleansing ceremony which the country wanted to conduct in Mutare soon after independence to remember those who lost their lives during the war of liberation.
He said the ceremony could not be held after some chiefs from Mashonaland East province who were supposed to participate said their spirit mediums did not cross rivers.
“So we are waiting to conduct consultations with different stakeholders to ensure all the various cultural identities where the chiefs come from are consulted, and that requires a budget,” he said.
“We need money to conduct a process which is inclusive. The whites could just sit and impose but this an independent Zimbabwe. There were previous attempts to do it in a simplistic way and it failed. This is a dress which should be accepted by everyone regardless of religious, political or cultural beliefs. We have to kill that as an institution. The institution of chiefs is here to stay so you cannot have regalia which some people will not want to associate with.”
Charumbira also cited the case of the national dress, which some opposition political parties have refused to associate with, alleging that it was for the ruling Zanu PF party.
The Ministry of Local Government in 2015 invited designers to submit proposals of a new chiefs’ regalia, but the traditional leaders rejected them.
Former Primary and Education Minister Aenias Chigwedere, who is a renowned historian, came up with three different designs which the chiefs also rejected.
It is against this background that the Chiefs Council decided to carry out consultations throughout the country to get consensus on a new regalia.
“At the end of the day there is no individual who can design a regalia which is accepted by everyone. Chiefs can lead the process but the people who will design the regalia are Zimbabweans.”
Charumbira said the Chief’s Council has been submitting budgets to Treasury to carry out the nationwide consultations over the past five years, but these have not been approved, while in the few cases that they have been accepted, the allocated funds have not been disbursed.
The issue of outdated regalia is not peculiar to chiefs as the Judicial Service Commission is in the process of changing the one for Judges, which has also been described as colonial.
The current chiefs’ regalia is made up of a red and purple gown, a helmet, a breastplate, a name badge and a walking stick.
It is particularly the red on the gown which commentators complain about, arguing that it is associated with blood.