Headmen grumble over allowances


ZANU-PF, which is banking on chiefs to deliver the crucial rural vote in the March general election, could be in for a rude awakening as some headmen, who are considered as chiefs by their people but are a rung below, are disgruntled by the huge gap between their allowances and those of the top traditional leaders.

The ruling party, which opposition parties claim scraped through the 2000 elections using violence and intimidation, has changed tact and is now aiming for a clean victory that will bring legitimacy back to President Robert Mugabe’s administration and pave the way for a noble exit for the man who has ruled the country for the past 25 years.

Chief Fortune Charumbira, a traditional leader and Deputy Minister of Local Government, dismissed the complaints from the headmen, saying they were not justified.

The headmen had complained that while they were regarded as chiefs by their people, their allowances were a pittance compared to those of the chiefs.

Chiefs are paid a monthly allowance of $1 million and have been promised Mazda B18000 trucks, electricity and potable water at their homesteads. Headmen are paid an allowance of $400 000.

“The gap is just too wide, yet we do most of the donkey work,” one headman complained. “Besides, we do not have any representation . . . Chief Charumbira and Chief Jonathan Mangwende (president of the chiefs’ council) represent the interests of chiefs and not those of headmen.”

Charumbira said the headmen who were complaining had got it all wrong. He said while he acknowledged that headmen were regarded as chiefs by their people, chiefs were still above them and should in fact be kings.

“Headmen are not deputies of chiefs because a chief can have up to six headmen below him. This is not a typical job evaluation or grading system because you only have three levels – the chief, headman and village head,” he said.

“The person who does most of the work is the village head anyway. Yet he only gets $40 000, way below the allowance of a headman.”

Charumbira said the argument that headmen should be paid more because they did more work did not hold water because even in the private sector, workers did most of the work but their wages were far below the salaries and perks of management.

While it was not possible to establish the extent of the disgruntlement among headmen, the ruling party is banking on them to deliver this year’s crucial vote. Zimbabwe has about 260 chiefs and more than 400 headmen.

The party, which is now shying away from violence, is using traditional leaders as its trump card because they can ensure that their subjects vote for the ruling party in return for the favours they have been bestowed by the government.

An opposition legislator who has been watching recent polls admitted this was a new tactic that could earn the ruling party clean votes. He said the new scheme had already been successfully tested in the Gutu North and Lupane by-elections which had both been won by the ruling party.

There was no marked violence in both by-elections though the presence at polling stations of traditional leaders, who seemed to be keeping track of who had voted and who had not, was intimidating enough to keep their followers in line.

ZANU PF has given chiefs more powers in the run-up to the election, allowing them to fine people up to $100 million. The party also used them to distribute seed to the people, a move aimed at ensuring that come elections, it would be pay back time.

But cracks are beginning to emerge within ZANU PF, with different groups trying to capitalise on the desperation by the ruling party to secure a victory in the forthcoming polls.

First, the party was threatened with a split following the bulldozing of Joyce Mujuru to the post of vice-president, a move that led to the now famous Tsholotsho Declaration which has seen key campaigners in President Robert Mugabe’s anti-West propaganda, Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Chinamasa, being excluded from the polls.

At the moment, party supporters are disgruntled with the imposition of candidates who will be contesting primary elections this weekend.

Any divisions among traditional leaders could be the last straw, something the opposition Movement for Democratic Change could capitlise on.

But Zimbabwe’s main opposition seems to be taking a laissez-faire attitude towards the whole election process.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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