Volume: Volume 20 - 2016
Article type: Refereed article
In Zimbabwe, 67 per cent of the population resides in rural (communal) areas where the institution of traditional leadership, rather than modern state structures, is the immediate form of government. The institution of traditional leadership plays a crucial role in the governance of these rural communities. Its role, however, remains controversial ever since the colonial government tampered with its structure and system. Successive governments in both the colonial and independent eras have (re-)defined the place and role of the institution in the political system, mostly to protect their respective narrow political interests at the expense of those of the broader generality of society, particularly those of rural communities. Surprisingly, the legitimacy of and support for the institution of traditional leadership, especially in rural areas, remains largely unshaken despite more than a century-long period of frequent (re-)definition and modification of its role and place. The 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe has elevated the place and role of the institution of traditional leadership. It acknowledges the important role of the institution in the Zimbabwean polity and seeks to maximise its remarkable resilience to promote the realisation of development and peace, among other goals. This article examines the place and role of the institution of traditional leadership with the objective of establishing its relevance to and compatibility with modern state and governance structures and procedures in realising various constitutional objectives.