The role of traditional leaders in Zimbabwe: are they still relevant?
Chigwata, Tinashe Calton
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As in many other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the institution of traditional leadership has always been central to the governance of communities in Zimbabwe. Traditional authorities take various forms and shapes in many African countries including Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, for example, the structures and systems of the institution of leadership in Ndebele, Shona, Kalanga, Tonga and Venda ethnic communities have some remarkable differences even though they also depict certain similarities. Currently and generally, the institution of traditional leadership comprises chiefs, headmen and village heads- in order of hierarchy. Village heads are physically the closest to the people and thus, have the most interactions with the citizens in rural areas. Prior to the colonisation of Zimbabwe, the institution of traditional leadership was the sole governance structure with legitimacy to govern derived from tradition and culture. Traditional leaders had fused "governmental" powers and authority, ie judicial, administrative and political. Soon after colonisation in 1890 the colonial government dismantled, and in some cases replaced, traditional governance structures with "modern" State institutions as it sought to advance its interests and exercise firm control over the Black population.