The Zimbabwe Peace Project said Monday that some chiefs in the politically-volatile Masvingo North constituency have been forcing villagers to pay a fine of two goats or US$70 for refusing to submit to the authority of village heads imposed by the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.
The civic organisation also charged in a report that chiefs Gurajena and Zimuto were forcing around 60 families to buy ZANU-PF membership cards, and that those who resisted faced eviction from their homes.
It said the chiefs were angered after villagers in Ward 1 of the Masvingo province constituency resisted a ZANU-PF restructuring of the community. VOA was unable to reach the chiefs for comment on the report.
But ZANU-PF Mavingo Provincial Chairman Lovemore Matuke told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the Peace Project report was misleading. "Those who are fond of falsehoods can continue peddling them but as far as we know as a party there is no such a thing happening in Masvingo," Matuke said.
Traditional leaders have often been accused of taking sides in politics though the Global Political Agreement for power sharing signed in 2008 calls for them to remain politically neutral. Last month a council of traditional chiefs meeting in the resort town of Kariba resolved to back President Mugabe's candidature in the next election.
Political analyst Effie Dlela Ncube told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that it is abhorrent for traditional leaders to punish villagers for refusing to submit to the authority of a political party.