The Sunday Mail
Tendai Rupapa in Chikwaka
TRADITIONAL leaders have thrown their weight fully behind First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa’s interventions to revive the respect for tradition through her Nhanga/Gota/Ixiba programme aimed at fighting juvenile delinquency, child marriage, prostitution, disrespectfulness and drug abuse.
The First Lady has been leading from the front in spearheading programmes to build a brighter future for the country.
She has been tapping into the country’s rich cultural heritage which has inbuilt mechanisms to fight challenges which affect adolescents and mould them into responsible citizens.
Yesterday, the First Lady took her programme, which is called “Dzidziso yaAmai mu Nhanga/Gota/Ixiba yevachirikuyaruka”, to Mashonaland East province.
The proceedings were held at Mr Murambiwa Bungu’s (Chief Chikwaka) homestead.
Chief Chikwaka described the First Lady’s intervention as timely saying most youths of today were getting lost because of Western influences.
“Gota is a hut where the boy child sleeps. Boys of age are the ones who sleep in the Gota. Nhanga is a hut for girls where they were taught in the day and slept at night. This hut was not placed far from the parents’ bedroom for security reasons. This is where the girl child is moulded so that when she has her own home, she knows what is expected of her. Sadly, these things had died down because of technology and Western influences,” he said.
He added: “When you wake up, do you leave your bed undone? Is the Nhanga kept untidy? These are the lessons the girl child is taught. If one is now married and the husband comes home stressed, do you know how best to receive him? These are some of the things the girl-child is taught in the Nhanga.
“Even the boys were taught in the Gota to observe chastity and morality. As boys, you are taught not to keep your spear up always, to look after your family well and respect others. I want to thank the First Lady for the programme because a country without morals is bound for ruin. Even the dressing of today is bad. We foresee great change because of what the First Lady has done.”
His wife, Mrs Memory Rusike-Bungu, weighed in saying what the First Lady was doing for the country was worthy of praise.
“I want to thank the First Lady for unveiling this programme because here in our area children were eloping before they had completed their education. Early marriages are too many here in Chikwaka and I am urging other women especially the elderly in our community to respect, emulate and carry forward the programme. Amai has gone a mile ahead of us as chiefs’ wives but we need to move forward with the programme and sit down with the children regularly,” she said.
During the Nhanga session, the First Lady was with chiefs’ wives, elderly women from the community and Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Aplonia Munzverengwi.
The girls were drawn from all districts in the province.
The First Lady said: “We have come to discuss with you so that you understand your value in the home and in life. We want to teach you what Ubuntu, culture and morality are. We also want to speak about the importance of education. These teachings we are not giving them to you so that you rush into marriages. No, we want to mould you so that you have better values for a brighter future. Grandparents and chiefs’ wives, let us teach these children,” she said.
Mbuya Janet Bungu said the First Lady’s programme could not have come at a better time.
“Let me start by thanking you for this important programme. True, in the olden days we would be imparted with wisdom by our grandmothers and aunties, but children of today have no morals.
“Even if you meet them on the way, they wait for us the elderly to greet them. We have the zeal to teach these children Amai but they do not want to be taught saying they are in the modern world with a new curriculum of life. We are thankful to you for reviving this programme because some girls of today are now boastful and difficult to assign tasks to,” she said.
Another elderly woman at the gathering spoke about personal hygiene.
“First of all when leaving the hut, hygiene starts on your body and where you have slept. We treasure hygiene. Are you putting on clean clothes, are we cooking our meals well because some of you are serving their parents under-done meals. We are saying every girl must learn to perform all household tasks,” she said.
The First Lady asked the girls what it is that they do when waking up every morning. One girl said she ensures the pots and dishes are cleaned.
However, the First Lady said the dishes are cleaned immediately after use and that the house must be cleaned before retiring to bed saying dirty dishes invited cockroaches and rats into the house.
Minister Muzverengwi spoke about valuing one’s body and living in harmony with others.
“Girls do not let boys play with you, have respect for your bodies. You must keep yourselves pure. Also respect your parents and accept to be reprimanded by elders in the community. Some of you our children, you no longer respect elders and your dressing is weird,” she said.
The girls were also taught about menstrual hygiene and the effects of indulging in pre-marital sex.
Amai Mnangagwa warned that sexual relationships spawn unwanted pregnancies and affected education, among many other issues.
“Let’s be responsible because morality is important for us as Zimbabweans. Learn to say no vanangu if a man makes advances before time, pursue your education before getting into marriage,” she said.
The Mother of the Nation spoke about traditional foods and their importance and most of the girls testified that they could not pound or grind traditional grains.
The elderly and the First Lady took them through the practical stages of using a mortar and pestle, cleaning the house with cow dung and cooking. They cooked road runner chicken, mushroom, madora and millet sadza.
Speaking to the girls, Mrs Priscilla Charumbira, wife to chief Charumbira, said there was a need to emulate the First Lady’s helpful life-building programmes.
“We should emulate our First Lady because although she occupies a higher office, she remains rooted in our culture. She kneels when handing someone things, but this is not the case with children of today. It is her wish for children in Zimbabwe to grow up morally upright,” she said.
While girls were being taught in the Nhanga, the chiefs and the elderly men who were being called “ana chipangamazano” took the boys to the Dare where they conducted their Gota session.
After the sessions, the First Lady addressed the community and decried that most children of today had lost morals, hence her intervention.
“Our children have become immoral owing to Western influences and this has wreaked havoc across the country. Boys are moving about with unbuckled trousers while girls are also no longer wearing dignified apparel such that when they walk past, the elderly feel ashamed. They are rushing into sexual relationships, fall pregnant and leave their education midway. Some parents are now also divorcing because of the children’s behaviour. Others develop hypertension. No, this is not the way, let’s do things the proper way.
“Grandmothers and aunts where are you? May you kindly close this gap and assist these children while they are still young. You, who have been educated today, go and be good ambassadors teaching those who are not here present. I will come back here when you invite me to see how far you would have gone with the programme,” she said.
The First Lady took her time to educate people on the importance of following health guidelines on Covid-19 saying the pandemic is far from over. Chief’s Council president, Chief Fortune Charumbira, said he was grateful for the First Lady’s initiative which had brought great honour to chiefs.
“We are the custodians of culture, but we also need support as you are doing Amai. Chiefs’ wives are now known because of you. They can now speak with one voice because of you, so we thank you.
“There is no society which has developed by abandoning its own culture. All these countries, we are rushing to have their own customs and culture which they respect. Amai, you have helped us greatly by coming to build our children to grow as respectable people. The challenge in most parents’ hearts is what kind of people their children will be in the future. This is the work you are doing to mould these children. While we were in the Gota session, we asked one boy why children are abandoning their culture and he said some of his peers were rushing for things that were not of their age. True, young children are rushing for things that are not of their age. In the olden days it was rare to find young people in bars, but today that seems to be the norm,” said Chief Charumbira.
Secretary for Youth, Sport and Recreation, Ms Thokozile Chitepo, said her ministry was thankful for the great work the Mother of the Nation was doing.
“One of the mandates of the ministry is to ensure the safeguarding of our intangible cultural heritage. A year ago, His Excellency launched the policy for our culture and heritage. One of the key issues that had come up as we were consulting with the people is the concern that we are losing a connection with the fundamentals of our culture. People look at young people and say their mannerisms, their understanding of the knowledge of where we come from is limited and being lost. But even as adults, we are losing a sense of how it is that we are sure we pass on our heritage and culture. We must be confident of our history and our heritage,” she said.
Ms Chitepo said the First Lady’s intervention had provided a platform for youths to work with the traditional systems of society to mould a brighter future.
Amai Mnangagwa gave the children school bags, stationery and assortment of foodstuffs.
Chief’s wives were given food hampers and toiletries, while chiefs were given maize seed and fertiliser.
Yesterday’s proceedings were held in observance of World Health Organisation (WHO) Covid-19 prevention regulations of masking up, sanitising and observing social distancing.