Tendai Rupapa in MUTARE
ZIMBABWEANS must revert to their traditional norms and values, and shy away from alien cultures that have caused chaos in schools and marriages, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
She spoke candidly against cases of domestic violence, which have been spiralling upwards since the Covid-19-induced lockdown in March this year.
Addressing an interactive session with chiefs’ and headmen’s wives from Manicaland Province here yesterday, the First Lady said she was disturbed by widespread reports of misbehaviour by school children.
The mother of the nation implored the spouses of 33 chiefs and 87 headmen, who attended yesterday’s educative session, to use their social position to influence positive change in their communities.
“I am happy to be with you here, where we are gathered today to discuss various issues affecting children in our communities. I have come so that we discuss about Covid-19, which has affected our traditional way of life. With this issue, we are in a new world as everything has changed. But how do we wage this battle to preserve our culture?
“Covid-19 has brought challenges in our homes as couples are fighting day and night, while young boys and girls are starting families at a tender age. We have children who are now having children. Our way of life has changed. As chiefs’ and headmen’s wives, how are you solving such cases in your areas of jurisdiction so that we live in peace while observing our culture?”
The First Lady has a passion for the welfare of children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable members of the community, as evidenced by the various income-generating programmes she has initiated for their benefit.
Most Zimbabweans, she said, respect their traditional leadership despite the fact that they mostly live in cities and towns.
“Even in towns you find people building relationships based on where they come from. This shows the importance they attach to their places of origin, which build the foundation for everyone. Nowadays we are seeing despicable things being done by schoolgirls doing pole dancing while half-naked.
“Let’s discuss and seek ways to end such bad behaviour in our schools. Let us unite and come up with a resolution which binds us as families, and let us work together with teachers to identify the root cause of these challenges,” she said.
The First Lady said chiefs’ and headmen’s wives wielded power in the communities and their voices go far and wide.
“I urge you to be experts and champions in spreading the word regarding life and the best way to live. Therefore, we want our young people to be equipped with knowledge on the health challenges associated with early sexual relationships before they come of age.
“You need to share information on how you overcame the challenges during your time. We must revive and treasure our traditional way of life as we are following alien cultures. We are here to revive our culture and treasure our old way of life because marriages are falling apart.
“We encourage communication between children and their parents, as our children now know a lot of things.”
Amai Mnangagwa implored aunts and grandmothers to assume their traditional advisory roles to rebuild the country’s “destroyed way of life”.
“We are here to revive our traditional values and promote the cultivation of various crops in your areas so that these children remain productive. There are many crops that they can grow, like vegetables, maize done through Pfumvudza and traditional grains. These crops are nutritious and help people grow.”
She urged the chiefs’ and headmen’s wives to promote healthy living and encourage people in their communities to follow advice from health experts.
Testimonies from the gathering highlighted some of the important cultural practices that cultivated principles and morals among young girls, which effectively could play a crucial part in their marriages.
During the lively interactive session, Chief Saurombe’s wife said she always ensures her husband is “well-fed and smartly dressed”.
“I make sure my husband is well-fed and is smartly dressed before leaving the house. I prepare him meals using traditional grains, which are nutritious, and this brings happiness in the home,” she said.
Mai Saurombe said the current crop of young women had no time to cook for their husbands, and this naturally caused violence and challenges in their marriages.
“Young women must be taught our traditional way of life, which they have done away with. We want to thank Amai for this educative programme and we promise to take what we have learnt here back to our communities and teach our daughters to reduce the incidences of domestic violence.”
Mai Mambo Madziwa likened herself and her husband to doves which are always close to each other.
“Today’s youngsters are always fighting because of promiscuity. We no longer have aunts and grandmothers to teach better ways of living, and that role now has to be performed by us mothers.
“I urge fellow chiefs’ spouses to form groups of young couples in their communities and teach them the traditional way of life, which is respectable, and we thank the First Lady for such a good move.”
Mai headman Muradzikwa also claimed she won her husband’s heart by being hospitable.
“Back in the day, headman Muradzikwa came to our homestead as a visitor, and we had been taught as we were growing up to be hospitable. The day he came I ran around and welcomed him warmly and prepared him a meal, which won him over and he told my parents that I was well-cultured. One thing led to the other, leading to our marriage,” she said, drawing laughter from other guests.
Mai headman Mukwadi similarly gave an interesting account of how she ended up being married to her husband.
She said her husband was formerly married to her aunt, who was very cultured and attentive to her husband’s needs.
“My aunt was cultured and knew how to protect her marriage. She is the one who advised us, something that is lacking these days. When my aunt passed on, her husband took me in since he admired the values my aunt had instilled in me. Let us play good roles as aunties and grandmothers to impart wisdom in our daughters,” she said to applause.
Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba welcomed the First Lady and praised her for sparing no effort in empowering the chiefs’ and headmen’s wives.
“We thank you for coming to empower chiefs’ and headmen’s wives. These women have a great role to play in assisting their spouses in uplifting their areas of jurisdiction. They play an advisory role to their husbands and complement their work. They are the custodians of culture. They protect the girl-child in their communities,” she said.
Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Tino Machakaire challenged young women to do away with the dependency syndrome, which often drives some into prostitution.
The youth-focussed bank (EmpowerBank), he said, was ready to advance loans to those eager to start self-help projects.
“We want that dependency syndrome away from our youths. Even those living with disabilities, we have projects tailor-made for you. Please come forward,” he said.
Deputy Minister Machakaire pledged his ministry’s support for the First Lady’s vision of empowering youths in communities.
He paid tribute to programmes and projects that are currently being run under her Angel of Hope Foundation.
Ms Nyasha Majekwana from Plan International said cases of child marriages increased during the lockdown, while most people also had difficulties accessing sanitary wear.
This challenge, she said, affected mostly young women and adolescent girls.
“As Plan international, in partnership with Government organisations and chiefs, we held awareness campaigns on child marriages advocating the safety of the girl-child.”
Women’s Bank representative Mr Kasina Hodzi took the guests through financial literacy and funding for projects.
“Our doors are open for you. Come so that you become economically empowered and independent. In most homes, women rely on their husbands such that even if they are abused, they do not speak up because they fear the breadwinner would be arrested.”
Castor bean farming, he added, could fetch foreign currency for women entrepreneurs.
Mr Evos Makoni from the National Aids Council (NAC) also took the opportunity to apprise the gathering about HIV/Aids, which has claimed thousands of people globally, including Zimbabwe.
Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development representative Mrs Hedwig Mukuze showered the First Lady with praises for her initiatives and interventions.
She also encouraged women to take up projects such as bee keeping and nutrition gardening.
The chiefs’ and headmen’s spouses were given an assortment of foodstuffs and maize seed for Pfumvudza farming by the First Lady.
Amai Mnangagwa said she would take the educative programme to all provinces.
A traditional dance group comprising of older women and men provided entertainment at the event.