FIRST Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa was yesterday invited to take her educative Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme to Defe Dopota in Gokwe for the benefit of thousands of Zion Christian Church (ZCC) followers from around the world attending the church’s annual conference as she leaves no stone unturned in fighting drug abuse, teen pregnancies and general lack of morals among youths.
The programme was held on the side-lines of the church’s July 20 conference, the day the church’s founder Bishop Samuel Mutendi died.
Yesterday’s teachings at the ZCC church were timely as they came at a time when most people living and working outside Zimbabwe had lost touch with the country’s cultural norms and values.
Therefore, youths who came from abroad for the conference learnt a lot and promised to take the teachings to their peers who could not make it to the conference.
Children from the church also mix and mingle with peers from outside the country, hence the importance of the First Lady’s programme in churches.
Zimbabwe has a rich cultural heritage with in-built mechanisms to fight juvenile delinquency, among other social ills.
The culture has a “Nhanga” concept where young girls are gathered by elders who impart knowledge and skills.
Boys too are advised by their uncles, grandfathers and other traditional leaders at a court that is known as “Gota” where they are moulded into responsible men.
Most problems affecting boys and girls are solved in the Gota and Nhanga, respectively where elders provide wise counsel.
Boys being taught traditional and religious values and culture by traditional chiefs, church elders and senior government officials who included Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Midlands Larry Mavima and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima during the gota programme organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa at Zion Christian Church annual conference in Gokwe yesterday
It is these values which First Lady Dr Mnangagwa is reviving and taking to all the corners of the country leaving no one behind through the Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba programme, part of measures to fight moral decadence that is manifesting in youths.
Yesterday’s session was targeting boys and girls from Grade Six up to Form Three.
In the Nhanga teaching of girls, Amai Mnangagwa was assisted by the church elders, Chaplain Christine Phiri, Evangelist Nelly Gwatidzo and Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Deputy Minister Barbara Rwodzi.
Boys received teachings from Church elders, traditional chiefs, Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Larry Mavima and Gokwe-Sengwa legislator, Professor Paul Mavima, who is also Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister.
The First Lady started proceedings by viewing practical activities by girls, including sweeping the yard, winnowing maize and rice as well as pounding samp.
She also saw a demonstration of planting maize, cooking sorghum sadza, rice, dried vegetables, goat intestines as well as dressing and cooking a chicken.
Boys also performed practical chores expected of them.
A woman teaches girls church and traditional values while First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and other elderly women look on during nhanga programme at Zion Christian Church’s annual conference in Defe, Gokwe yesterday
The First Lady expressed gratitude to have time to train the young girls giving them words of wisdom.
“I am happy to be with you here, my children training one another as you ask questions on issues you would not have understood. It is true that you, our daughters are in the church, but there are temptations out there outside church drawing people towards bad things.
“Some are still to meet the challenges but they may come tomorrow and that is why we have come as mothers and grandmothers to talk to our children.
“Today we shall discuss a lot of things the children either know or do not know. These children have come to hear from us.
“We should protect our girl child and we want her to have a good name so that she becomes a doctor, a pilot or a lawyer. You are also the leaders of tomorrow vanangu,” she said before giving the floor to the elderly.
Gogo Mary Kanyama praised the mother of the nation for giving children the opportunity to learn.
“We are happy to meet our mother as she affords our children the opportunity to learn. True, there are Zion laws, but our children meet various teachings as they go places. Here we teach the children respect, respect for elders, not to play with members of the opposite sex before the time is ripe and decent dressing. The way a girl dresses must be dignified and must differ from that of worldly people. We are thankful for your zeal to have our children grow on the correct path,” she said.
First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa interacts with girls imparting traditional values and culture during nhanga programme she organised at Zion Christian Church’s annual conference in Defe, Gokwe yesterday
An elderly lady praised the First Lady for her unconditional love for humankind.
“You have so much love for your people and we thank you for your humility that saw you come here to a very faraway place to discuss with our children,” she said.
Chaplain Christine Phiri of the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) started by defining what a girl is and what is expected of her before holding an interactive session with them.
“As a girl you have body parts that are not supposed to be played with by boys. Look after yourselves until the time is ripe. Protect your ‘don’t touches’ my daughters,” she said before bursting into the song “Chengeta chikwama chababa chine madhora”.
Deputy Minister Rwodzi thanked the First Lady for sparing time to sit down with the girls.
“There are elderly men who prey on young girls. If you see an elderly man dating young adolescent girls, that is rape. There are some young girls who rush to those elderly men whereupon they change their way of dressing and start walking in the nude. I heard elderly women saying we should dress in a dignified manner. Are we dressing appropriately, my young sisters?
“And if you come across challenges, are you reporting? Whom do you tell?”
First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and other elderly church women interact with girls during the nhanga programme she organised at Zion Christian Church’s annual conference in Defe, Gokwe yesterday
In response, the girls said they report to their parents, the police, church elders and spouses of bishops and pastors.
“That is correct. When abused and maybe if your brother-in-law is doing horseplay, that is abuse, report that abuse. Speak out. There are some fathers who rape their daughters but do not be afraid of speaking out. Do not protect abusers. Remain in the church my younger sisters and teach others out there to run away from drugs,” she said.
Evangelist Nelly Gwatidzo impressed upon the girls to stop behaving cheaply.
“I have come to say as a girl, you must be expensive to get because an expensive gadget is treasured and cannot be given to all and sundry. Do not be treated like an avocado on the market which is squeezed by everyone and rots fast. If you play with many boys and let them do as they please with you, will you ever get someone to marry you. All of them will be saying we are done with her,” she said to applause.
Gogo Sakina Guda could not contain her joy over what the First Lady did.
She taught the children good manners, household chores and prepared them for marriage in the future.
Dr Mnangagwa weighed in on menstrual hygiene and asked the children the dangers associated with early sexual relations.
In response the children said one may contract sexually-transmitted diseases, fall pregnant and drop out of school.
“Look after yourselves my daughters because virginity is enjoyed once in life. Do not live a life of regret saying “had I known”? Shape your future and be an organised woman in the future,” she said.
She then urged the girls to utilise her 575 national gender based violence toll free line.
Girls receive reusable sanitary wear brought by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa through her Angel of Hope Foundation during nhanga programme she organised at Zion Christian Church’s annual conference in Defe, Gokwe yesterday
On their side, boys were taught issues expected of them and how to go about it when their time to get married comes.
Mr Aaron Zimano, a teacher and coordinator of the youths in ZCC praised the First Lady for visiting the church with her Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme for the benefit of young people.
“We were blessed with a visit by the First Lady here today that we were brought chiefs to teach our young men who are able to enter into marital affairs. Our children had the opportunity to enter the “Dare” to discuss with elders. We discussed a number of things including the fact that before the boys leave the Gota to enter marriage, they are supposed to be able to work for themselves, perform physical tasks and do house chores.
“I discovered that the practices we are taught by our leader Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi are not different from those in our African tradition. There may be a few things that we do not do as they are done out there in the world. Our culture shows there are some things that are permissible and others that are not. Among issues prohibited is the abuse of drugs which is now rampant among youths today, smoking intoxicating substances and taking alcohol. In our church, these things are prohibited as they affect our health and these are the things we were being taught. We were also taught about the importance of totems and understanding that we must not marry people of the same totems as these are our sisters,” he said.
Professor Paul Mavima, expressed delight at the First Lady’s efforts to promote good cultural norms and values among young people.
“We are so pleased with the First Lady’s programmes that have especially come to our area of Gokwe, today she has come here to Defe in Gokwe-Sengwa Constituency which I represent to teach her Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme.
“I was among men who participated in teaching the boys in the Gota. This is quite important as children are taught morals, self-discipline, to understand changes in their bodies and how to behave as those things will be happening. The children were taught what is expected of them, the kind of relations they must have with their parents and their community roles,” he said.
Chief Njelele described the First Lady’s programme as beneficial and timely.
“Let me start by thanking the programme that has been brought by our mother. Amai has been bringing this programme to our province and our children are taking these teachings to heart as we are seeing changes in their behaviour.
“There are other elderly men who had also forgotten about nyaya dzemugota and could not even teach the children today. These also benefited from the teachings brought by Amai through the Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba.
“They did not understand what Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba entails. The children showed great appreciation that the First Lady did a good thing to teach them what they did not know. I thank the First Lady endlessly for the programme and her vision.
“As she travels across the country, she is assisting many age groups. The programme is so important because in churches, some people did not know what our cultural norms and values were all about. Some were saying if they found a girl misbehaving, they would take her to the pastor and headmaster, so we told them that this was not the cultural way. We want them to take them kunana tete, anambuya nana sekuru. These are some of the teachings from the Gota and Nhanga. Our mother is doing great work so that we build our nation,” he said.
Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Larry Mavima was also upbeat.
“The programme that was started by the First Lady a few years ago is very important, especially for the young people. Even though these boys are from the church, they live in communities where they meet people of their ages, the elderly and some young people who will be taking drugs. They will also be engaging in naughty things we do not expect from people of their ages. Nowadays we no longer have functional Gota/Nhanga concepts where one is expected to have done something at adulthood. When we were discussing this with the boys today, we found out that they largely know nothing. Some of them were thinking of getting married and impregnating someone even though they were still in school and did not know how to go about it. I therefore thank the First Lady for coming up with this programme so that our country’s population can appreciate our cultural norms and values which build families,” he said.
Penelope Chikweza (23), a Zimbabwean based in South Africa, counted herself lucky for having been part of yesterday’s proceedings.
“I wish to thank the First Lady for bringing this programme through which we have learnt a lot. In South Africa we do not have the opportunity to learn such things as pounding, winnowing and preparing sorghum sadza. We would be told these things like folktales without the opportunity to practice them. The programme has been beneficial in that I have learnt something and as a woman, I will one day seek to get married so I have learnt beneficial things. I shall teach my peers in South Africa what I have learnt here today,” she said with a broad smile.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Royce Madaka.
“I wish to thank our First Lady for the important programme that she brought us here today. We had never done this before in our lives. We were being taught by chiefs and church teachers. They taught us about drugs which are killing our friends and brothers countrywide. When our brothers consume drugs like guka, they go mad leading to them murdering our mothers, sisters and if people fail to get the drugs, they end up stealing money or stealing household furniture to sell and buy drugs. We also discussed marriage and heard that to be able to do this you have to first know what it is all about and what to expect. Our mother taught us the values of respect to avoid early pregnancies which affect education,” she said.
Kudakwashe Gwanzura said he was grateful to the First Lady for her visit.
“We thank our mother for coming here to Defe Dopota. This was the first time we entered the Gota and we learnt things we had never learnt. We were taught to slaughter a goat and cut it into parts for various traditional rites. We thank our mother because there are some issues we were not aware of,” he said.
In her vote of thanks the church’s national youth leader Sandra Matsika thanked Amai Mnangagwa for her programme and invited her to hold similar teachings targeting Form 4 and tertiary students saying her programme is educative.
The girls and boys who took part in the programme were given certificates, food hampers and school stationery by the First Lady through her Angel of Hope Foundation.
Girls in addition received reusable sanitary pads.