‘Zimbabwe needs cleansing’


IS it not surprising that 38 years after Zimbabwe gained independence from colonial rule, the country’s traditional leaders still don regalia that reek of colonial vestiges?
The chiefs’ regalia is constituted of a red and purple gown, half-moon breast plate, name badge, walking stick and a white helmet – all designed by our former colonisers for their ‘subjects’.
Why this ‘love’, this ‘concern’, this ‘care’ for an institution that was at the centre of the existence of the indigenes.
Chiefs were our conduit to the spirit world and Musikavanhu; they were central in our social, economic and political activities.
Because of their centrality in our existence, it made sense for imperialists to hijack this all-important institution.
The colonisers fully appreciated the positions of chiefs, hence they meddled in the process of their selection.
There were ‘chiefs’ installed by the colonisers with the aim of using them to further their evil agenda and give it legitimacy, citing it had been blessed by the custodians of the land, the chiefs.
Instead of being custodians of African culture, values and land, these ‘chiefs’ were used to further white interests as they became running dogs of the whiteman.
These turncoats were used as evidence that the black majority were in agreement with the imperialists.
Consider the following chiefs during the colonial era courtesy of www.rhodesia.me.uk
l Chief Mzimuni (Matshetshe Tribal Trust Land, Gwanda
District) was made a chief in 1934 and appointed to the Council of Chiefs on its inception in 1960.
He held the Queen’s Medal for Chiefs, the Coronation Medal, the Queen’s Medal and the the Bledisloe Medal for Land Husbandry.
Chief Mzimuni went on both overseas tours by Rhodesian chiefs in 1964 and 1965.
During the Second World War, his people raised money to contribute towards the cost of a Spitfire fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force.
In 1958, they gave 600 head of cattle to the new
University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
l Chief Sogwala (Lower Gwelo now Gweru) Tribal Trust Land in the Gwelo District) was made a chief in 1956 and appointed to the Council in 1960.
He was awarded the Queen’s Medal during the Queen Mother’s visit to Rhodesia in 1953.
l Chief Chirau (Zwimba now Zvimba) Tribal Trust Land in the Sinoia now Chinhoyi District was made a chief in 1961 and appointed to the Council in 1968 and subsequently President of the Council of Chiefs.
l Chief Sigola (Umzingwane Tribal Trust Land in the Essexvale now Esigodini District) was awarded the MBE in 1961 and also held the Queen’s Medal for Chiefs and the Bledisloe Medal.
Chief Sigola was a member of the British appointed Monckton Commission into the future of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the Whaley Commission in 1967-68 into Rhodesia’s Constitution and was a former member of the Tribal Trust Land Board and the Natural Resources Board.
In 1965 he accompanied Ian Smith to Britain to attend the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.
But back to the current chiefs’ regalia.
There was a Chiefs’ Indaba in Gweru last week Saturday where President Emmerson Mnangagwa met the country’s over 280 chiefs at the majestic ZANU PF Convention Centre and Vice-President General Constantino Chiwenga (Rtd) did not mince his words pertaining to the chiefs’ regalia.
It must be changed forthwith, he said, because it is a symbol of colonialism and does not reflect the country’s cultural values and practices.
Said VP Chiwenga: “Your Excellency, my grandfather was a chief and during colonialism, he was victimised for refusing to don this red gown and that hard hat which the chiefs use as their regalia.
“It was introduced by our former colonial masters and does not reflect our culture.
“We have our own traditional regalia which we wear during ritual ceremonies.
“Your Excellency, my suggestion is that we change this regalia with immediate effect.
“I don’t think it should take us a month to do that.”
It is important to note that this is not the first time calls have been made for chiefs to change their regalia.
Historian and former Education, Sports and Culture Minister, Aeneas Chigwedere has over the years been advocating this.
In his book, Shona Chieftainships – Principles of Succession, Chigwedere argues the Government should not have inherited the red gown from the colonial regime.
Says Chigwedere: “The crime committed by our majority rule Government against the institution of chieftainship was inheriting the red gown from the colonial regime.
The chief derives divine power from the founding father of the chiefdom. But that founding father is also the chief link-point to the forces associated with rain.
Both the founding father and the ancestors before him taboo red which they associate with blood, representing either ngozi or animal blood (blood shed by the ngozi or by the hunters).
He must not associate with any red material or red objects.
The red gown presented to our chiefs as an emblem of royalty is the very opposite of what our chiefs should wear.”
The Patriot columnist, Munhamu Pekeshe, is on record saying: “Red, as a colour, sits uneasily in Shona cosmology.”
And in Gweru last week, the chiefs revealed how, when conducting their rituals, they remove their red gowns which they later put on after they finish.
This shows that they (chiefs) acknowledge that red is certainly not their colour, and inevitably, this raises many questions.
Why have chiefs failed to successfully lobby for new regalia since 1980?
Are there some people in the Local Government Ministry who were resisting change or simply sitting on their laurels?
What message are chiefs relaying by removing their red gowns when conducting rituals and donning them after?
Isn’t that ridiculous or could it be there are some chiefs who were/are taking pride in the colonial-linked outfit?
Are there some among us who are still colonised to the bone such that they adore everything British?
Or could it be there was a very conservative element somewhere considering that three different garments and three different hats were designed for chiefs by the likes of Chigwedere years ago, yet nothing has materialised to date?
These questions need answers and the same answers must also address why 38 years after independence, we still have our country’s High Court judges still putting on those hot and heavy wigs made from horse hair?
Ironically, despite the cold weather, the British long abandoned those wigs in their justice system, yet Zimbabweans continue to use them decades after independence.
But back to chiefs.
They have always had their regalia in sync with their identity.
Historians concur that the conus shell disc (ndoro) worn like a necklace was the first item of royal insignia to grace the new chief.
Chigwedere further says the crown (chiremba), an ostrich feather hat, is also part of chiefs regalia in Zimbabwe.
On leopard skin, Chigwedere says: “The one animal that was treated in all black Africa as the most royal animal was the leopard.
This was so because it was associated with chieftainship everywhere.
No chief or headman was installed without a leopard skin.
If it so happened that the family of the chief-elect failed to secure its own leopard skin before the installation, it was expected to borrow one from one of the neighbouring chiefs or use nzunza (civet cat) skin while efforts continued to be made to find a leopard skin after installation.”
Wrapped around the new chief, says Chigwedere, it symbolised serenity, secrecy, beauty and pugnacity.
Not to be left out was the walking stick and royal weapons, constituting the spear (pfumo), battle axe (gano), dagger (bakatwa) as well as a bow and arrows.
It’s crucial to observe that the chief was handed his royal weapons after being handed a few kilogrammes of soil from the four corners and centre of his kingdom.
The soil represented his country.
But decades later and to date, chiefs have been reduced to exhibits of imperialism through their regalia.
Our High Court judges remain in the same boat with chiefs and our traditional values, cultures and beliefs are slowly being eroded.
In fact, some argue they are being ‘Christened’.
What then shall we say?
Have we forgotten who we are?
The mental colonisation and inconsistencies we are showing as Zimbabweans is shocking.
In fact, when one closely looks at it, it is frightening to note that the same Catholic Church, through the likes of Father Richartz, among others, who oversaw the execution of the First Chimurenga heroines and heroes like Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi after baptising them is the same church that ‘blessed’ our independence in 1980.
God forbid!
Zimbabwe still needs to be cleansed!


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