Feminists getting it wrong on Zim women

HARARE - The most important cultural event (though fading very fast) in Zimbabwe around August or early September is the rain making ceremony called “Mukwerera” in Shona language.

The main ceremony is held at the Matopos in Matabeleland South province.

This is an ancient ceremony where all the chiefs send emissaries to Matopos so that the rain making ceremony can be conducted.

Matopo Hills are the hills where the locals believe that Mwari (the name of God the Almighty) converses directly with his people for the provision of water and the sacrificing by the chiefs for the atonement of sins committed by the people during the course of the year.

The place is the heritage of the Shona people called Matonjeni while the Ndebele call it Njelele after they decimated the Shona guardians to the shrine in the early 1800.

Oral tradition has it that the voice of Mwari could be heard from the cave instructing the chiefs on what to do if the rains are to come.

Legend has it that sadza (staple maize meal) and cooked meat will be provided to all the visitors to the MabweAdziva (The Rocks of God the Raingiver).

It is also said that while sadza was being provided no one will see who brought in the sadza and the relish. Mukwerera is still regarded by the diehard traditionalists today as the most important Zimbabwean traditional ceremony that brings us the rains, yet Christians dismiss the ceremony as an evil worshipping of ancestral spirits.

What is still prevalent today is that the majority of the Zimbabweans still have respect (secretly in their hearts if they are Christians of whatever denomination) for the ceremony neither Christians nor non-Christians alike.

The difference is that most of the people do not want to acknowledge it for fear of being labelled too backward, too traditional or heathens.

I have brought this ancient cultural practice of the Shona people to the fore because it is the most identifiable unifying practice in Zimbabwe today.

Mukwerera unifies Zimbabweans and it is a practice which when mentioned you readily know that this person comes from Zimbabwe and is of the Shona tribe.

What is very fascinating is at the centre of this cultural heritage without looking at the wrongness and rightness of it is a woman.

The woman plays a pivotal role in making the whole ceremony readily accepted by Mwari (God).

When the Chiefs from across the length and breadth of the country announce the dates to go to Matopos with beer for the rainmaking ceremony, the preparations for the beer and many other rights are done thoroughly and all the rites must be respected to the letter.

Only old women who would have passed menopause will be responsible for brewing the traditional beer.

The water which is used in the brewing process is drawn by virgin girls. These girls who have not been touched by men are allowed to handle brewing raw materials and brewing utensils.

For the life-giving rains to come and for Mwari to accept the sacrifice of the beer and any other animal for sacrifice, only women free from corruption by men are allowed to enter the holy Matonjeni temple of Mwari.

From the above cultural phenomenon,what can be noted is that since time immemorial within the African community, women were given very prominent life giving roles in the national emblem. The prominence and respect of women in the African context seems to have been overlooked by most feminists and Western Scholars.

The laws which used to have a woman as a perpetual minor was enacted by the early Settlers and it was not an African phenomenon to exclude women in matters of national significance like what the central Mukwerera ceremony depicted.

Rains are life to every living organism on earth and our ancestors gave women the leading role in ensuring that the life giving ceremony was conducted by women not men.

The respect of women and the near royalty given to them for ages is testimony that there will not be any objection from the society if we are to emancipate women from the ravages of hunger and poverty through fair means.

The indigenous knowledge of brewing beer for traditional leaders and invisible powers by Chidzachapo or Matangakugara (Meaning the one who has always been there or the first one) resided with the women and the knowledge is passed on from generation to generation.

The inference that women always took a backseat on issues of national importance is a wrong view about African women.

The supremacy of the woman in the household is also reinforced by the Shona saying that Mushamukadzi meaning, “for a household to stand it is the woman’s responsibility.

The hermeneutic of interpretation being that the woman is given the internal respect for the sustenance of the community through the development of stable households.

In the African context there is no total rejection of women emancipation as some of the Western Scholars and feminist advocates would want the world to believe.

The upliftment of women is not a foreign phenomenon as women play central roles in homes and in nation building.

The protection of women against domestic violence is critical in checking men’s abuse of their physical strength due to their biological make up.

This is a gender issue which is being addressed through law enforcement and education.

The mere gender physiological differences should not be misconstrued to mean that there is general subjugation of women.

The physical anomaly and the taking advantage of feminine weakness should be treated separately from knowledge acquisition, opportunities and material wealth distribution.

If the truth be told, men have received less support in education and income generating ventures in Zimbabwe for the past three decades. - Ezekiah Chasamhuka

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