Sacrifice: The second leadership gene

HARARE - In our Shona culture we believe in life after death. Traditionalists believe that the dead can intercede to (Mwari) God on their behalf; Christians also believe that Jesus Christ can also intercede on behalf of the whole human race.

The question of who is right or who is wrong is not the focus of this thesis.

The Shona, as per tradition also believe that when a person dies he or she will be going straight to his ancestors who would have died before him or her.

When the first missionaries came in the late seventeenth century, the Christianity route did not take long to find route in our people because it was just a matter of convincing people that we no longer ask God to be gracious to us through our ancestors but through Jesus Christ.

While our forefathers used to sacrifice (kupira) using cattle and other small livestock as a means of appeasing ancestors, the Christians believe that Jesus was  the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins.

So in shona, the word Kupira comes from the verb kupa (meaning giving).

When you do the giving it means you have sacrificed to remain with less.

In this case kupira is a process of giving in anticipation of pleasing the dead.

When you give to please the living , it is no longer kupira but we call it kuzvipira ( meaning we have sacrificed to please the living).

The person who always gives something to others in complete deprivation of oneself in terms of time, money, assets, food or knowledge is always held in high esteem by the  society.

People will always say Munhu akanaka uyu anozvipira (meaning he or she is a good person he/ she sacrifices for our benefit). When the person does this consistently, trust is then built between the person and the beneficiaries of that sacrifice.

The Rozvi people developed a very strong bond with their Mambos (kings) over hundreds of years because there were times when the kings took their own lives so that the rest of the subjects can survive.

This particular event was captured by Ranger T The historian clearly shows that when leaders make personal sacrifices not always with their lives like in this narration, they will get lasting loyalty from their followers.The ultimate supreme sacrifice is clearly depicted in an account by Ranger.

One of Zwangendaba’s impi gave the following account of their invasion into the Rozvi Confederacy: “Of all the countries we passed through...there was one which struck us as most desirable.

This was the country in which a people called the Abalozwi (The Rozvi)  lived.

“They built their villages in granite hills which they fortified with stone walls. Their chief, Mambo, put up a stubborn fight and then fled into the very hilly granite country, making it difficult to subdue him and his people....

“They threw down beads and skins and hoes and offered us cattle and sheep to go away and leave them in peace...but we were not propitiated.... Next day they came out again on the rocks and directed us to stand below a certain strange overhanging rock.... Hereon were gathered the Mambo and his counselors, jabbering and chattering like a lot of monkeys.

This rock stands about a hundred feet above where we were standing with a sheer drop, and it is here that Mambo threw himself down in our midst to fall dead and mangled at our feet....

“The next day we found that these people had deserted that part of the country during the night and as we wished to continue our trek northward we packed up and took up the trail leaving Mambo’s mangled remains where he had fallen and named the hills the NtabaZika Mambo, by which name they are known unto this day, that is 1898.”

The sad reality is that this was the last Rozvi Mambo Gumunyu who sacrificed himself for his people to move on while the Ndebele were still shocked with the event.

The jabbering referred in the text with some ridicule of calling it monkey sounds was actually the Rozvis pleading with their ancestors for easy passage in the night to come.

The people had given up their wealth and all to the Ndebele but they would not relent and the Mambo chose to die so that everyone can then proceed with more energy and courage.

As a Rozvi myself, this story has been passed from generation to generation and it is still an inspiration for us to give all for the common good of the whole nation or continent.

As leaders we no longer need to offer some animals or some other people to advance our own agenda. A leader needs to offer self as a sacrifice for the common good.

In this case therefore, Kuzvipira (Self Sacrifice,) is the second Goko Routungamiriri (second gene of leadership).

Modern Western literature on leadership place leadership in categories of styles like Affilliative that states:  The affiliative leader strives to keep employees happy and to create harmony among them.

He manages by building strong emotional bonds and then reaping the benefits of such an approach, namely fierce loyalty.

Then we have the Pacesetting Style whereby the leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself.

He is obsessive about doing things better and faster, and he asks the same of everyone around them. If they don’t rise to the occasion, he replaces them with people who can.

While Westerners put a lot of emphasis on human managers behaving like machines that can be attuned to a style that suit the prevailing environment, our African leadership philosophy is interwoven to the unchanging being (Unhu) of a leader  as someone who should give up his own pleasures for the common good.

The leader should sacrifice his time and resources for his leadership to meet the expected goals of the Nation or the enterprise, there is no question of qualifying behaviour to situations and styles.

In our African context the leader who looks for his or her interests in total neglect of the followers’ interests is called Ndingoveni meaning the one who always looks after his interests in total disregard of the followers’ needs and aspirations. We are children brought up in common trusteeship in African urban or rural communities, we cannot then be segregated by styles when we interact with others later on in life.

My leadership model upholds the supremacy of our core beings as selfless torch bearers when we are given the privilege to lead.

*Benjamin is a PhD Scholar at Da Vinci University in South Africa.

Comments (1)

I agree with your unhu concerpt selfleess but was the last rozvi GUMUNYU OR Chirisamhuru? and what happenned after mambo'S DEATH ? when they went to bikita who was now in control was mambo ruling from ntabazintuna or great zimbabwe

t tarubuda - 19 November 2015

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