Binga: It's not mbanje but tobacco

HARARE - You bid farewell to your friends when going overseas, they tell you to bring them chocolates, a bottle of fine whiskey or vodka, or a pair of killer heels or nice suit for men.

But tell them you are off to Binga, all you get is; “Please bring me the highest grade.”

It is a misconception that mbanje is commonplace here, local chiefs say, its not the mistaken people’s fault, it is what they have heard about Binga.

Some of the tourists fly or drive to the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, where Binga is located, with the hope of seeing bare breasted women sitting in a shade and getting dazed from smoking marijuana out of a pipe locally called the “ncelwa” or “ndombondo”.

“As it turned out, most of the women here will infact be smoking tobacco, not getting high on pot,” said Chief Pashu.

He said it is not commonplace in Binga to find women smoking dagga. You will have to search far and wide, high and low, to find such women, he added.

The traditional leader insisted it is not mbanje but tobacco being smoked in a scientific way, with limited hazard to health.

“Saying the women are always smoking ‘mbanje’ is defamation. To put the record straight, they will be smoking tobacco. And that pot is changed every day,” he added.

The water that is put in the claypot purifies the nicotine from the tobacco, he said.

However, Binga is not all about that. Witnesses who have been privileged to travel there, know it is in fact, a resort town with breath-taking views of the Zambezi River and hot springs.

Apart from the wrong perceptions people have of Binga, located in Matabeleland North, chiefs blame Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and churches for everything that has gone wrong in the area.

“Churches and NGOs teach individuality, which in a way is the opposite of how communities here used to operate,” Chief Pashu complained.

Even marriage here was not a one man thing, the chief said, adding it involved the whole family so much so that it would be hard for people to divorce.

“But at my court now, the major cases that I am dealing with are of couples breaking up,” said Chief Pashu, real name George Nyathi.

“Mapona” is the Tonga greeting to say “how are you?” This greeting is said with big smiles and beaming faces, the chief said.

He spoke highly of his people, that they are warm and welcoming and “mapona” is the greeting you get when you get to Binga. Not only do the Binga people speak Tonga, but Shona and Ndebele as well, he clarified. These are not lost backward people as people have perceived over time.

“We even speak fluent English taught in properly built and structured schools,” he said.

“Most of the children in schools here lack exposure to role models for their desired careers. It is a small town, but efforts are being made to provide career guidance to the pupils in secondary schools largely by the institution’s alumni.

“Dominic Muntanga is one person who went back to Binga High School to give pupils at his former school access to various information which would guide them in choosing a career path.

“Even those who pass with flying colours do not know what they want to be or what they want to do,” Muntanga said. “We are bringing a wealth of information to make sure they get almost similar opportunities like those in other cities and towns.”

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