On Tuesday 25 May 2021, African governments celebrated “Africa Day”. This year’s theme of Africa Day was Arts, Culture And Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want. The celebrations however came at a time Africa is faced by a number of issues; the Covid-19 pandemic having exposed the preparedness of African government in disasters and also negatively hit on the African economy, rise in the privatisation of land and other natural resources and absence actively participation of citizens in building the Africa their want.
Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD) celebrated Africa day in Chiredzi rural district, Gwaseche with the indigenous Shangaan speaking people. The celebrations were attended by traditional leaders, women groups, youth representatives, elected officials and community leaders; a limited stipulated number was allowed due to Covid 19 restrictions. The indigenous Shangaan had time to perform their traditional dances such as Chinyambele Muchongoyo, Chokoto, Marula, and Chigubu and their music instruments such as Chizembe and Chitende wearing their dancing costumes such as grass gears, cowrie shells, animal hides armbands and porcupine quill headdresses.
The indigenous Shangaan also alluded that the planned forced displacements by the Zimbabwean government is disastrous. The majority highlighted that unplanned forced evictions will disrupt their livelihoods, cultural practices and identity, indigenous knowledge and their land rights and other general human rights. Excluding them from consultations and decision making subjects them to unprecedented stress and suffering before, during and after the evictions. As it stands, there are no possibilities of them coping and adapting well to the state sponsored evictions. More so, there is a likelihood of the outbreak of violent conflicts between the state and the Shangaan people. In overall, minority groups have never benefited in most national economic development programs/projects since the beginning of time worldwide. Therefore, the 2020 government proposed Shangaan evictions is not predicted to be an exceptional case.
Despite celebrating Africa with a theme: Arts, Culture and Heritage, Levers for building the Africa we want, the Shangaan expressed their great fear of losing their rich cultural dances, music and related rituals. The abrupt evictions will destroy their social capital and networking which is critical in sustaining traditional dances such as Chinyambele Muchongoyo, Chokoto, Marula, and Chigubu. Also feared to be lost or diluted are the rites of passage for Shangaan boys and girls. For boys, rituals like Hoko are conducted in sacred Chitiyo hill or at Chikulungu stream for transforming them into manhood. On the other hand, girls are also initiated into womanhood through Khomba. In these rituals, girls are taught about womanhood, cultural practices and traditional dances. Disruption of these cultural packages will negatively affect their cultural identities and general wellbeing as Shangaan people. More so the vulnerable Shangani social groups have great fear for the loss of their traditionally harnessed indigenous knowledge from the impending evictions. Through contact with their environment, they have generated invaluable indigenous knowledge in managing their natural resources, traditional ways of weather and seasonal forecasting, ethno-medicine (eg. Zhombwe, Chikalambutani, indigenous pumpkins, inter alia) among others. On ethno-medicine, they have generated knowledge and expertise in treating ailments on both human beings and livestock.