In the past few days, the audio, electronic and print media was abuzz with tributes to and historic accounts of the great giant, the late Vice President Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo.
By Mildred Mkandla
From the accounts, he was indeed a remarkable man who had the interests and welfare of the whole nation at heart.
Little did most of those who had access to the media know of the efforts of communities and their traditional leaders tucked away amongst the hills and mountains around Njelele to honour Father Zimbabwe?
They have been working quietly for a long time preparing for the celebration of the life of Father Zimbabwe whom they can rightly claim as more of their father as he hailed from the broader district.
Efforts are under way to give a full account of the initiative at Mshasheni in Halale.
In 2014 Nkomo’s death was commemorated at the same place and it is hoped that will done there every year under the Mshasheni Cultural Project which is an initiative of the people of Matobo in which the drivers are the communities and traditional leaders.
The coordinator of the event is David Mhabinyana Ngwenya, president of the International Traditional Healers’ Association, who has been working closely with the communities, traditional leaders (including chiefs), and other stakeholders.
For some months, the communities have been meeting with the local leadership to prepare for this great day.
They put in place modalities of how this year’s event will be run whilst at the same time sourcing resources in cash and kind to support the celebrations.
What strikes you as an outsider is the warmth with which you are received and the determination and commitment as well as the unity of purpose in this community.
Men and women, young and old have been working to prepare the ground and enclosures that will be used.
There could be people of different political or religious persuasions but there is not a hint of any of that emphasising that this is a people’s event and not a political one.
In line with Ndebele tradition, villages have made contributions of grain, labour and other food items.
Other well wishers from outside the district have supported the event in various ways.
The process of making traditional brew started a few weeks ago with the preparation of malt (imithombo).
Despite the severe cold mornings and nights, the women have been camping on site from the beginning of this week preparing the brew.
If that is not determination, then I do not know the meaning of the word.
Festival of Living Traditions
The commemoration of Nkomo’s life will take place at Mshasheni on Saturday, July4 starting at 10:00 am.
There will be feasting and dancing all day long. Alongside this main event will be a Festival of Living Traditions where the people of Matobo’s way of life will be show cased through arts, such as song, dance and artefacts as well as demonstrations. Some of the items will be for sale.
The festival should have started on July 1 culminating in the main J.M.N. Nkomo main event.
Although the festival is mainly an educational event, it is part of a bigger community economic empowerment project.
Mshasheni is an area situated some 100 km off the main road to Kezi in Matobo North District of Matabeleland South.
It is strategically positioned among the hills a few kilometres from the Njelele Shrine.
It is within the environs of Nathisa. Njelele itself is a well known National Sacred Grove in Zimbabwe that is historically well revered.
It is where every year before the onset of rains between August and September contributions of grain and money are made towards the Njelele Shrine pilgrimage.
The strategic importance of Mshasheni is that it is as resting or cooling off point before the entry into the sacred shrine.
In recent times, the rules and regulations that governed visits to Njelele have been violated and in some cases politicised in a negative manner.
Mshasheni was identified as a resting place by the late Vice President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo where he would meet with traditional leaders before going to Njelele.
Working closely with the traditional leaders and communities Mshasheni is to develop into a project that will not only support the cultural aspects of the initiative but will also contribute to the economic and social development of the area.
Before he died, Nkomo had supported the drilling of two boreholes and identified areas that would be used as fields.
Mshasheni itself would be developed along the lines of traditional setups using traditional architecture.
Mildred Mkandla is events manager at Matabeleland Development Foundation and member of the Mshasheni Cultural Project steering committee