The excitement of driving into Zimbabwe to witness the annual Cultural fair organized by Gaza Trust-Centre for Cultural Development Initiatives (CCDI) under the leadership of Hebert Phikela, the Head Master of Muhlanguleni high school and the founder of CCDI.
South Africa generally has a negative attitude towards Zimbabwe as many media houses portray Zimbabwe as poorly governed and a poverty hub. This also engulfed my mind as I entered Beitbridge border post. I spent three hours at the gate as the process of obtaining a visa and registrations of
car insurance took place, it was worth the wait as my excitement, driven by meeting the Vatsonga of Zimbabwe in Muhlanguleni, under sub Chief Mupapa and chief Sengwe of Chauke grew.
I had a grand entrance into the beautiful African country Zimbabwe, which is known for its high literacy level in Africa and producing some of the best teachers in Mathematics in the continent. My area of Giyani is filled with teachers from Zimbabwe and their positive contribution to Mathematics and Science is a notable by many parents who prefer them over locals.
When all the processes were done, we journeyed into the country. We passed multitudes of traders just few miles from the border post, some offering to exchange our currency to the Zimbabwean Bonds, others were moving with goods that seem to be bought in South Africa seemingly for business and
household consumption. The engine of Volvo S60 throbs into the main road to Harare and carefully passed donkeys and cows that made the road its warm home during the evening.
It was after 20 kilometres from the border when we stopped at the tollgate and paid two dollars, the journey continued into Rutenga. We passed a police roadblock, but the friendly officers did their work with high level of professionalism and as a foreigner I felt safe driving in Zimbabwe with my fellow travellers.
Dr Mandla Mathebula, who was in the driver’s seat, was making the trip pleasurable as his speed was 80 kilometres per an hour and I could witness all the beauty of nature that Zimbabwe offers. It is Zimbabwe the home of indigenous Rondzwi and Kalanga who are my forebears, I felt at home.
In Rutenga we joined the gravel road that connects Zimbabwe and Mozambique via Muhlanguleni, I have to admit this road needs to be tarred as it could be critical in generating revenue for both Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The road has an easy access to the National Park Gonarazhau, and for those who love excursions there is nothing that beats journeying in the Great Limpopo Trans Frontier Parks that links Limpopo Park in Mozambique, Kruger National Park and Gonarazhau Park in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has less obese people and this could be attributed to their cuisines The beauty of the mighty Limpopo River, the Bubi River and other natural tranquillity is what the tarring of this gravelled road will bring to the experience of travellers and tourists.
The mighty Gonarazhau Park is the place that houses the ruins of Vatsonga of Zimbabwe, the people of Gezane, Masivamela and others who were displaced to make a way for the construction of the park just like those of Makuleke in Kruger national park.
The GLTP is a historic place for Vatsonga as it houses most of the ruins and creation of borders that created a problem where a nation of Vatsonga was divided into three countries and as a result families lost contacts for a century.
Our excursion to Muhlanguleni was informed by experiencing the culture of Vatsonga in Zimbabwe and learning about their survival in a country that has recognized their existence few years ago.
It was their inclusion into the minority languages of Zimbabwe that drove our interest and learning that Vatsonga are indeed a minority but they are positioned at number three in relation to population numbers.
The Venda, Xhosa, Sotho, Tonga and Vatsonga are some of the groups that are trying to have their languages taught at school. It was with pleasure that we met 26 Xitsonga students of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Technicon who will in three years be the first crop of Xitsonga teachers to graduate.
The student attended the annual cultural fair with others from the minority groups and Dr Mandla Mathebula had an interesting historic lecture in the evening near the fire place in the CCDI cultural village.
The excitement and the mood that was blessed with a chilly weather fulfilled the evening. We slept and the next morning the day began with feasting with a traditional chicken stew and some delicious vegetables.
I have noticed that unlike my native country South Africa, Zimbabwe has less obese people and this could be attributed to their cuisines. I did not see anyone selling junk food in the fair nor any junk food outlet and I noticed contented Africans who are blessed with vast amount of land and plough their own food. The Zimbabwe I visited is not the Zimbabwe I read about in the newspapers nor the one I watch the news and hear political pundits analysing about.
The showcasing of Xitsonga culture, Ndau, Bapfhumbi and Kalanga made the day to be a memorable day that will forever be stored in my heart.
The organizer Hebert Phikela did not only invite us South Africans in Zimbabwe but he surely built a long-lasting relationship and reconnected the umbilical Tsonga cord that was destroyed by the creation of the border in Berlin in 1885.
It is the national building projects such as the cultural fair and inviting of ignorant foreigners that will assist in shaping the African continent.
Zimbabwe with the entire imaginary problem that South African Media has fed us remains a hope for the continent and an example for proper policing, safety and a friendly nation.
Many could argue about the lack of proper roads and other infrastructure but what is key is positivity of those who have remained to build Zimbabwe in spite of the economic problems brought by sanctions.
It is a country of hope that will one day be the food basket of Africa again. It has elected leaders that are ready to make their hands dirty for the benefits of the masses; leaders that have since brought stability and are working to resuscitate the economy.
Ntsako Shivambu is a South African academic and professional on a mission to understand Shangaan Culture and Tradition the other side of Limpopo, Zimbabwe
– CAJ News