Tendai Rupapa in CHIPINGE
EDUCATIVE programmes being spearheaded by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa have spawned significant changes in behavioural patterns countrywide, prompting communities to request her to visit them for their benefit.
So huge is the demand for the mother of the nation’s Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba, Nharirire Yemusha and Traditional cookout programmes that she barely spends time with her family to satisfy the requests of the citizenry, a sign that she has every citizen at heart.
Traditional leaders, the elderly, parents and even the children have said they were reaping moral dividends and health benefits from the programmes.
Only yesterday, villagers here braved the chilly weather and a drizzle to give the First Lady a peek into Ndau recipes and delicacies as they carry forward her drive to promote the consumption of traditional dishes which have high nutritional value and medicinal properties.
Unlike exotic dishes which exposed consumers to hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity, among many other ailments, traditional dishes ensured people remained healthy and free of medical challenges.
The mother of the nation had been invited by Mrs Faith Samhutsa, the wife to Chief Mutema to see for herself how the villagers were promoting traditional dishes at grassroots level.
The First Lady also took advantage of the meeting to promote environmental conservation, spread awareness on Covid-19, vaccination and speak out against juvenile delinquency and domestic violence.
Mrs Samhutsa said she was grateful that the First Lady had accepted the community’s invitation to see how Ndau food was prepared at while carrying forward her vision.
“We invited the First Lady to come and see what we are doing here in Chipinge. We wanted her to see our Ndau food which prevents diseases.
“Among other dishes, we have dried bangara vegetables which cure hypertension and ulcers.
“We have baobab fruit whose shell is boiled and the juice cures hypertension and diabetes. As a community, we wanted her to see what we do here while complementing her Amai’s traditional food cookout competition which she introduced,” she said.
Mrs Samhutsa said the Chipinge community benefited a lot through the First Lady’s Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme and the traditional meal cookout competitions which they were now carrying forward.
She pleaded with the First Lady to return to Chipinge with her Nharirire yeMusha programme.
Mrs Rosy Dhliwayo, who participated in the cooking competition said the competition gave them a chance to showcase the importance of traditional food varieties and their nutritional value to encourage their incorporation into modern lifestyles.
She thanked the First Lady for visiting her community adding that her vision helped people appreciate the country’s rich traditional dishes.
Equally ecstatic was Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Nokuthula Matsikenyere who said the First Lady’s programmes were paying dividends for communities in her province.
“All these programmes being spearheaded by our First Lady make us so excited and we wish this body of knowledge was introduced way back, Zimbabwe would have been in a far better place.
“Our children would be having good morals, men and women would be living in harmony in the homes.
“Our women would also be able to prepare healthy dishes in the homes. We, however, remain truly thankful for the First Lady’s initiatives,” she said.
The participants prepared mouth-watering and innovative dishes which enticed people to get a bite.
They showcased different types of dried vegetables which included a mixture of mowa, tsungutsungu, guku and muchukubaba, which was said to be effective in curing cold and fever.
Also on exhibition was undumba vegetables from the wild which is said to cure hypertension, maize-meal porridge mixed with roots of Munguraurwe tree which helps to strengthen bones and joints in children.
Ndodzi which is in the same family with beans helps increase blood, cassava, dried okra, mushroom, baobab porridge, yams and sweet potatoes.
Their chicken is cooked whole from the head to the feet and even eggs. The women said preparing a road runner without the feet does not sink well with the heads of households, the menfolk.
One of the winners, Mrs Senior Bhama, was all smiles as she walked away with a set of pots and a variety of kitchen utensils.
She showered praises on the First Lady for rolling out the cookout competition.
She also thanked Chief Mutema’s wife for being a true ambassador of First Lady’s programmes that she is carrying forward.
“We are glad that the First Lady brought this programme to prevent many diseases. We have many children suffering malnutrition and diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure which come as a result of poor access to healthy traditional food. People should not get sick first to appreciate the benefits of traditional dishes,” she said.
So charmed was the First Lady by the showcase that she thanked the community for its eagerness to learn more and spread the programme.
“I am happy to be back here following your invitation. I was in Rusape few days ago with the Nharirire YeMusha programme. The aim is to bring together men, women and their families. If we take our stance as parents, we can then be able to help and teach our children.
“I invited chiefs’ wives to State House sometime back and gave them traditional grains with the aim of rolling out the traditional cookout. The aim of these competitions is to teach each other and share knowledge, to me, these are not competitions, you are all winners and I am happy with the dishes you prepared. These programmes bring about unity among women as they share recipes,” she said.
The First Lady said people should not view traditional dishes as inferior saying the food helped promote good health.
“There are some people who think that consuming traditional dishes is a sign of poverty. No that is not the case. This preserves your health. We have to teach children so that they know our indigenous dishes as we also teach them morals because mischief is serious among boys and girls.
“This is the food that was consumed by our ancestors and this helped in keeping diseases at bay. God gave us our country Zimbabwe and all that is in it, therefore let us embrace our God-given resources and traditional food. Now we also have a national fabric for our identity and we should be proud of it,” she said.
The mother of the nation, who is also the country’s Environmental ambassador, spoke out against the cutting down of trees which she said destroyed the natural habitat for other creatures and affected the way people lived.
On Covid-19, the First Lady said; “I urge you to continue following Covid-19 protocols. The Government is trying all in its might to help the country survive the pandemic. Let us therefore play our part and embrace vaccination. Those on medication for non-communicable diseases, keep on taking your medication even after vaccination so that we preserve our health.”
On a lighter note, the First Lady corrected people on mistakes they usually make when referring to her.
At times, when overwhelmed with happiness, some elderly people she meets in communities during the course of her philanthropic work refer to her as “Mudzimai wenyika”, “Amai vemutungamiri wenyika” or “Amai mutungamiri wenyika”.
Laughing at the names, the First Lady said; “I am the wife of the President of the country zvichireva kuti ndiri mudzimai weMutungamiri weNyika. However, our grandmothers whom I meet wherever I go, when they are excited, vanobva vataura mazita akasiyana siyana. In our culture, if you are referred to as ‘mudzimai wenyika’ it means something totally different which is not proper,” she said.
She asked the audience what a woman of the country meant to them and many could not answer back.
One lady said it meant “mudzimai wemadhodha eshe”.
The First Lady laughed saying culturally it was not proper to say that even to any woman.
“Yes, I am the President’s wife, but I am also just a woman, a mother just like all mothers in our country,” she said.