First Lady rallies communities to fight drugs menace Girls prepare mopani worms (macimbi/madora) for a traditional meal during nhanga/gota/ixhiba programme organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Hatcliff

Tendai Rupapa

Senior Reporter

SOCIETY has a role to play in addressing the drugs menace which is wreaking havoc in both urban and rural settings, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.

She made the remarks while addressing an educative Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba Session in Hatcliffe, Harare, as she continues with her efforts to mould morally upright children with respect for the country’s norms and values.

This comes at a time when the country is grappling with drug abuse, teen pregnancies and general lack of morals among youths.

The programme was oversubscribed as she led elderly women from the community and school teachers in teaching girls in the Nhanga while boys did their Gota session with guidance from male teachers and elderly men from the community.

“We have come to lay the foundation to our young girls who shall be mothers tomorrow so that they combine good manners with their education.

“When they succeed, I shall offer them scholarships so that they represent the country abroad. When I offer people scholarships, we do not want them to embarrass us out there.

“We want well-mannered children. Vana mbuya today I have come so that we put our heads together and teach our children before it is too late,” she said to applause.

Gogo Albertina Bwititi thanked the First Lady for her all-encompassing programme.

“Amai, as Hatcliffe, we thank you for coming with this programme as our children were lost. Your heart as a mother was pained by their naughtiness and you saw it fit to come and mould the girl children.

“Children are ruined by drugs like mbanje, mutoriro, guka and they have gone wayward,” she said.

Similar words were echoed by Gogo Tracy Musangwa.

“Nowadays children no longer respect elders. During our time, we would offer to carry heavy loads on behalf of our elders and even offer them seats in buses, but this is no longer the case.

“Girls are doing horseplay with boys and this leads to challenges. Vanangu, as our mother the First Lady said, you must value your education hence we expect you all to take these teachings seriously,” said Gogo Musangwa.

Gogo Dorothy Bvirindi said the children needed to take to heart what they had been taught by the First Lady.

“The words shared by the First Lady are important my children and need to be treasured. As girls you must readily accept to be counselled because you have the image of us your mothers and all women.

“You are wearing clothes that expose your navels and miniskirts exposing your bodies. To reach my age I never contracted any sexually transmitted diseases because I preserved myself until marriage and up to this day I am in my own home with my husband.

“I passed through the Nhanga and embraced what I was taught. Therefore embrace these teachings and take them to heart,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa weighed in saying girls were as precious as gold.

“My daughters do you know that you are as precious as gold. Even the Bible says your body is the temple of the Lord so value your bodies because you are the leaders and mothers of tomorrow. How can you look after your family if you are not straightforward?

“From today, you should leave this place as new creations. I have come for you, to mould you and impart life lessons to you.

Boys being taught how to use a catapult to hunt birds during gota/nhanga/ixhiba programme organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Hatcliff

“We say no to children who spend time at the shops from sunrise to sunset. Let us discuss openly and not tell lies to your mother so that together with grandmothers we find solutions. All the women here have come to teach you. Let us discuss,” she said.

The children were taught menstrual hygiene and the benefits of using reusable sanitary pads.

The First Lady said she was empowering girls in communities through sewing sanitary pads and taught the girls the importance of keeping the pads clean.

A young girl said she was concerned by the surge in young boys who were abusing drugs.

“As girls in Hatcliffe, we have a challenge of young boys who are abusing drugs and harass us on our way from school or even rape us.

“Recently here in Hatcliffe there is a girl who was gang-raped by boys on her way from school.

“The boys were well-known for abusing drugs and they commit crimes under the influence of drugs. Fortunately some of them were arrested while their accomplices are still on the run,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa weighed in saying: “This drugs menace is now serious. We all have to play a part and put our heads together and work with the police so that these bad apples are taken away,” the First Lady said.

A visually-impaired girl gave a heart-rending story of relatives who prey on people living with disabilities.

“Men, especially relatives like uncles and brothers-in-law are sexually abusing us those with disabilities. They take advantage of our disabilities and the fact that they will be looking after us.

“When abused, you consider that you have nowhere to go and no one would look after you.

“This then forces us to remain mum and not disclose the abuse.” “This again pushes us to commit suicide because you will be stuck. Thank you Amai for your programme which gives us a chance to speak out as we vent our feelings.

“This programme is saving lives. If you have no one to tell, it remains in your heart until you kill yourself,” she said as people fought back tears

The First Lady told the children about the national 575 toll free line in her office and urged them to utilise it and report abuse through the toll free so that culprits are brought to book.

“What are the dangers of having sexual relations before time? My daughters do not let these men ruin your life. They will not marry you, so refuse to be abused, refuse to sleep with them until the time is right,” the First Lady said.

In response, the girls said early sexual relations result in sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and dropping out of school.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa plays with a child during her interaction with people after a nhanga/gota/ixhiba programme she organised in Hatcliff. – Pictures: John Manzongo

“Are you able to say no when boys propose love to you as schoolchildren. Learn to say no my daughters. Do not be forced to have sexual relations. Report to the police those who force you or call on 575 which I personally answer. I deplore those who are taking drugs. If you know anyone abusing drugs, send an anonymous call to 575 and also name those who are selling drugs in your communities,” she said.

Inspector Georgina Mofolo, officer-in-charge (operations) for Borrowdale corroborated the same facts and said their efforts to stamp out drug abuse were being hampered by the fact that people did not take their campaigns seriously.

“The whole country’s future is on your shoulders as young people, but drugs are causing a lot of challenges. We have the section of Community Relations and Liaison Office and the Victim Friendly Unit that do campaigns in schools, but the challenge is that you visit a school with an enrolment of over 1000 people yet only 300 children turn up for the campaign and 700 would have bolted. This results in only a few children getting the teachings because some would have absconded,” she said.

Communities were also afraid of disclosing people abusing them because sometimes the rapists were their relatives.

“We have neighbours who sell drugs, but we cannot divulge their names for fear of the unknown. Thank you Amai for this programme and educating the community on the importance of speaking out. As the Zimbabwe Republic Police we are here to serve you, to help you.

“As has been said by Amai, the society has a role to play so that we put an end to this dangerous animal called drugs which is killing people especially the young ones. Most people are committing crimes after taking these drugs.”

Boys also revealed that they had learnt a lot in the Gota where they were taken through life lessons by male teachers and other elderly members of the community.

Obedience Bandera said he had learnt the importance of education.

“We have learnt that as boys we must treasure our education and grow up morally upright, we have behaviours of nowadays where children are lacking respect. We must not take drugs like guka and mutoriro which result in psychotic challenges and rape cases and theft. We were taught that we should be morally upright,” he said.

Takunda Muoni thanked the First Lady for sparing a thought for them.

“We are thankful to Amai for the programme that she has brought us as young boys. We have zeal to teach others. We were told that there are some weapons that are kept in homes by men for the purposes of defending the family,” he said.

Sekuru David Mangwanya said he was grateful to have been afforded a chance to teach the boys saying he discovered that most youths did not know what was expected of them.

“I was with boys and elders at the dare as we thank Amai for the programme which has given us a platform to teach children from various schools. We are teaching these boys good manners that we should have been following but have sadly affected our morals today.

“We thank trhe First Lady for reminding us that children are getting lost yet we as their fathers and grandfathers are still present. Children are taking drugs, they are getting married at tender ages and they are committing serious crimes like rape.

“The children no longer respect elders and we saw it fit to help the children. We researched what used to happen in the past, read books and consulted those older than us to find out what it is that should be done. What we have taught the children today will be shared with their peers all over,” he said.

Sekuru Mangwanya said children were stealing household property to sell at giveaway prices so that they buy drugs.

“After stealing, the children were also performing acts of violence. Some marriages have literally collapsed because of the abuse of drugs where men spend hours stuck like zombies. From the lessons we had, we could see that most of the children were lost as they did not understand most basic things. We thank Amai for giving us this platform to help the children,” he said.

For practicals, girls were taught to prepare traditional dishes, pounding and grinding on stone.

Boys learnt how to slaughter a goat and make traditional tools.

Dr Mnangagwa later addressed the whole community voicing concern over the issue of drugs that was affecting the whole nation.

“I am thankful for your coming here so that we build our family together and go forward as a nation. Drugs are affecting both rural and urban areas where children are ruined and some have dropped out of school. Many children are falling pregnant because of the drugs menace.

“This has destroyed families. As a mother I found it prudent that we sit down and find out who is selling drugs that are destroying children. We are killing our own children because children belong to everyone. I hear there are some women who are selling drugs to children.

When things get to this extent, will they be able to teach children. Long back women were respected, but today we are also losing manners,” she said.

Some women were wearing clothes that exposed their navels are spending time in bad places. The First Lady urged women to introspect and see that we did not get lost.

“God created us as the people of Zimbabwe and gave us a beautiful country with its own norms and values, but we are assimilating foreign cultures. I have come so that we discuss as women, men, grandmothers and grandfathers putting our heads together. You see a girl doing pole dancing in the nude, is this acceptable? Girls are coming out tops in drinking beer,” she lamented.

Girls were are also engaging in premature sexual activities.

“I once visited this place teaching former ladies of the night to use their hands through projects like detergent-making so that they quit the oldest profession and drugs so that they have manners. Therefore, my children accept to be counselled. As unties, grandmothers and uncles are you still playing your roles of moulding children? Can children go to ruin under our watch. How shall we end the issue of drug abuse?” she queried.

The question elicited a lot of responses.

“True the children are troubling us and I shudder to think whether this is indeed the child I gave birth to because he has changed and no longer lives in the home but at the places where they take drugs. I wish to go door-by-door rescuing children and working with you Amai,” said one of the community members.

Mrs Faith Mandeya expressed gratitude to the First Lady for her toll-free line.

“Amai we are thankful for the 575 call centre in your office. As communities if we utilise this number reporting such cases and working with the police, our country will be a better place. The challenge is we provide refuge to people who are selling drugs and do not report them to the police,’ she said.

The First Lady asked the boys and girls as to the kind of life partner they would want in future.

Both boys and girls said they wanted someone who was learned and did not take drugs.

Dr Mnangagwa weighed in saying all those attributes could be found in people who went through the nhanga and Gota lessons.

She said she was happy to see children preparing traditional dishes which were nutritious and had medicinal properties.

“My children embrace what you have learnt here for your own benefit. We want good morals and say no to drugs. Let us work and cooperate with the police as communities. We all have a role to play so that we have a drug free country,” she said.

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