by George Maponga| The Herald
A RECORD 1 200 Shangaan men and boys from Mwenezi and Chiredzi graduated at the weekend after undergoing circumcision and initiation as per the dictates of the local culture. Now over a century old, this concept is being employed in the fight against HIV and AIDS. This year’s graduation was one of the largest ever in terms of the numbers as the exercise did not take place last year owing to shortage of food to feed them during the month-long camping.
Among those who were successfully circumcised and initiated at Mafula and Masikere camps at the weekend were Chief Chitanga, Mr. Felani Chauke of Mwenezi.
Jubilant crowds, including women and the elderly cheered day-long celebrating the graduation ceremony which was held at Headman Galoni’s homestead after Government and donor organisations such as Population Services International came to the rescue and provided them with food.
Speaking in Chikokoko communal lands along the border between Mwenezi and Chiredzi districts at a ceremony to welcome those who had successfully undergone initiation, an ecstatic Chief Chitanga said he was happy to be born again.
Chief Chitanga said after being circumcised and initiated, he was now proud to be respected as a true Shangaan chief.
“I am happy and this is the day that I had been waiting for and finally it has come. I was successfully circumcised and initiated and that has made me a real chief of the Shangaan people. Something was not complete in me before but now everything has been settled,’’ he said.
He, however, lamented the crippling food shortages in southern Masvingo, an area predominantly inhabited by the Shangaan people, saying Government and its development partners should regularly intervene to help feed the those that undergo the exercise.
“Our appeal to Government is that circumcision is an integral component of the Shangaan culture but most importantly the exercise has also been found to be useful in the fight against HIV/Aids, hence we feel it should be given priority.
“We can no longer manage to do the exercise annually as is the norm because we do not have the capacity to feed the men and boys as they need a nutritious diet during the camping period,’’ he said.
Minister of State Responsible for Masvingo province Cde. Kudakwashe Bhasikiti attended the graduation ceremony and hailed this year’s circumcision exercise after a record number of men and boys graduated.
Cde. Bhasikiti, however, said the shortage of food in southern Masvingo remained a challenge to the Shangaan people saying the fight against HIV/AIDS could never be won without prioritising circumcision.
“We are happy that circumcision has been proved to have the ability to reduce chances of contracting HIV/AIDS by about 60 percent. While Government and health experts have been encouraging men to get circumcised, we have some cultures which regard circumcision as a key component of their lives. We appeal to Government to assist such communities as they help in the national response to HIV/AIDS,” he said.
Masvingo provincial administrator Mr. Felix Chikovo said the circumcision practice by the Shangaan people showed that there were many cultural practices by Africans which could be employed to tackle some of the social challenges facing humanity today.
Mr. Chikovo said it was unfortunate that Africans had discarded most of their cultural practices. At least four medical doctors took part in this year’s circumcision at the two camps at Mafula and Masikere on the banks of the Runde River in Mwenezi.
The graduates came from Mpapa and Chilonga communal lands in Chiredzi and Chitanga communal lands in Mwenezi and they entered camp on August 5.