Saturday, 30 January 2021


 THREE people in Mahawana Village in Mbembesi on the outskirts of Bulawayo under Chief Ndondo reportedly masterminded a phony initiation party which was attended by over 300 youths, mostly boys, in defiance of both Xhosa tradition and Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The masterminds of the party, who have since been reportedly arrested, allegedly gathered all the party attendees in a kitchen hut where they drank illicit alcohol throughout the night two weeks ago. The ceremony, allegedly organised by the trio with the consent of their uncle, is supposed to be an annual event during which boys that have not been circumcised (amakhwenkwe) are supposed to dance, drink and take part in some traditional games while asking elders and ancestors to pave a safe path for them when they eventually get circumcised and graduate into adulthood later in the year.

Although the ceremony is part of village custom, this year’s proceedings had been cancelled due to lockdown restrictions. According to a villager who spoke to Sunday News on condition of anonymity, while holding such an event was part of normal cultural practice in the village, this year’s proceedings shocked many as what is meant to be a well-intentioned traditional ceremony turned into a boys-only party.

“It is a party for amakhwenkwe and usually boys gather for this kind of ceremony and they are joined by the rest of the community which will be there to give them its blessings. The difference with this one is that it was a party attended by boys only and at least 300 of them attended as they kept going in and out throughout the night,” the villager said.

The party has raised concern among villagers, as some felt that it had the potential to become a Covid-19 super spreader event, as dozens of boys, whose ages ranged from 13 to 18 years of age, spilled out of the tiny kitchen they had been allocated for the gig.

“They asked for a kitchen from their uncle and he gave them permission. So, you can imagine most of them were squashed in a tiny traditional kitchen hut and there must have been at least 300 of them going in and out throughout the night and they were all aged between 13 and 18 because that’s the age group that usually gets circumcised,” the villager said.

The boys reportedly made use of bread roughage and sugar to make an illicit liquor brew that they drank throughout the night.

“They were drinking throughout the night and then when it was closer to dawn, some villagers actually came to watch them as they had their little ceremony. We usually have this event but it is related to circumcision but these boys are now distorting tradition and they are doing it as a way of being naughty. This is not the first time they have done something of this nature, they also did it last year during the first lockdown, so this is a repeat of the same thing,” said the villager.

Chief Ndondo confirmed knowledge of the party, although he said he was yet to get a detailed report of what transpired. Umguza Ward 3 Councillor, Mr Vethi Tshuma confirmed the arrest of three of the organisers.

“I understand that three have been arrested and they are meant to be cautioned and pay the appropriate fines. I’m not exactly sure how many of those that attended the party were also arrested but I believe hundreds attended the event,” he said.

Councillor Tshuma expressed dismay at the hosting of the party, saying it now fell on community leaders to increase awareness around Covid-19 related issues.

“This is a really unfortunate incident that has happened in our community. We have been a community that has been Covid-19 ready, a community that has been Covid-19 regulations compliant. It is unfortunate that a few young people in the community have tarnished this by hosting a ceremony that has got nothing to do with tradition. It now falls on us as gatekeepers in the community to see how best we can rectify and continue to conscientise the community about the dangers of Covid-19. We have been working well with everyone, including Chief Ndondo, to spread the message.

We even have posters tied on boreholes to inform people that the lockdown has been extended. Matabeleland North spokesperson, Inspector Glory Banda, was not available for comment. Sunday News


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