THE Rastafarian community in Chitungwiza has thrown its weight behind First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa’s educative programmes geared to end drug abuse, gender-based violence and to promote self-sustainability and traditional dishes which have high medicinal and nutritional benefits.
Members of the community recently participated in the First Lady’s traditional meal cookout competition in Dema and showcased their traditional dishes, explaining to the First Lady how they prepare them and the ingredients they use, mainly natural herbs.
The community said it subscribed to the First Lady’s Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba Programme which promotes moral integrity and the use of one’s hands to earn a decent living.
Yesterday, they requested Amai Mnangagwa to bring her Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba session to them for the benefit of their children.
Leader of the community, Priest Abuna Bondomali, born Dunken Nkuwasenga, yesterday gave an insight into their religion and cleared some misconceptions about their religion.
Leader of the Rastafarian community in Chitungwiza, Priest Abuna Bondomali born Duncan Nkuwasenga, shares an insight about their religion and way of life at their shrine in Chitungwiza yesterday.
He also gave an understanding of various self-help projects they offer as a community benefiting their children and those around them equipping them with life skills.
“I greet Zimbabwe and Africa in the name of God and our King Haile Selassie the lord of lords and lion that conquers all the tribes of Judah and the queen of all queens and the sons and daughters of Rastafari.
“I am thankful for the life of Rastafari that when he came to planet earth he came and emancipated us through his birth and freed us from slavery. He liberated us. We are born as children of Rastafari, but we are brought together by the problems we encounter. As his children we lift Rastafari’s flag,” he said.
Priest Bondomali said they established their shrine in 2010 with the aim of preaching the name and good works of Rastafari.
“This also fulfils our creed which says let those who hunger be fed, the poor be clothed, the sick be healed, the elderly be kept, the young ones be protected.
“In this time we have farming programmes to address food challenges and diseases as we cure them with natural herbs which we are also growing. We grow many herbs like lavender, mint, moringa, oregano and yarrow among others which help boost the immune system and prevent many health challenges which are part and parcel of life,” he said.
The First Lady, as health ambassador, promotes the consumption of organic foods and natural herbs which have medicinal properties.
“We grow crops under the programme that we call ‘let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food.’ This means that the food you eat should be healthy food and be able to cure ailments,” said Priest Bondomali.
“We currently have a programme of ploughing back to the community therefore, we have a school for our children and those disadvantaged children in our community who attend classes free of charge.
“We have a crèche which offers ECD A and ECD B and uses the new curriculum. We identify children from humble families that cannot afford fees and we also offer these children food.
“Besides education, we also teach children various things including craft and encouraging the use of their hands which is also in line with the First Lady’s vision.”
This dovetails with the work of the First Lady who, through her Angel of Hope Foundation mobilises and pays school frees, buys stationery and personally sew uniforms for many children from vulnerable backgrounds across the country.
To ensure their children grow up morally upright, Priest Bondomali said they urge them to follow the image of Haile Selassie and Queen Menen Asfaw.
“We raise our children using the image of Haile Selassie and queen Menen Asfaw to find a princely life,” he said.
“That is why you find the children of Rastafari do not abuse drugs like what other youths in this country are doing something that the First Lady is working tirelessly to eradicate. This is because our children keep themselves as children of a king and behave in a princely way. Those are the principles they work with.
“The First Lady’s Nhanga and Gota programme is helpful because we have seen many children being flung off harm’s way and becoming good children in society concentrating on their studies.
“If they focus on their studies which is Amai’s vision, they then won’t stand in the roads doing drugs as they will spend more time focusing on education or working using their hands.
“The children of Rastafari do not use drugs, but they use herbs. They use the mupanjere (wisdom weed) for prayers, but not all the time. We burn the wisdom weed when praying. Children of Rastafari do not use the wisdom herb aimlessly.”
Some of the traditional herbs and foods consumed by the Rastafarians which were on display in Chitungwiza yesterday.
The same words were corroborated by his wife, Mrs Mavis Nkuwasenga, who is known as Mama Ethiopia and is also the priestess.
“In Rastafari you become a priest at the age of 40. This makes me stand and do works that are done by the priest. I entered the religion through marriage,” she said.
“My husband took me to the Nyahbinghi gatherings. Nyahbinghi is the power of a woman equated to Mbuya Nehanda, the warrior priestess. I am happy for the works that are being done by the First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa because in the Nyahbinghi Order we will be teaching women-sisters council to prepare and consume traditional dishes.
“This is because through urbanisation, no one was practising traditional things but the First Lady is encouraging people to go back kuchinyakare.
“As a community, we encourage people to consume indigenous dishes to become strong and not be susceptible to diseases. One must not only consume indigenous dishes when sick because it may be too late.
“That is why our elders lived longer up to even 134 years. My grandfather from my home area in Gutu passed on at 110 years. He only consumed indigenous dishes his whole life. Even my mother was diabetic, but when she started taking indigenous dishes she is living well.”
Mama Ethiopia said sorghum, millet and dried vegetables were doing well for her mother’s health.
“When we heard about the First Lady’s traditional meal cookout competition we were so excited as a community that we now had somewhere to showcase our food. I am glad that when we indicated to the First Lady that we are from the house of Rastafari, she took us on board and embraced us,” she said.
This shows her great love for everyone because she is everyone’s mother, our mother of the nation. Amai is a loving, humble and hardworking person. If you meet her you will be as blessed as we are as the Rastafari community we were blessed to meet her.”
Mama Ethiopia hailed the First Lady for promoting traditional dishes like millet and sorghum, pumpkins and traditional vegetables which she said had immense health benefits.
“At first it will be difficult, but if you consume a dish once a week, you become used and feel at home with the traditional food,” she said.
“As the Rastafari community we embrace the Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba Programme because if a child is taught what is expected of them, it is important. The child must also learn not to waste her body and be able to lead a future without health challenges.
“When youths consume drugs, it affects their brains forever, but when taught properly like what Amai is doing, they will not go astray. The First Lady is teaching children to preserve themselves and the words are beneficial to everyone. We wish her to visit us and teach us on various issues.”
Ras Respect Mabika, a member of the Rastafari community, said he was actively involved in the cultivation of various herbs for the benefit of the nation.
“Herbs help cure many ailments including asthma, glaucoma, arthritis, malaria and help boost the immune system,” he said.
“On environment issues, we are glad to the First Lady’s programme because she is equipping us with knowledge and we learnt that we can now pick various bottle tops for recycling to make various things here at Dangwe House.
“We are teaching children from the community to do many things like recycling and planting trees. As the Rastafarian community we are grateful for Amai’s programme to plant trees which benefit mankind because trees are life.”
Mrs Tambudzai Derera, a member of the Chitungwiza community whose child learns at the Dangwe Pre-school thanked Priest Bondomali and his wife for working hard to improve the lives of other people.
“On behalf of the parents whose children learn here, I am pleased with what is being done here by the Rastafari community,” she said.
“Priest and Priestess Bondomali are loving people because even when children have no fees, they let them come to school for free.
“They say children have a right to education just like what is being done by the First Lady who encourages children to go to school. It’s true that marasta ane one love. They treat children the same despite different beliefs and for that we are thankful as a community.
“The other thing, they teach children to use their hands because my five year old child came saying they had made a beehive at school which shows that children are learning self help projects at tender ages.”
Dreadlocked 14-year-old Empress Ithope, who is doing Form One, encouraged other youths out there to quit drugs and prostitution.
“Most people look down upon the children of Rastafari,” she said.
“When people see you with dreadlocks they mock you with many names, but we do not look at that. We keep going forward because we do not carry grudges, marasta haachengete chigumbu.
“Even when they mock us at school, we ignore and focus on our schoolwork so that they see that we are not the ones to be looked down upon.”
Empress Ithope explained why the religion promotes vegetarian dishes.
“I do not take meat like beef and meat in general because it may cause us diseases. When people lose stuff at school, they will never point fingers at Rasta because the Rasta is pure,” she said.
“As Rastafari’s children we do not take drugs because we value our health.
“We treasure our bodies that is why we do not indulge in sexual immorality and prostitution. Our body is the temple of the Lord which should not be misused. I discourage other youths from doing bad things which lower their life expectancy.”
On the walls of the centre, there is a notice inscribed “Kwanza/Nguzo saba” which highlights the principles through which they conduct themselves.
The principles are listed as UMoja (unity), Kutichangulia (self determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Uman (Faith).
The principles help cultivate unity and a spirit of hard work in members.
The community prepared a number of exciting dishes like mixed meal dumplings in their language they call them bhora chubwi.
To prepare the dish they use sorghum, millet and rapoko meal, soya, brown rice and flour. They are then mixed and deep fried, but no salt is added.
Some of the dishes prepared mainly from natural herbs and traditional foods that form part of the Rastafarian community’s daily menu. The community members recently participated in the First Lady’s traditional meal cook out competition in Dema. – Pictures: John Manzongo.
They made fresh chips from unpeeled potatoes because they consider the peels healthy and boiled dried lettuce mixed with herbs and flour and deep fried.
The sisters council from the Rastafari community also prepared Nyevhe sausages which is boiled dried nyevhe mixed with herbs, spices and flour they fried before being fried.
Also on the menu were potato fritters and Cassava chips.
The Rastafari community displayed various artefacts like bags, hats, shoes and Jewellery made through beading and weaving which they make with their children and some members of the nearby community in-keeping with the First Lady’s insistence on the use of one’s hands to earn a dignified decent living.
The Rastafari youths are trained many things including recycling, bee keeping, Art and craft, gardening and painting.
Yesterday they had a church service led by Priest Bondomali.
After the service, they had what they call a fire key whereby those with challenges will be singing and encircling a bonfire for purification.