How the Xhosa community has preserved their culture Ms Thandiwe Dlamini

Nqobile Tshili, [email protected] 

THE Xhosa community in Zimbabwe has a unique identity and a rich culture. They are among the indigenous Zimbabweans, but they have a different origin and history. They arrived in the country alongside the country’s white colonialists between 1890 and 1902, working for the Pioneer Column that occupied the country. 

They were rewarded with title deeds for the land they settled in Mbembesi, Matabeleland North, which is peculiar to them. 

They have since spread across most parts of the country benefitting from the Government’s resettlement programmes, but they have not lost their cultural identity and their connection with their relatives in South Africa.

The Xhosa are easily identified through their unique traditional dress code which includes wearing of beads for both males and women while men carry sticks. 

They also have a distinctive language and a strong sense of pride and belonging. 

A Xhosa male will not be regarded as a man unless he undergoes a circumcision exercise, which is only done in winter. This is a rite of passage that marks the transition from boyhood to manhood and instils discipline and responsibility.

Chief Ndondo

The Xhosa community has also contributed to the development and diversity of Zimbabwe. They have produced prominent figures in the war of liberation, politics, business, arts, and media. They have also participated in various initiatives and programmes that promote their culture and their language. 

They have been visited by Xhosa leaders from South Africa and graced by a Xhosa radio station, Umhlobo Wenene. They have also been licensed to operate their own community radio station, Ngqanga FM, which will amplify their voices and preserve their language.

Xhosa traditional leader Chief Ndondo, recently recounted the arrival of his people to the country. 

“Our ancestors came to this country in the 1890s up to 1902 in different groups. Our ancestors came here during the colonial era. They were part of the Pioneer Column as they worked for the entourage that occupied the country and from that history, we are unique in a way as we have title deeds for the land that we occupy,” said Chief Ndondo.

“So, we have stayed here ever since but due to population growth, some of our members have since moved to resettlements. They are now found in Matapa, Fort Rixon and some of us are now found in Inyathi among other areas.”

He said having title deeds for the land they occupy gives them immense pride.

“It gives us immense pride to be title deeds holders to the land we occupy. However, we have not fully exploited the title deeds because with title deeds we can use that as collateral in banks to get funds if we want to do huge projects,” he said.

Chief Ndondo said he has over 10 000 Xhosa people under his jurisdiction in Mbembesi as a result of the relocation of some of his subjects to other areas. He said the Xhosa still maintain their cultural identity including the all-important circumcision, which marks the transition from boyhood to manhood. 

Chief Ndondo said the Government’s licensing of their community radio station Ngqanga FM, will be critical in preserving their identity when it starts broadcasting.

 “The community radio will amplify our voices, we have so many talented artists here who sing in Xhosa and might not have a platform to be heard. Through the community radio station, we will also ensure that our language does not become extinct,” said Chief Ndondo.

He commended the Government for also initiating efforts to mainstream their language by introducing it in primary schools, although its teaching is not yet widespread.

One of the Xhosa community members Thandiwe Dlamini said the Xhosa pride themselves on maintaining their cultural identity.

“We don’t want to be diluted and we have so many examples that distinguish us as Xhosa. We have Umguyo (circumcision) for men. It remains a very important part of our culture and Xhosa males before reaching manhood, they have to undertake the stage. If you don’t undertake the exercise you will be despised, even if you are a father. If you don’t undertake the exercise, you will not be regarded as a man,” said Dlamini.

She said for more than a century living in Zimbabwe, their cultural identities have not been diluted. – @nqotshili.

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