Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
DEEP down in Bulilima District, Matabeleland South Province, female village heads are leading their communities but due recognition is not given to them by society and Government.
In most parts of the country the traditional leadership set-up has village heads at the foundation, reporting to the headman who in turn reports to the chief.
Culturally, men have been the ones occupying such leadership roles but like in every aspect of life, women are coming into the picture. Chiefs seem to have taken all the glory and enjoy some benefits that include cars and monthly allowances from government.
Village heads say they do most of the donkey work as they interact with people on a daily basis, but their role is not properly recognised by society. At a recent “electricity switch-on” ceremony at Phakama Secondary School in Bulilima District, a Chronicle news crew observed that during introductions, an almost equal number of both male and female village heads was introduced.
Mrs Getty Moyo, who is Headman Magafa of Ndutshwa Village, has been in this role since 2008. She said the main challenge female village heads face is that after performing their duties as a community leader, they must also perform their roles in the home.
“I have never felt that am not being equally treated because I am a woman leader. You earn the respect by your conduct. So the issue that am a woman is never a factor, I am a village head, I am a leader in my village,” she said with confidence.
It seems the problem of troublesome youths faced by urban areas has also migrated to rural areas as all village heads raised the issue as the number one problem they deal with in their courts.
“The youthful boys are violent, they frequent beerhalls and once drunk they fight and use vulgar language towards adults. This issue is one flooding my court, almost daily I receive reports of that nature,” she said.
Like her counterparts she was thrown at the deep end because her brother who was supposed to take over the role is now based in South Africa. She said the position comes with its own challenges but the biggest is that they are not getting any support from government.
“Am on duty every day. Today I walked around 10 kilometres to attend this event. It is an almost everyday issue, we are called for meetings, we produce reports and deliver them faraway. We must be recognised for the role we play. We do this on a voluntary basis because we are not paid,” she said.
Mrs Thenjiwe Moyo, who is Headman Ndaba Moyo, has been a village head of Gala Village since 2003.
“We solve problems in the community hence we promote harmony and peace in the community. People bring disputes to my court and with my team we solve them,” said the village head.She said cases in her court increase during the farming season.
“Boys no longer want to herd cattle like what used to happen in the past, so cattle stray into people’s fields and problems start. Besides that, we have the usual problems of hunger because we do not receive much rainfall,” she said.
Village Head Moyo urged Government to empower village heads.
“We have sent our request to the Government so that we get bicycles to improve on transportation and a token of appreciation for the work we do but we have not received positive feedback. Today I walked about seven kilometres and that can expose me to danger while walking in the bush,” she said.
The village head said as a female leader she earns the respect of her subjects by treating them all equal.
“All people including men come to my court to have their cases deliberated on. They come to a village head, it is not about gender,” she said.
Mrs Tjinoti Dube, who is village head Gongwayo of Manguba Village, said her role could be easier if they were being provided with resources that can assist them in discharging their duties.
“This is a full-time job. We deserve some form of appreciation from the Government. More so for us as women village heads we do more work compared to our male counterparts, because after performing our community roles we have to go back to our own homes and be mothers,” said Gongwayo. “Youths are the main challenge in my village, some are school drop outs, they fight a lot once they drink alcohol and, in the process, some are injured which becomes a challenge,” she said.
Their male counterparts also bemoaned the challenges they face.
Ntoli senior village head Chief Nkomo said they have a lot on their plates.
“We do not get pay from Government; we are doing voluntary work but sometimes you end up using your own resources to perform the duties. Like in my area youths fight a lot. Sometimes I have to phone police or take the offending parties to them if it is a criminal offence, police this side do not have enough resources so we take offenders to them,” he said.
He said village heads maintain peace in the rural areas and land distribution for people who want to build homesteads.
Manayi Dumani, who is Village Head Kohwe of Phakama Village, said crime was his main concern.
“We have a lot on our hands. Leading people is difficult, crime is rising because of youths who engage in fights when they have soccer games and getting support from police is a challenge because they are not well resourced,” he said.