Matendera Festival lights up Buhera

The Sunday Mail

Gilbert Munetsi recently in BUHERA
Though drought-prone, Buhera district in Manicaland province sits on the national map bragging of a good number of natural resources that draw attention to it.
The district’s endowment with a variety of resources, attractions and minerals provides great opportunity for the enhancement of livelihoods for the local community whose dependence on agriculture is quite limited owing to inadequate rains and generally poor soils.
Outstanding among these, of-course, is a cluster of ruins which have since been given a Class Two rating by the National Museums and Monuments, second to Great Zimbabwe.

Visitors take a tour of Matendera ruins during commemorations of the festival

Heralded by the Matendera monuments which are located some 54km south of Murambinda, the other members of this family of historical architecture are Kagumbudzi, Muchuchu, Chironga, Chiwona and Gombe, as well as Tohwe Chipi (the grave of the last known King of the Varozvi).
Add to this Dzapasi (the largest assembly point for freedom fighters, post the liberation war), Munwewamwari and Birchenough Bridge, and you have at your disposal a community that has no reason whatsoever not to want to derive benefit from such an abundant base of their natural resources. Other fringe but equally contributory assets to the district’s GDP are a wide range of wild fruit forests, water bodies and minerals that include phosphates, gold, diamond, vermiculate, tantalite, lithium and magnum.

An exhibition by the local rural women was part of the programme and women showcased foodstuffs and small grains

For the ninth time in as many years, various stakeholders who included the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Buhera RDC, the local chieftaincy, the education sector and the community in general recently all converged at Matendera monuments for what has now become a regular feature on the calendar of the rural set-up.
They shared a common objective which was punctuated with celebrations of what is known as the Matendera Festival, an annual cultural and arts event at this site situated in Ward 19 of Buhera RDC.
Consuming the entirety of the day (from dawn to dusk), the popular function has been specifically crafted to celebrate the cultural heritage of the people of Buhera through their native dances, drama, poetry, exhibitions and the unifying effect of sport.

A traditional dance troupe comprising pupils from various schools entertains the gathering

A 21km race which begins at Dzapasi Assembly Point (known in pre-independence as Foxtrot) before the break of day is the main highlight of the commemorations, and the general populace of the district have heartily welcomed the aim to empower them through the provision of prizes which comprise the livestock family of cattle, goats, sheep and poultry.

Prizes for athletes included sheep and here a young female winner receives her prize from officials

JM Busha 54 Races under their theme “I am Peace” are the principal sponsors of this grand commemoration, and this time around the company courted a consortium of corporates who operate under the banner CEO Africa Round Table. This year’s edition was graced by the Member of Parliament for Buhera Central, Hon Dr Matthew Nyashanu, Chief Nyashanu and a representative from the office of the Minister of Provincial Affairs (Manicaland).
In a speech read on her behalf, Manicaland’s Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Dr Ellen Gwarazimba, said her office takes pride in efforts to protect indigenous values as the prime reason for the gathering was to simulate the spirit of unhu/ubuntu.
“Festivals of such a nature give us our identity, and it remains imperative that we continue to safeguard our culture. Our heritage – whether tangible or intangible – gives us reason of our existence and through this event, we have the chance to evaluate our efforts in conserving our heritage,” she said.

Buhera RDC chief executive, Dr Emily Chibvongodze

Her remarks were affirmed by Buhera RDC chief executive, Dr Emily Chibvongodze, who told the gathering: “From its inception in 2010, the festival has grown. Efforts to protect our indigenous values have been made by the involvement of the community to preserve and spread awareness of our heritage resources. In the same vein, the local authority has managed to showcase at ZITF and Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo and in recent years, won awards for the publicity of the heritage sites.
“The RDC has gone far to attend the Great Limpopo Festival in Chiredzi where there has been a sharing of cultural ideas and best practices.”
She said her institution was mentoring the community so it could handle the annual festival as a process that will wean them off to take charge for empowerment, accountability, ownership and sustainability adding that contextually, tourism is capable of placing Buhera on the development radar and increase revenue generation for her council and the community at large.

An athlete romps home in the 21km race that began at Dzapasi and ended at Matendera monuments

JM Busha 54 Races executive director, Ms Pamela Makanjera, said through the festival, her company has identified a number of disadvantaged but talented athletes whom they have since adopted and are nurturing for national, regional and international races.
As a way to increase awareness and domestic and external tourist volumes on behalf of the people of Buhera, JM Busha 54 has roped in a safari operator, Monkey Safaris, which will assist with strategies to woo visitors to Matendera and other surrounding attractions.