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Response to "Cultural values promoting the spread of HIV and AIDS"
Rev Jeffrey Muleya
June 29, 2005

This is a response to an article writen by Spiwe Chikosi titled "Cultural values promoting the spread of HIV and AIDS"

I am an indigenous pastor and with a fair detail of the BaTonga cultures and tradition. I work very closely with most stakeholders in the health fraternity including the MOH itself. This comment is not just an emotional reaction or defensive criticism, but I believe it may save to correct many cultural misconceptions outsiders (of Binga) have concerning the BaTonga, and prevent further cultural slander perpetrated by poor research mechanisms employed by some visiting officers of some organization.

Thank you, reporter for your interest in helping the BaTonga eschew "perceived extinction" due to HIV and AIDS. However, your report;

  • Carries a lot of cultural and intellectual gaps. Your facts on the general lifestyle of the BaTonga are too far from the true situation on the ground. The mix-up on the effects of the Tonga cultural practices on the people show little research intelligence. Your vague statements like "… culturally closed group". Closed from which or whose culture? There is no standard culture anywhere in the world. It’s a matter of how much someone understands the culture of a particular people. For example, in Zimbabwe Shona culture is closed from a muTonga, Ndebele culture is closed from a Shona, and the reverse is true. So what do you mean?
  • Carries untrue statements. Saying, "… people in Binga are not yet engaged in the fight against HIV and AIDS.." is not only surprising, it is unappreciative. It means MOH is not operating in Binga, DAAC is doing nothing and several ASOs in the district are on a picnic. Under DAAC we have the following implementers, MoH, CADEC, SC(uk), Ntengwe, Adra, PSI, Lubancho etc. I think by now everyone in Binga could either be dead or sick, because first cases of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe are now more than 15 yrs old.
  • Seems to pose a surprise as to why the BaTonga have a unique culture. All ethnic groups have unique cultures.
  • Has key ideas all mixed up. In one sentence you state, "…these practices HAVE KEPT them safe from HIV and AIDS". This means the practice is effective in protecting. In another sentence the same practice is, "…a vehicle for the spread of HIV and AIDS and abuse of children, capable of wiping out the community". The so-called vehicle for HIV and AIDS is true for the whole country and Africa in general. It is not particular for Binga. I believe information from a snap survey should be restricted to internal use, not to put it out on website for public consumption, because it naturally carry inadequacies.
  • Carries too much hear-say. On witchcraft, check the media reports from 1980 and you will understand witchcraft patterns, concentrations and prevalence in Zimbabwe. Case of a father being intimate with a daughter is not cultural among the BaTonga. These are some isolated bizarre stories you can hear of, anywhere in the world. Personally I am hearing of this, in Binga, from this reporter. I am not refuting much of your report contents. I resist your making of issues too particular to BaTonga as if everyone elsewhere is innocent. The allegations of mbanje for tobacco smoked in gourds (ncelwa), probably did not come from the survey. It is one of the "common suspicions" outsiders (to Binga) have.

Most people come into Binga with this mind, and then fry it into a report back in their offices. We are well aware of this as a community. We meet these when we are out of Binga too often. Cigar smoking among the BaTonga women is an extremely rare case."Incelwa", with ambers burning the ground millet grain from above, water in the gourd and tobacco burning under pressure below the grain, yes. Mbanje is illegal and it is not cultural as you were RIGHTLY TOLD. However, this "gourd smoking" has declined sharply since independence, and so is the removal of 4 upper front teeth in women and a few other facial marks for beauty reasons. The BaTonga, like anyone else are undergoing social and behavioral transformation from primitive levels that the Shona, Ndebele, Kalanga,Venda, White people etc, were also at, one time.

Nothing is strange about the BaTonga. It is untrue that Tonga women are not being married outside the Tonga land. Much of this report seems to be based on either misconception, misinformation, stereotype and mentality of cultural superiority many "localized thinkers" have. The statement on mbanje for sexual intentions is not only surprising, it is a social insult. "…Spend the daytime drunk "— where is the police? It is common sense from "O" level science that alcohol and drugs are depressants. Why does it have to be particularized for BaTonga in your report? I am not too sure when the reporter joined the HIV and AIDS field of this country. The "sugar daddy-sweet 16" phenomenon did not start among the Tonga. Visit media reports and ASO statistics, and see how many of these cases of AIDS-curing intimacies have been reported found among the BaTonga. The whole data from paragraph 3 through 5 of this report is a national problem. Long distance from school or short distance in a sugar daddy’s car poses the same problem for the victims.

Moringa tree does NOT treat AIDS. Currently there is no evidence to that effect. It is nutritional, boosts one’s immune system and help suppress the viral load in a sick person.

For more and accurate information I refer you to:

Binga Foods and Nutritional Committee,
C/o Binga Dist. Hospital,
Box 7, Binga.
Tel: 015-317/9 or
Binga Trees Trust,
Tel/Fax: 015-321 or
DAAC Coordinator
Tel: 015-665

Commenting on a people whose lifestyle you do not understand can make one a very funny reporter. External development work have largely been interpreted "resisted by communities" because it is usually imposed on the locals who rightly feel it does not answer their needs at that moment, after researchers engaged by intending implementers have produced misleading reports such as this one to the funding community. The last bolded sentence might need rephrasing because it does not reflect the truth about the BaTonga community. BWALUMBA BULEYA.

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