My friend Lindiwe was furious the other day after she had received an invitation to attend a traditional cleansing ritual called kurova guva of her late husband, Clive, who deserted her nearly 20 years ago.
This man had remarried twice after leaving Lindiwe and their three children. He never looked back to check on his first family for those years.
He sired six more children with two women but never really stayed long in those marriages.
He sadly died at his mother’s house at a plot in Mount Hampden about a year ago, and was buried at his rural home in Murehwa.
Lindiwe did not attend the funeral and burial because she learnt about his passing three months later.
But Lindiwe was surprised when one of Clive’s brothers called informing her about the cleansing ritual which she was expected to attend.
“I argued with the brothers about the invitation but they insisted I had to there, but I stood my ground. That was an insult to me. This is a family that has a son or brother that neglected my children for two decades, and so what do they want from, me and my sons?” Lindiwe asked.
But these are some cultural practices that we tend to go along with without even questioning the relevance of the ceremony, given the fact that Clive had long lost touch with his first wife and family.
“I am a divorcee . . . he left me to suffer with my children and I will not stoop so low as to accept such an invitation. Neither will I be intimidated by dead people. Let the dead bury the dead,” said a fuming Lindiwe.
But what is kurova guva?
Kurova guva is a ceremony or process where the dead man’s spirit is accommodated or brought home to the village of his kith and kin. This is a culture that illustrates the close bond which exists between the living and the dead in Shona life.
When a married Shona man dies, his family is concerned about two major issues.
Firstly, his spirit or mudzimu which must be properly settled, and secondly, they must take part in the ritual to distribute his possessions that is called nhaka.
Nhaka includes his wife, children, domestic stock and personal belongings.
This normally happens after a year following burial, but it may take place earlier or much later.
The purpose of this ceremony is meant to bring back the spirit of the deceased from the grave to so that they can be reunited with and brought into the midst of their ancestors.
Nhaka follows thereafter.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Vimbai Chivaura agreed with Lindiwe’s stance to stay away from the cleansing ceremony but said her children could choose whether or not to attend.
“Lindiwe cannot attend this ceremony because her marriage with Clive was broken many years before his death. She has absolutely no business there.
“Once she accepts to attend the ritual, she will be expected to perform her role as daughter- in- law. A divorced woman has no obligation towards her ex-husband and no one should force her,” said Chivaura.
Chivaura explained that kurova guva is one of the rites of passage that ensure the spirit of the dead does not bother the living.
“A widow can be haunted by the dead man’s spirit. In Christianity we say let the dead bury the dead, but the fact remains that the occult science and occult knowledge is so efficient and thorough.
“They (people) can use that science to destroy or punish you if you disobey.”
Thomas Furusa Dube, a social commentator, queried the wisdom of raising the spirit of a dead man to protect his family from the grave.
“The dead man was unable to look after the children when he was alive so how on earth would they expect him to look after them when he is dead. When a person dies, that’s the end of life; he or she has no powers to look after the people left behind. God gives life, God takes life and God looks after all human beings, whether we want to believe it or not,” Furusa Dube said.
Chivaura, however, argued that the children of the dead man have to attend the kurova guva ceremony because they had the right to know about their family lineage.
He said if the man had neglected the children, it is a matter that required settling through some form of compensation, known as chiredzwa.
“I wouldn’t want to describe chiredzwa as compensation because it is not enough. Chiredzwa is a ritual to thank the widow for a job well done in raising the children singlehandedly, and she has the right to demand that chiredzwa before the kurova guva ceremony kicks off.
“Children also have the right to know that their father did nothing for them and we all know that the best person to stay with children following a divorce is the mother.”
Pastor Erasmus Marikamayi of Harare described the kurova guva ceremony as a waste of resources that exposes human beings to evil forces.
“It’s either you choose to stand by God or the other side. If you decide to proceed with the kurova guva, then you must be prepared for the consequences, because there will always be something that you did not do right.
“The result will be trips to and from witchdoctors by individual family members, resulting in serious demonic influences over their lives.
“The devil is an imitator and he has structures that include messengers who speak like the dead man. The devil knows what you already know so we have to be careful about involvement with this ritual.”
Women’s Coalition director Netsai Mushonga added her voice on the matter, saying punishing a family for refusing to participate in this ritual which uses black magic is diabolic.
“What these people are looking for is financial assistance and they obviously know that Lindiwe’s children are grown up and hold very good jobs. The social and economic fathers are the real fathers and if Lindiwe played that role, she becomes two parents in one.
“Her brothers could have helped her raise those children. And by the way African tradition is fair on children and it demands fathers to take care of their children fairly. African tradition is also fluid and changes with each situation.”
Mushonga said children from the third marriage should meet the kurova guva expenses. She said Lindiwe’s children can decide whether or not to attend.
“The man did not care about these children, so how can he look after them from his grave?” Mushonga asked.