OUR spirituality has several
Because the spirit is the one that
endures beyond physical life, we
recognise AND embrace the spiritual
We have called on Africans to restore
their religious and cultural identity. To
do that Africans must first reclaim
their spiritual independence. What
does that mean?
It means Africans must recognise and
maintain the spiritual path to God the
Creator that they have evolved over
By nature all men are born into a
family which traces its roots back to
the Creator through the ancestral line.
There is no conversion required here.
Our spiritual connections to the
creator are natural.
We do not need to be converted or
convinced. It is not a matter of
doctrine; one denomination cannot
be better connected than another.
Each people within the circumstances
of their evolution have come to know
and worship God in ways that best
suit their circumstances.
In Zimbabwe we have our ancestors
whose spirits are alive.
We have evolved a system where our
first port of call is our parents.
Next come the grandparents and then
we follow the ancestral line all the way
back to Mwari, the Creator.
An elaborate system of practices and
rituals guides our every action, and in
all cases the aim is to be in harmony
and to earn the pleasure of our
creator through our genealogical line.
Let us look at the elements that define
spirituality among most Africans in
Zimbabwe. To reclaim our spirituality,
we must identify the various
We have the the ngozi spirit. If
someone kills an innocent person, the
victim’s spirit may come back to
avenge the wrongful death.
There is no effective way to stop the
avenging spirit except to pay
restitution for the original crime of
In Shona there is a saying that
‘kugona ngozi kuiripa’.
The spirit of the dead person may
possess a member of the offender’s
family and pronounce its demands for
settling the crime.
Western Christianity condemns this
element of spirituality as ‘an evil spirit’
but Africans see it simply as justice
delivered through our spirituality.
Once the ‘debt’ has been settled, the
ngozi spirit goes back to its people
and the matter is closed for good.
There are cases where relatives of the
wronged person may conduct a ritual
calling on their deceased relative to
seek out the culprit and avenge the
The ngozi avenging spirit is greatly
feared and is an important element in
African religion for minimising
commission of murder. People will
warn their relatives and friends saying
‘Hey be careful you will invoke an
avenging spirit’ or ‘unotiparira ngozi’.
The religious ceremony to bring back
into the family the spirit of a dead
relative is called ‘kurova guva’.
The person whose spirit is brought
back so to speak, becomes a
mudzimu or ancestral spirit.
This religious practice underlines the
African belief that every person has a
spirit which must remain united with
the rest of the family.
When a person dies, their spirit
wanders around and is not accepted
into the councils of the departed
family members (matare avafi/
varikumhepo) until a formal induction
ceremony (bira/kurova guva) is
Where the person is buried far away
from the family home, a small
amount of soil from their grave is
brought across and used in the
Once the person’s spirit has been re-
united with the family, his/her
children and relatives can freely call
on him to convey to the higher
ancestral spirits all the way to
Musikavanhu to assist in times of
This is considered extremely
important among many African
communities. If the deceased was a
family man, his spirit will be better
able to look after the family i.e. the
wife and children.
The belief among Africans is that the
living cannot approach God directly
but through the ancestral spirits who
intercede on their behalf.
The ancestral spirits are invoked in
ascending order starting with one’s
father, grandfather and great-
The first three are the basic trinity; one
may call on other ancestors in order
going back in time if they are known.
It is normal to also call on other
ancestral spirits from the mother’s
side especially if the supplicant is
At a higher level is the clan ancestral
spirit (mudzimu mukuru wedzinza)
who holds the position of a patriarch
or matriarch in the clan.
This ancestral spirit is usually that of a
great grandfather and possesses a
close relative, male or female, as its
medium. Many of these spirit
mediums are female.
The next level of African spirituality is
at the level of spirit mediums referred
to as ‘mhondoro’.
In Zimbabwe each mhondoro has a
geographical area they control in a
The boundaries are well defined and
in the traditional set-up each
mhondoro works closely with the
We have already pointed out that in
Zimbabwe, the mhondoro spirit
mediums are all of the ‘Soko’ totem
and some of them oversee all activity
at national shrines such as ‘Njelele’ in
the Matombo Hills in Matabeleland
A mhondoro is the spirit of a
patriarch who has mystical powers of
divining and foretelling important
events and episodes in the people’s
lives. They are the spirits of the
ancestors of the people of Zimbabwe,
men who lived centuries ago and had
great spiritual powers that enabled
them to communicate with even
higher spirits all the way to the
creator, ‘Mwari, Musikavanhu’.
Their role is to look after the well-
being of the people in all its
dimensions: the spiritual, social,
economic, health, food and nutrition
They provide consultancy and
advisory services to the population on
all matters spiritual.
They keep the spiritual highway
between Man and the Creator open.
They do this by communicating to the
people messages from Mwari
Similarly they also convey the requests
of the people to Musikavanhu.
Droughts, pests and diseases, social
conflicts, threats to national security
and various other misfortunes are
brought before Mwari Musikavanhu
through the ‘masvikiro’.
The founding fathers of the
Zimbabwean nation including
Murenga, Chaminuka, Gumbi
Nehanda and Kaguvi are Great
Ancestral Spirits with mystical power.
They occupy a higher level in the
spiritual hierarchy than the ‘Soko
We have previously shown how these
Great Ancestral Spirits, ‘Midzimu
Mikuru yeNyika’ guided the ancestors
of present-day Zimbabweans to settle
on this land between the Zambezi
They guided the people to migrate
south to settle in Zimbabwe. They
bequeathed this land to the people.
We want to define our relationship
with God, our spirituality, in a
culturally-relevant mode that
recognises our connection to God
through our ancestral line. We reject
foreign religions that isolate, divide
and then denigrate our cultural
identity as Africans.
In the next episode we shall look at
the major elements that underpin
religious and spiritual independence
as we seek buy-in from Zimbabweans
for a spiritually independent