Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter
FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s traditional meal cook-out competition is a step in the right direction and bodes well for the nation’s health, with massive benefits for the economy through tourism development, participants and observers have said.
Yesterday’s African-themed competition was held at Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College in Harare.
The competition comes at a time when most people were shunning traditional dishes which have high nutritional value and medicinal properties.
Published author, Gogo Bernadette Warambwa, who wrote a book called “Nutrition From Our Environment”, was full of praises for the First Lady for promoting traditional dishes.
“I enjoy playing around with traditional ingredients to come up with mouth-watering dishes,” she said.
“I wrote a book called ‘Nutrition From Our Environment.’ This book dwells on traditional dishes and what we grow nowadays. When I heard that the First Lady was conducting these competitions, I joined because that is where my calling is. Many people make mukumbi maheu using mapfura, but I went ahead and did mukumbi wine. I made Mukumbi Red and Mukumbi Rose.
“This will boost our economy as tourists will come and buy our indigenous foods. There are many wild fruits other than mapfura like matamba, hacha which can be made into wine.”
Gogo Warambwa said traditional dishes needed to be packaged craftily to appeal to young children and some “choosy” characters.
“One of the dishes I prepared is madora kebabs,” she said.
“If you serve madora that way it makes children enjoy and even tourists will fall for them because they look appetising.”
Among her dishes, Gogo Warambwa had mazondo, which she said were ideal for the whole family, not men alone as is often believed.
“Mazondo have magnesium, calcium and many other nutrients,” she said.
Child Parliamentarian Lucia Chigiji (16) who was among the participants thanked the First Lady for coming up with the traditional cook-out competition which she said could help curb non-communicable diseases which are currently on the rise.
“There are non-communicable diseases that are killing a lot of people and we need healthy food to prevent this,” she said.
“If youths see some of them in programmes like these, they will be inspired.
“The world is being ravaged by many non-communicable diseases and lives are being lost day by day. Statistics clearly show that conditions and deaths are being caused by what we eat everyday. So the question now goes back to us, what is the cause of this?
“Traditional foods are the only way to go and on behalf of youths I would like to thank Amai, Her Excellency, for taking this first step to instil the benefits of traditional foods as this is evidenced by this platform. Amai, I was part of the preparation of all these delicious dishes and honestly I learnt a lot from my mothers and grandmothers who also took part in the competition. A healthy lifestyle is the epitome to peace of mind.”
Secretary for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mr Munesushe Munodawafa said the traditional cook-out competition could not have come at any better time, as some of the hotels and restaurants no longer had the expertise in preparing traditional dishes.
“One thing that we noticed in discussions with our experts from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is that the expertise in preparing traditional dishes in hotels was no longer there,” he said.
“Yes, we get hotels with people who are knowledgeable, but on average out of 20 chefs you get three or four who can prepare the traditional foods.
“Some were trained, but they mainly focused on exotic dishes to cater for tourists from outside. But today we are saying even us as Zimbabweans must tour our own country, we must be able to go around and get dishes that are from this country.
“We want to thank you for coming back with this programme Amai, which you started in 2019. We were moving towards a direction where one who takes Western dishes was considered more successful than the one who takes traditional meals.”
Mr Munodawafa said his ministry was going to work with other relevant stakeholders in coming up with a book of traditional food menus.
Another participant, Mrs Caroline Chitunhu of Ruwa among her dishes prepared tea using munyemba and used peanut butter as milk, while Mrs Maria Chidzere from Ruwa, but who comes from Chimanimani, Ngangu, among her dishes had “Goho potatoes” which unlike tubers that are dug from the ground are found on trees.
According to Mrs Chidzere’s culture, no one is allowed to harvest the Goho potatoes, but they fall on their own from trees before being cooked.
In her remarks, the First Lady called for a return to the country’s traditional norms and values and implored women to take the lead, since they run the homes and prepare meals.
“Let’s return to our traditional way of life, starting with women who build homes, keep the family and prepare meals,” she said.
“Our traditional dishes are important, let’s embrace them. When I gave chiefs wives traditional grains, I was preparing them for this.
“Every woman must have traditional grains at the homestead and dried vegetables.”
In the olden days people lived long because they treasured traditional food which is nutritious. It is important as mothers to teach our children how to prepare traditional dishes.
“Some were using Zumbani as sweeping brooms, yet it is sold at a high price outside the country. Should we be taught the importance of our dishes by outsiders? How beautiful will it be for the country to be known for its dishes and national dress?”
The traditional cook-out competition, the First Lady said, had brought about unity and love.
She urged women to sow the seeds love.
“Women must sow the seeds of love without looking at one’s religious or political persuasion and call me to see how you would have proceeded with the programme,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa also spoke candidly about the behaviour of today’s youth and how she was trying to rectify it through her Gota/nhanga/ixiba programme and urged women to play their part in teaching children norms and values.
Gogo Warambwa came out tops in the cooking competition, followed by Mrs Edna Tendani. They both won sets of pots, kitchen utensils and food hampers.
All the participants were given food hampers by the First Lady.
While giving his vote of thanks, acting Harare Mayor Stewart Mutizwa paid tribute to the First Lady for her all-encompassing programme which was blind to people’s political affiliation.
“As Harare, we feel honoured, we thought it would end in rural communities, but Amai saw it fit to bring it to urban areas,” he said.
“I have also learnt that food is not just about meat. Traditional foods can be mouth-watering if well packaged. We want to thank our First Lady for this eye-opening programme.
“Zimbabwe has its riches which we must embrace. Thank you Amai for educating the nation on the importance of eating traditional foods and their medicinal properties.
“I have learnt a lot of things from Amai, she is a developmental woman, she does not talk politics, she is much concerned about the development of our nation. Let me challenge Zimbabwe, if you continue politicising everything you fall behind. Let us build and develop Zimbabwe as is said by the First Lady.”
Also present were Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Minister Dr Sithembiso Nyoni and Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Tino Machakaire.