Chilonga — To the uninitiated, it comes as a surprise that despite being aged over 60, local legislator and retired (Rtd) Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Brigadier Killion Callisto Gwanetsa, has only been considered a man since two years ago.
However, to proponents of the culture of the Tsonga tribe, also known as Shangaan, there is nothing amiss. This is because all along, Gwanetsa he had not undergone circumcision.
Unlike many other tribes in the continent, the Tsonga people still cherish and maintain the cultural values and norms passed on to them by their ancestors.
Circumcision is among the most valued of these.
The Tsonga believe that a male is not worthy to be called a man if he has not undergone manhood ritual training, which also includes circumcision because their tradition requires that every boy who reaches the age of ten has to go under the knife.
This has been the missing link between Gwanetsa and manhood even though he had displayed his brevity as a freedom fighter during the 1970s war that brought independence to Zimbabwe in 1980.
Accordingly, Chiredzi South legislator became a man, in the Tsonga context, in 2017.
At the age 62, he had undergone as circumcision together with other 449 others, mostly boys young enough to be his grandsons.
The circumcision initiation ceremony was held in Chiredzi East constituency, which is under the jurisdiction of Chief Tshovani. Long-time political friend, Denford Masiya, is the legislator of the constituency. He is also a Tsonga.
Pomp and fanfare greeted the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)-affiliated Member of Parliament's passage from "boyhood" to "manhood".
To be circumcised, Gwanetsa had to let go his demanding roles and duties as a farmer and politician.
In an exclusive interview with CAJ News Africa, a jovial Gwanetsa said he underwent the ritual in order to be in harmony with his culture and fulfilling religious dictates.
"Traditional leaders are custodians of the law in their respective areas. This means that whoever wants to enjoy full support of traditional leaders in a particular area has to follow their laws and culture," Gwanetsa said.
He acknowledged that even though he was an MP, some traditional leaders in the area kept reminding him that he was still a "boy" for as long as he was not circumcised.
"As a legislator, I feel I must lead by example and I find it prudent to respect my chief and elders by upholding their culture and law. I also did this for the purpose of my personal health and hygiene. The Ministry of Health and other health organisations are seriously advocating for this. I also urge every man to be circumcised," Gwanetsa said.
He also underwent the knife in accordance with scriptures.
"If you read in the bible you will see that when Paul went to preach to the Corinthians, they asked him whether he was circumcised. When he replied that he was not, they could not entertain him. That's the case with me. My people (Tsonga) did not take me seriously because I was still a boy to them" he exclusive told CAJ News Africa.
Gwanetsa also said that after going through the exercise, he felt confident, complete and healthier.
Although Gwanetsa is of Karanga origin, he now stands tall among the Tsonga people who see him as one of them. Having mastered speaking fluent XiTsonga, he also adopted a Shangani name-Hlengani.
He is no longer a stray sheep among goats. And gone are the days of segregation by VaTsonga (Shangaan) people.
The area he is MP of is s dominated by Tsonga people constituting 70 percent of the population. The remaining percentage comprises of the Karanga, Ndebele and Venda.