Freedom Mupanedemo,Midlands Bureau
Tugging a satchel stashed with exercise books and textbooks as he walks towards school hostels to freshen up after a long day of schooling, 19-year-old Mathew Bidi, who is a boarder at St Patrick’s High School sees some familiar grey-haired elderly people walking nonchalantly into the school gate.
Immediately, something struck him that all was not well back in the village.
As a young man who has grown up under the tutelage of his father, a traditional leader, a customary saying which goes, “An owl does not fly during the day for nothing” quickly comes into his mind.
In his traditional lingo, the elders say if you come across one (owl) flying in broad daylight, just know that something is after its life, something is wrong, so they presume, often correctly.
Anxiety and disquiet ran down the young Mathew’s body and blood when he is immediately summoned to the headmaster’s office and lo, as the gods had already knocked in him that something was wrong, the elders had come to deliver sad and devastating news — his father Chief Gambiza of Chiwundura was no more.
Mathew says it did not immediately dawn on him that as the eldest son and at only 19, he was the heir to the throne, he was the new Chief Gambiza.
So, the elders had come to the school, not only to announce the unfortunate passing on of Chief Gambiza, but to announce that the pupil at the school, Mathew, was no longer the ordinary deceased’s first-born child, but has immediately become a traditional leader back in the village.
Today, a year has gone-by since the passing on of Chief Gambiza in November 2018, and last month, his son Mathew, who was still in school then, commemorated his first anniversary as a traditional leader, probably one of the youngest traditional leaders in Zimbabwe.
At only 20 years, he found himself juggling between his school work and his duties as a traditional leader.
Presiding and passing judgments on cases to do with marriages, mending broken marriages as well as giving lectures on how to lead a marriage life when he is a bachelor.
“At first it was a somewhat bizarre scenario; presiding over cases involving say a 75-year-old and 65-year-old couple brought before me when I am as young as I am.
It was difficult, but because my father had assembled a wise counsel which is helping me, I am finding the going getting better and easier,” said the otherwise media-shy Chief Gambiza.
He says he is assuming his late father’s role and was fitting well into his shoes.
Cruising in a mint Isuzu KB 4×4 double cab chief’s vehicle, the young Chief Gambiza says the Government-allocated vehicle was making his job to juggle between school and chieftainship duties easier.
“I had to quickly learn to drive. And now I am a holder of a Class Four driver’s licence.
I am still in school, supplementing my subjects, so during the week, I at times drive to St Patrick’s High School to do my classes, and on Saturday, I am at the traditional court presiding over cases,” said Chief Gambiza.
He said he is also trying to keep his father’s legacy and was into farming, his father’s passion.
“My father was a passionate farmer, so is my mother. My mother helps me a lot on the farming side, so we are trying to keep our father’s legacy alive.
“I am also happy that I have a very vibrant and supportive team which gives me counsel during our traditional court, so everything is good.
We just picked up from what my father left, and we trying to do everything in accordance to the Traditional Leaders Act and what my father used to do,” said the young traditional leader.
Chief Gambiza said he was raring to go, adding that he felt the leadership role was in-born.
He said his role as a traditional leader will not hamper his educational ambitions, but would rather help his dream to achieve more goals in life.
“I can’t say my career path has been disturbed by the new role that came at a tender age.
Kings and chiefs are born and not made, so I think and believe that it was God’s making that I become a chief at this age, so it will even inspire me to become what I want to be in terms of my academic endeavours,” he said.
Asked how he was presiding over marriage issues when he was still young and single, the chief said: “I have learnt the art; as I said I have a team around me, I am mastering the art. What I do is pass judgment on what my wise counsel would have agreed and deliberated on,” he said.
On marriage, he said he was not under any pressure to marry anytime soon.
Son to a chief who was the first crop of traditional leaders to be incorporated into the Parliament of Zimbabwe under the Chiefs’ Council around 2005, Chief Gambiza said his dream was to walk in his father’s shoes.
In his parting words, the young intelligent and handsome traditional leader urged his people to respect what he embodies and not his age.
“I am, however, happy that the people of Chiwundura are tolerant.
“We are working together very well, and they understand that when we are before the courts, we are not looking at age, but at what the law says.
“I also try to spend much of my time studying the Traditional Leaders Act,” he said.