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Understanding the Nerumedzo Heritage Site in Bikita

By Nimrod Ushe

Nerumedzo is a national monument popularly known for a swarm of stink bugs (Harurwa) which throng annually to that place between the month of April and August.

During that time, citizens of Bikita District, pour libation of traditional beer in petition and sacrifices to please the ancestors/vadzimu/amadhlozi for their precious gift of stink bugs.

Geographical location of Nerumedzo and accessibility to site Nerumedzo National Monument is precisely located at a geographical position of (31 45° 30ˈ E or 20 03° 30ˈ S).

This site is usually accessible by a road which turns at Maregere Shopping Centre along the Masvingo-Birchenough Bridge highway. Once at Silveira Mission there is gravel road which turns to the east and it interlinks with Rambanapasi and Mukore township.

The Nerumedzo natural forest is also approximately 20km from Silveira Mission. 

History of the legendary Nerumedzo and the origins of Harurwa in Bikita

Historically, Nerumedzo was a birthplace of a mysterious child with four eyes.

“He had two eyes at front and the other two at the back of his head so as to defend himself from his enemies” said Molton Paradzai. 

During his infant stage he escaped death from his father, Chief Mazungunye, because he was a twin to Nerumedzo (also known as Nemeso).

He would have been killed following the tradition which condemned twins as an abomination to society in prehistoric times (National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe 2006). 

The origins of Harurwa in Bikita remain veiled in obscurity. But some tradition believes that the legendary  Nerumedzo was given a traditional medicine to lure the stink bugs by his uncles from the Musikavanhu area in Chipinge (Gona reHarurwa).

“It is believed that Harurwa originally came from Mutambara and they flew to Chikore and their last destination could be Nerumedzo,” said Peresu Chikono.

However, other local residents believe that “During the Harurwa season in winter (June to August), those insects develop eggs which could be hatched underneath the ground for several months and it’s most likely their eggs develop into larvae the following year in  March,” claimed Anna Ndoga (Mbuya Ruzive). 

Significance/Values attached to the Nerumedzo Heritage site 

Scientific values such as the study of flora and fauna that is no longer found in other parts of the country (NMMZ 2006). The area is popular with scientists who are interested in the study of Harurwa and other creatures and animals that are found in the forest.

Harurwa could be of economic value. The sale of Harurwa is the source of income for people in Bikita District and seasonal markets are found in major towns and the growth points throughout the country.

Harurwa is also exported to South Africa and neighbouring countries and this brings the useful foreign exchange in Zimbabwe.

More importantly, Harurwa is a delicacy to the people of Bikita and they can be helpful as a nutritional food. Generally, insects are consumed by humans as gourmet foods and protein sources.

In Mexico, insects are well-established food and in other parts of Africa, grasshoppers are considered as delicacies as well. However, prejudice, religion, and superstition might stop people from eating the famous Harurwa.

Harurwa can produce a flammable juice which can be used for lighting lamps. Apart from that, locals claim that Harurwa can be used for medical purposes such as treating Asthma, Flu, and Blood Pressure among other diseases.

And natives claim that the Harurwa can help to boost the Intelligent Quotient. Such a claim cannot be taken for granted because Bikita has a number of good schools such as Mashoko, Silveira, and Pamushana and the Riverton Academy which has produced excellent results over the last years.

Harurwa glands can be useful as insecticides. It could be used to treat vegetable gardens against aphids and vegetable lice.

However, the ” Green” Harurwa could be dangerous. It produces poisonous urine (aldehydes) which can cause blindness, deafness, and can kill humans.

On a lighter note, perhaps people of Bikita could be saluted for their ingenuity and on mastering the art and science of detoxing the Harurwa.

Social values can be attached to the Harurwa and they could be used for community identity. Most of the people who came from Bikita eat Harurwa.

Just like people of Chakohwa can be identified by birds (Ngozha), Kariba  (Kapenta), and Chibuwe ( bullfrogs  /Madzetse. So Harurwa could be the epitome of Bikita residents in a  global setting.

Nerumedzo is also a rainmaking shrine where the community performs a religious practice that modifies weather in order to invoke rain to come in time.

Challenges and glitches of the Nerumedzo Heritage

Since last year, the young people from VaDuma royalty came playing their modern music and dancing Zimbabwean dancehall Clarks during the traditional ceremonies of Harurwa. That it did not please the spirit of stink bugs (Nemeso).

As a result, Harurwa could not come as expected. There was just a handful. During the leadership wrangles of the VaDuma tribe, Harurwa did not descend properly. 

Apart from that, veld fire poses a serious challenge to the environment and they kill mushrooms seeds and the forest at large. With the Zimbabwean economy deep in crisis and the prolonged Covid-19  vacation, school-going children were competing with their parents on picking up the  Harurwa and they were fingered in the most of the troubles of the forest such as deforestation and collection of manure.

Maybe, the school going kids have long forgotten the rudiments of Heritage Studies which helps to preserve our culture and heritage places.

More so, there is gradual encroachment of the forest and a number of homesteads are sprouting on the edges of the sacred grove.

In a nutshell, indigenous communities of Bikita should be sensitised time and again about the importance of heritage conservation through workshops and other facilities. Perhaps, Nerumedzo could be the source of pride for the people of  Bikita. It is a  shining beacon for African Indigenous Religion as people can still perform it and receive instant results on their rainmaking and Harurwa prayers.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende