This study examines the role of traditional leaders, as custodians of culture, in the fight against
infection with the HI virus and the AIDS pandemic in the Chipinge District of Zimbabwe.
The research aims to assess traditional leaders’ knowledge of HIV and AIDS and its causes.
It also examines some traditional practices to determine whether they expose people to HIV
and AIDS, and it evaluates the traditional leaders’ roles in curbing the pandemic. From a
phenomenological standpoint – and grounded in the African traditional religious landscape –
the study uses a survey research design. A convenient sample of 18 participants for the study
consisted of 3 chiefs and 5 headmen who completed a questionnaire as well as 5 village heads
and 5 elders who were interviewed and involved in four focus-group discussions (FGDs)
that provided a variety of insightful information. The study identifies promiscuity as a major
cause of HIV infection in communities. The results show that traditional leaders discourage
barika and kuputsa as being harmful traditional marriage practices. Furthermore, the study
indicates that traditional leaders encourage behavioural change amongst the youth and
adults alike to curb the spread of HIV and that the pandemic could possibly be contained if
government fully empowered the traditional leaders. The research has value in attempting to
minimise the spread of HIV if communities discontinue harmful cultural practices. Therefore,
donor agencies involved in intervention projects concerning the HIV and AIDS pandemic
and government should work closely with traditional leaders who wield considerable power
in areas under their jurisdiction to arrest the spread of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in the
Chipinge district in Zimbabwe.
The study presented here
is based on research for my
PhD: ‘An examination of
Shona traditional beliefs and
practices in light of HIV and
AIDS and its ramifications
for mitigation and care’ –
promoted by Professors
A. Groenewald and H.J.C.
Pieterse in the Faculty of
Theology at the University