Pathisa Nyathi: the vanguard of indigenous knowledge

By Mbongeni Ncube

In the first series of this blog-post “Youth colloquium” an introduction was made of the need for a youth awakening/agency in matters of politics. But before going forward let me take a step back in time with the views and experience of the most influential vanguard of indigenous knowledge of his time and the current, Pathisa Nyathi, thereby as a way  introduce  his protégé Richard Runyararo ‘Mkhonto’ Mahomva the founder of Leaders of African Network, LAN, who is also taping into this knowledge with others like him in LAN.

The following are some of Pathisa Nyathi’s paper’s paper which were prepared for the Reading Pan-Africa Symposium convened by LAN an organisation pioneered by his protégé Mkhonto.

Nyathi has contributed in indigeneous knowledge in the form of history, culture, biographical and liberation heritage books, newspaper articles in the Sunday News, Umthunywa and other newspapers and occasional academic papers presented at workshops and symposia both locally and abroad.

The question that we ask is why does an individual commit himself to a relentless search and documentation of indigenous knowledge?… “I have therefore seized the opportunity to introspect and place my own life and work under the microscope with a view to understand better what knowledge I have been documenting, the transformations that have taken place as I searched for that knowledge  and the emerging ideological, philosophical and cosmological underpinnings that have followed my search for indigenous knowledge,” said Nyathi

He claims that his thirst for knowledge started with his early life following his birth in 1951 in rural Matabeleland, at Sankonjana in the Matobo District up to his completion of training as a Science teacher at  Gweru Teachers’ College at the end of 1973. This early life had its wider political, spiritual, religious impacts had a strong influence on his perspectives regarding what indigenous knowledge he was going to seek and document.

pathisanyathi
Phathisa Nyathi with some of his published books

“The second stage spans his teaching career and working life from 1974 to about 2008. This was the period of intense generation of indigenous knowledge when I penned several books, did several biographies, wrote history  books in SiNdebele and plays for school production.

The period is characterised by the acquisition of knowledge that was no different from that presented by the early missionaries and native commissioners in colonial Southern Rhodesia. he undertook intensive interviewing of several elderly custodians and doyens of our culture: Gogo Matshazi, Hudson Halimana Ndlovu, Gideon Joyi Khumalo, Msongelwayizizwe Khumalo, Mbangwa Mdamba Khumalo, Wilson Lethizulu Fuyana, and Benson Mpungazathi Fuyana, inter alia”

For the liberation heritage he also carried out several interviews and sampled numerous sources of relevant literature.

Moreso, it was interviews with individuals who participated in the liberation struggle that gave him political agency. Nyathi said “The interviews gave me a great sense of satisfaction leading to the unravelling of certain important political lessons in particular getting to appreciate the impact of the hot cold war on local and regional African politics from before the formation of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) to the present”

 He added that among the interviewees on this front were the following: Ernest Dube, Jack Amos Ngwenya, Clark Mpofu, Misheck Velaphi Ncube,  Dumiso Dabengwa, John Maluzo Ndlovu, , Welshman Hadane Mabhena, Luke Mhlanga, Moffat Hadebe, Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, , Andrew Nkulumo Mafu, Isidore Ernest Dube, Stephen Jeqe Nkomo, among several others.

During this stage some considerable mass of information and knowledge had been gathered whose analysis and interpretation led to a new stage where there was more emphasis on the cosmological and philosophical underpinnings behind the knowledge that I had hitherto documented.  The world’s political contestations were seen against the background of competing world interests and not necessarily our national interests.

Some of the books written by Nyathi include Lozikeyi Dlodlo: Queen of the Ndebele : “a Very Dangerous and Intriguing Woman.”

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