Chief Hata – Nyanga South

The role of traditional leaders is economic development in Zimbabwe communities.

Traditional chiefs have an important role in developing communities in independent Zimbabwe. Traditional chiefs in Zimbabwe as a whole are the custodians of our values, norms and tradition. Having this onus, these traditional leaders play a leading role in developing every society economically, politically and socially. They work hand in hand with the government, Non-governmental organisations and private organisations in fostering development in their respective areas. Chiefs preserve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by allocating land, preserving the environment, promoting gender equality, peace and justice, good health and quality education. It is the role of chiefs together with headmen to preserve and promote these development indicators. At this juncture it is prudent to applaud the role played by Chief Hata in Nyanga South area.

Origins/Historical background.

Chief Hata who is ascribed to ‘Mheta’ is believed to have branched from chief Saunyama. The origins of these people are connected to the Saunyama people. The Saunyama people are believed to have migrated from Mozambique and resettled on a hilltop of Mount Muozi in present day Zimbabwe. Historians conclude the Saunyama ancestry to the Barwe of the Sena dialect. Mt Muozi was the territory on which the Unyama people first established themselves upon their arrival from Mozambique.  Unyama territory is regarded as their most sacred shrine and this archaeological site is believed to have been used as a centre for rainmaking and chief installation ceremonies as well as a burial zone for Saunyama chiefs’. Possibly with population growth and resource needs the Unyama people moved to occupy the present day Ziwa Ruins. Within these ruins the Unyama terraced and built marvellous stone structures that are economically benefiting the local people. However, the advent of colonialism and perhaps population growth the Unyama kingdom became big and diluted. Globalisation and resettlement disrupted the continuity of Ziwa Saunyama existence. Structures were left unhindered. It is therefore prudent to reason that, origin of the Unyama got roots in the present day Saunyama, Kadzima, Mapeta, Nyatondo and Magaso Family. Their fore fathers bow this history and thus their son’s family rotates chieftainship. It is however, believed that Chief Saunyama remains the overall head and the others family act as headman. Currently, Chief Hata from Sedze area is preserving the chieftainship. He reports directly to Chief Saunyama. Saunyama and Hata are just one family which only shared different surnames but same totem. Mheta means a python or Shato in shona. In preserving their totem, the Unyama people punish everyone found killing this vicious snake and he or she will be fined for such behaviour. Therefore, this history is important in trying to elucidate where these traditional leaders came from and how are they preserving the environment. They are surely making strides in preserving their territory and being ambassadors of economic, political and social development.

Economically, Chief Hata currently in Mapeta family are monitoring, distributing and evaluating land. Land is the mother of economic development. Communal land is used for residential, crop cultivation and grazing. Agricultural production of cash crops are dominating in Chief Hata area. Cash crops such as onions, potatoes, garlic, peas and fruits are grown in Sedze area. Fair land distribution and other resources by Chief Hata promoted growth and development of Nyanga area. Management and monitoring of water and climate change in Chief Hata area enables efficient irrigation systems. In trying to mitigate water and climate challenges in his area, Chief Hata came up with deterrent punishment, for example deforestation, channelling water illegally from Nyajezi River, unnecessary burning of bushes and wearing of red clothes during the rainy season. Anyone found doing the above acts or commissions is liable to a fine of one beast, one goat and money. Thus, these measures were designed in trying to promote agricultural continuity and promotion of adequate food supply.  Unnecessary burning of bushes and grazing land proves beyond doubt that, the Nyanga area under chief Hata are pastoralist. Animal husbandry in livestock and small stock are preserved in Chief Hata area. It is therefore, prudent to applaud Chief Hata in taking positive steps in distributing, monitoring and evaluating land. These conservation measures have yielded positive results in providing adequate food for the people thereby improving health, education and economic development of the people.

Chief Hata is the man behind quality health and education in Sedze area. Through his customary powers, he distributed abundant land for the construction of local clinic and schools for his people. His vision to seeing continuity of society is backdated to history when their ancestors constructed the Ziwa ruins which up to now are benefiting the local people. Provision of quality education is key in developing a society. In doing so, Chief Hata is promoting the social progress and human development is his area. By improving the local clinic, mortality rate declined within the area. Therefore, economic development is being witnessed in Sedze area.

There is very peaceful core- existence in Chief Hata area. The chief performs his judicial role of dispute resolution. Peace and stability are needed for economic development in any society. With all powers vested in him, Chief Hata designed stiffer penalties for those who cause anarchy, chaos and family fights.   In fact, he is helped by a council of elders in resolving disputes and making decisions. The chief deals with a plethora of cases including murder disputes, marriage disputes and theft cases.

The chief has the mandate of preserving the cultural norms, values and beliefs of Sedze area. The area of Nyanga headed by Chief Hata observes its cultural and traditional believe. For instance, preservation of environment is done by respecting totems. People who are ascribed to monkey (Soko), Mheta (shato) and Buffalo (nyathi) are not permitted to disturb life of these animals. Thus, by respecting totems Chief Hata’s people preserve these different animals and creations. Unwarranted cutting down of trees unnecessarily also attracts stiffer penalties. It is the environment that we benefit from for food, shelter and clothing and thus by preserving this, Chief Hata is an agent of economic prosperity. 

The society headed by Chief Hata is egalitarian and economic development is witnessed. The chief works hand in glove with Non-governmental organisation such as GOAL, CAMFED, FACT and governmental portfolios to cement smooth flow of resources and ideas to weed out poverty and underdevelopment in the area. This stance by the traditional chief proves beyond doubt that chiefs are strong agents for economic development. It is therefore justified that, traditional leaders are fostering economic growth and development in independent Zimbabwe.

Leon Chigwanda is an Economic historian with Great Zimbabwe University.

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The Ndebele state

Historical Background

The Rozvi people were conquered by different groups including the Portuguese’s and the Mtethwa people.  Dominantly, the Ndebele thwarted the already dying Rozvi society. The Ndebele was a run-away group from Zululand in South Africa. It became a looting and raiding state. Between 1790-1868 Mzilikazi was the right hand man of King Tshaka. He was however perceived to be dishonesty leading to his dismissal by Tshaka in 1823. He fled northwards with his group. Mzilikazi was born in Zululand in South Africa and his father was Matsobana. His following grew through raiding and conquering other tribes and uniting them into one ethnic group. They share diverse economic, social and political differences.  From Zululand, Mzilikazi moved to Mozambique and later extended into Transvaal in 1826 where he lived with his people for almost 10 years.  The arrival of Voortrekkers saw the beginning of Mfecane, the period of mass murders and devastation.  This forced Mzilikazi- Khumalo people in 1838 to move north across the Limpopo. He was compelled to move present day Botswana and northwards towards Zambia. However high temperatures made it difficult for human existence and surviving the Tsetse fly infected area became difficult. In 1840 the Khumalo were forced to migrate and search for a better habitable environment. The group moved south-eastwards to what is now Zimbabwe. Currently the Khumalo people are mainly located in Matabeleland province of Zimbabwe.

Military Dominance

Mzilikazi as a trusted induna by Tshaka learned military tactics. His dismissal saw him proclaiming kingship in his new Ndebele society. He established and constructed a powerful and authoritative army which was called the Mthwakazi. The army was organised into a military system similar to Tshaka’s  the Zulu. Mzilikazi and his son Lobengula were the custodians of the Ndebele society.  His first settlement was in western province of Ndumba which is west of Bembesi River. Military dominance was used to conquer the then weakening states of Shona tribes. Rozvi and Kalanga states were subdued and they were robbed of their cattle, human capital and economic valuables. It is thus prudent to allude to the fact that, settlement on Matabeleland was centred on cattle farming. Military dominance was the focal point where economic and social prosperity was derived from.  Interestingly, the political, religious,   administration and judiciary were in the hands of the king. The king was helped by Indunas in carrying out these duties. The standing army had many roles is sustaining the growth and development of the society.

The Ndebele state under the leadership of King Mlizikazi differed from other pre-colonial states. His final destination was Matabeleland. Crop cultivation was not favourable to the climate and rainfall was inadequate for crops like maize. As a result, cattle ranching became the mainstay of the society. Cattle were a symbol of wealth. As the society was affected by climatic conditions, the army was tasked to undertake raiding as a source of food and living for the growing economy. Thus, unlike other societies the Ndebele state was sustained by raiding other groups. Cattle, grain and women were the proceeds from raiding. In fact, the Ndebele subdued the, Virwa, Tonga, Venda, Kalanga and Nyubi people. Grain was obtained for food which was supplemented by few drought resistant crops they grew such as millet and rapoko. Raiding was done at a commercial level. They raided big herds of cattle which became the mainstay of the society. Region five offered favourable climatic condition for cattle rearing. Oral tradition revealed that, the Ndebele cattle were so big that one could milk them whilst standing. This clearly depicts a picture to show that the society had good quality cattle breeds. The army was drilled and perfected to conquer weaker societies in order to acquire more cattle.  Cattle offered the society meat for relish and thus the Ndebele ate healthy food. Cattle were also a form of paying tribute to the Chief and king. Tribute payment cemented the Ndebele relations. It maintained royalty and respect within the society. For example the Churumhazi people paid tribute to king Lobengula. Women were the target on raiding. This was calculated and aimed at population expansion. As the Ndebele society was migrating from Zululand it lost a number of people along the way. Thus, raiding women was to increase population growth and development. Military dominance cascaded every parts of pre-colonial Zimbabwe to conquer and plunder weaker states.  Other economic activities were done which include trade, hand craft activities and hunting and gathering. Hunting of elephants was done to obtain ivory. Ivory was one of the major traded commodities with the white people.

The King had supreme powers as the Ndebele believed in their god whom the name Umnkulunkulu. As they undertook their raiding expedition, the Ndebele raided the Rozvi and adopted the Rozvi religious system. Similar to the Rozvi the Ndebele could consult their god for deliverance and blessings. Social classes existed in the Ndebele society. These include the Zansi, Enhla and Hole.  However, the state succumbed to pressure from the British Southern African Company and some missionary activities.

Author. Bako Tendai

Bachelor of Arts Hons in African History

The Moyo Chirandu and the first migration

All people of the Moyo Chirandu totem are one and the same people and originate from the same ancestors. The major variants of Moyo Chirandu which comprise the Moyo Chirandu Varozvi, Moyo Chirandu VaDuma, Moyo Chirandu Dhewa etc  are mere descriptions that came about because of the various experiences of these various groupings of the same Moyo Chirandu.

In the beginning

The first three Bantu groups of people to come into Zimbabwe were as follows:

a) The very first Bantu group to cross the Zambezi river coming from the North East i.e. from Nubia and the Kingdom of Kemet which comprises areas around present day Ethiopia/Sudan and Egypt were the Tonga whose totem(mutupo) is the lion (Tau or Dau). This lion mutupo of the Tonga must not be confused with the lion mutupo of the people of Chirimuhanzu near Masvingo ( referred to through their praise poem of Mhazi) or the lion mutupo of most people in Chivi again near Masvingo whose chidawo is Murambwi and other various lion mutupo’s zvidawo’s like Sipambi.

The Tonga lion is completely different from the Mhazi lion of Chirimuhanzu and or Murambwi lion of Chivi and or Sipambi lion also of Chivi as the lions of Chirimuhanzu, Chivi and other lions as they depict totems have their own completely different historical origins which are completely divorced from the origins of the Tonga lion mutupo.

In fact all these other different lion zvidawo’s like Mhazi, Murambwi, Sipambi etc are somehow related but are all of them not related to the Tonga lion.

The Tonga crossed the Zambezi into Zimbabwe around 300 and 400 A.D.

b) The next Bantu group to cross the Zambezi was the Dziva/Hungwe/Kalanga. They arrived around 800 A.D. also coming from the same North East where the Tonga originated.

This group’s mutupo comprised fish and the fish eagle bird, the Hungwe which is today’s national Zimbabwe bird found on various statutory documents and emblems in Zimbabwe. They are also associated with water (dziva) and the east where the sun comes from (Kalanga).

c) The third and last Bantu group to cross the Zambezi into Zimbabwe also from the same North East was the Shoko Mbire group. Their Paramount chief was called Mwene Mbire or simply Nembire.

This group arrived around 1000 A.D. Their totem was Shoko Matarira Chirongo or Mukanya which simply means baboon/monkey essentially meaning their totem/mutupo is the baboon/monkey.

This Shoko Mbire group and all its offshoots is the group responsible for the construction of the vast Great Zimbabwe Empire including the Great Zimbabwe City which became the capital city of Zimbabwe and is in fact the de facto capital city of Zimbabwe even today albeit the de jure capital city of Zimbabwe is Harare.

It is from this third group, The Shoko Mbire group that the Moyo Chirandu people originate from, all of them be it Moyo Chirandu, Duma or Moyo Chirandu Rozvi. The terms Duma, Rozvi, Dhewa etc are mere descriptions of events which resulted in the same Moyo Chirandu people being described as Rozvi and or Duma or Dhewa and or any other variants of the Moyo Chirandu..

So from the onset, it has to be clearly understood that all Moyos are Moyo Chirandu. The question of the variants such as Moyo Chirandu Duma, Moyo Chirandu Rozvi/Dhewa etc are really unimportant and inconsequential although it will be important to show how these variants came about.

In other words, as shall be clearly illustrated, it is correct for any Moyo Chirandu to refer to himself or herself as Murozvi or Muduma or Dhewa as these descriptions are exactly that, mere descriptions that came about because of certain experiences that happened to the Moyo Chirandu people as a whole and are therefore inconsequential to the oneness of the Moyo Chirandu thus making any Moyo Chirandu a Muduma or a Murozvi or a Dhewa or any of the variants of Moyo Chirandu as every Moyo is a Moyo Chirandu no matter what variant they have been erroneously taught to adhere to as that variant is a mere description which is incapable of tearing itself away from the tap root and the origins; i.e. Moyo Chirandu.

The other very important thing to remember is that the Moyo Chirandu must never forget to add the term Vapamoyo when they refer to their female relatives (sisters, daughters, aunts) as they are indeed our VapaMoyo, our very loved ones who are very close to our hearts and it has been like that ab initio and will be like that ad infinitum.

It is imperative for every Moyo Chirandu person to remember that at any event, function or gathering, no protocol is complete until honour and recognition is accorded to the Moyo Chirandu female relatives i.e. the aunts, sisters and daughters; i.e. VapaMoyo. Whether these female relatives are present or not, this honour and recognition must still be given even in abstentia in the event that no female relative is present. Any function that does not honor and recognize Vapa Moyo is considered to be incomplete.

Dr.Claude Maredza is an author and film writer, producer and director.

The Rozvi state (1684-95)

Collapse of the Mutapa state saw the birth of strong military empire called the Rozvi State. Changamire Dombo the Mutapa king defeated the Portugese at the battle of Mangwe. This battle helped Changamire Dombo to elope from the Zambezi area and resurface to his new capital city Tsindi ruins which is present day Marondera and Macheke. Due to his strong military tactics he managed to conquer and raid weaker states. Changamire Dombo expanded his space and later established his capital in Manyanga. Changamire Dombo became stronger and later secured his final capital known as Danangombe (Dhlo-Dhlo) in present day Matabeleland.  The word Rozvi was given to these militant people meaning the plunders.

Oral tradition also helps to construct the Rozvi state. In fact, Dombo is believed to have possessed supernatural powers that made him earn power, respect and he got more followers. Interestingly, Dombo is believed to have had the ability to change white colour cattle to red colour, making rain and turning his soldiers to be brave.  It is therefore prudent to ascertain that Dombo’s strong military tactics earned him a stepping stone in erecting a powerful kingdom. This political leverage enabled him to live peacefully and erecting proper economic and social policies that helped the rise and expansion of his state.  

Rise, growth and expansion of the Rozvi state

The Rozvi state grew due to sound economic, social and political polices. In fact politics was  behind the rise of the Mutapa state. Politically Changamire Dombo managed to defeat the Portuguese in 1684 and 1695 near Butwa. This move led Dombo to acquire more land and expand in Mbire and Guruuswa. Land is the source of wealth. Grabbing of fertile land made it possible for changamire Dombo to grow crops and rear animals. Crop cultivation made it possible for the Rozvi state to grow and expand. Agriculture was subsistence and every family was compelled to feed itself. Crops grown included rice, vegetables and pumpkins. Crop cultivation was made possible through the use of axes and hoes. Food for the chief was made available through the Zunde Ramambo scheme, a community-based program where most, if not all villagers participate in helping the king till his land and weed the crops. These tools made it possible to grow more crops to feed the growing population. Various methods to increase yield were put in place such as nhimbe or hoka. It was a system whereby people could gather and do work collectively. Yields improved and Rozvi became food sufficient to its people. Thus, it was possible for the state to expand with a healthy population. Animal husbandry of cattle, sheep and goat was successful due to the abundant grazing land and water availability. Cattle were a symbol of wealth and were for chiefs and important people in the society. Goats and sheep were normally used for relish. Thus, the Rozvi people ate healthy food and hence were able-bodied. It is also imprtant to note that Changamire Dombo’s powerful  army gave rise to prosperous agricultural development.

Land became the source for erecting sound economic and social activities. The king introduced military tactics to improve its efficiency and execution. The move was aimed at safeguarding the territory and preserving its gains. Military innovations such as the use of semi-circle, military weapons such as bows, arrows, assegais, wooden shields strengthened the Rozvi army. The army managed to grab more land and human resources. Land became available for men to get involved  mining. Mining of precious minerals such as gold and copper was done. All minerals were surrendered to the chiefs and thus became a form of tribute payment. It maintained loyalty, respect and integrity. Harmony excited in the society which saw the continuous mining of such precious minerals. Tribute was then a way of showing respect to the King. Items of tribute payments include, gold, cattle, ivory, axes and hoes. These items proves beyond doubt that the Rozvi land everything was  a self-sustaining community. The availability of land made hunting and gathering possible. Abundant forest provided the Rozvi people with juicy wild fruits that were nutritious and healthy.  The forest also provided relish such as Howa, tsambatsi, madora and mandere. Gathering of these fruits supplemented relish and improved diet. Hunting of wild animals was also done by the Rozvi people. Military tools were converted to hunting tools. Hunting objects included spears, arrows and axes. Hunting methods such as game nets and pits were used and they were environment friendly. Game meat supplemented the diet of the people to be stronger and energetic. Animals hunted included wild pigs, kudu, elephants and pangolins. Hunting promoted internal and external trade and military dominance. Elephant tasks were exchange with guns which were used then to conquer and attack weaker groups. Thus Rozvi chiefs and kings became politically strong due to the vast rich hunting area which produced elephants as a symbol of trade.  It is imperative to argue that, politics shaped and moulded the stability and expansion of Rozvi Empire.  Also elephant hooves were given to the king and chiefs as a form of tribute. Pangolin hunting was a royal game and they were surrendered to the ruling elite. Pangolin meat became a special dish for the king. The meat was believed to be more delicious, soft and tender.  It is therefore, exposed that Rozvi state strong political organisation stabilised the society and paved way for continual existence.

Hand craft activities promoted both political, social and economic development within the Rozvi state. Hand craft activities including iron smelting, weaving, soap making and basketry were done in promoting the rise and expansion of Rozvi Empire. Production of iron axes and spears improved military and hunting competence.  Weaving of cloth such as nhembe provided a brand that distinguished the Rozvi as a super power. Basketry and soap making improved hygiene and people lived healthy thus saw the continuation of society. The society tried hard to keep pace with time and political power maintained peace, law and order. Thus Changamire Dombo’s first achievement of grabbing abundant land and this was a stepping stone towards the rise, growth and expansion of this military state.  The king was the religious leader together with his  political and legal personnel. This proves beyond doubt that, politics dominated Rozvi existence. Unlike other pre-colonial societies, Rozvi stability and pillars were the army. The king communicated with their god through ancestors. Priest of Mwari were worshiped and they were very powerful. They cemented the voices of ancestors by telling people to obey the words and be loyal to the word of god. Vanyai acted as the intelligence as it networked people by spreading the word of Mwari. Thus religion became the opium of the Rozvi people as they believed and respected the ancestors. Ancestors and spirit mediums were behind the protection and installation of chief and kings. Disobeying a chief was a punishable offence by the ancestors.  Hence social structures were politically constructed and they they fairly contributed to rise and expansion of Rozvi empire.

The Rozvi empire collapsed around 1690 and the reasons for the collapse were complex but politically motivated. Rozvi political dominance and superiority gave and taught other states military tactics. Surprisingly, in 1690 Zwangendaba of the Mtethwa kingdom attacked and gained control of some of the Rozvi people. He managed to conquer little space living other parts untouched. The remaining society was on its path of recovery but Mzilikazi and his stronger Ndebele attacked the society and gained control. Furthermore, the Shangaani managed to raid the Rozvi in Chipinge area and the state began to crumble. Importantly, the Rozvi were only left in Mashonaland areas and it made it possible for the British to usurp power and gained control of the remaining Rozvi Empire. In present day Zimbabwe, the Rozvi people are located in Manicaland-Chipinge, Mashonaland-Marondera and parts of Matebeleland..  People were disturbed of their social and economic ways of life hence they were subdued and spread to different parts of Zimbabwe.

Author: Helen Gwatidzo (Master’s degree in African Economic History UZ)

The birth of Gokwe (GK)

At some stage, the area now known as Gokwe was called Sebungu and was established in 15 March 1898. Sebungu and Mapfungautsi were later combined into Sebungwu-Mapfungautsi on the 2nd of August 1901. Sebungu was then condensed to Sebungwe on 21 February 1907, and then Sebungwe was renamed to Gokwe on the 18th January 1957.

This area was mainly populated by the Tonga, Shona and Ndebele tribes of Mkoka who believed in the most high God (Mwari) through the veneration of their ancestors and they built their houses along Kana River.  The present day Gokwe-Kana is still under chief Mkoka. Despite the hot weather, tsetse flies, and wild animals, the area was densely populated. People are believed to have been depending much on hunting and farming like most African societies for their basic needs. Prior to the 1940s, these 3 great tribes had their own beliefs- they subscribed to traditional religion. In fact religion played an important part in their daily lives, including socio- political and economic life.

Traditional ceremonies were performed before commencement of the farming seasons and even in hunting there were some norms and taboos which sought to preserve and conserve the resources for future generations.  Cattle were also “treated”, through a tradition known as Iziko– Ndebele name which simply means “the ensuring of increased fertility and production of cattle through the veneration of ancestors for taking care in their cattle”. It is interesting to learn that in pre-colonial Gokwe- people, like many other tribes, measured their wealth through the number of cattle which one possessed and it was a privilege to have many cattle as they enabled one to marry many wives which led to a large number of children and these children were a force of labor to reckon with especially during the farming seasons. It was a taboo for a woman to enter the kraal as it was believed that women would lead even to mysterious dying of cattle. On the other hand, men were not allowed to partake in cooking but a preserve for women. Whilst one may not see the value behind these restrictions, the research from which this article was extracted took interest from such operations and further goes on to support that such practices worked as they were an appeasement to the dead who in return would reward them with prosperity in their production and good health.

The dead were believed to possess super natural powers and to be in direct contact with God thus having the powers to mediate between the living and the almighty. The importance of ancestors is justified by ceremonies such as umthethelo (Ndebele), kurova guva (Shona) or kuuma bbalu (Tonga) which are ingrained in ancestral beliefs and such performances in Gokwe – Kana have evolved to the present day and in each and every ceremony conducted, the Tonga of Mkoka are invited for entertainment purposes, In fact they have drums (ngoma) and horns (nyeele) which they blow orderly and in a manner that produces a melodious rendition and this is an integral part of their culture. According to Nyambara, the Shangwe people mixed with the Ndebele and Tonga could tell with high degree of accuracy that rain was about to fall in three or four days’ time through the study of the atmosphere. This is a clear indication that the people of Gokwe –Kana were highly acclimatised to their weather patterns and even up to the present day, there are still such elderly people who can foretell such but unfortunately the young generation believes more in modern technology and meteorological weather reports.

The elderly in this area still narrate how people in their times lived long and death was rare and sacred. In fact they claim that people mainly died of old age and children rarely died. This does not mean that there were no diseases in the area but one need to scrutinize the type of medicine used by the people. The Western or European view has consistently and widely used the pejorative and derogatory terms such as witchdoctor and superstition when describing and referring to these African health practitioners. This article was extracted from a research that sought to analyze the role of African traditional medicine to people’s livelihoods in Gokwe-Kana since the pre-colonial times. To a larger extent the study dwelt extensively on the fact that Traditional Medicine has been effective in maintaining the public health care system in Gokwe Kana since the time immemorial.

African traditional medical system defines disease and illness within given contexts, thus diseases and illness are inextricably interwoven in the social status of the group concerned. When one is infected or affected by a disease, he or she cannot perform his or her duties and functions within the social group. The individual’s illness affects the group (family members, neighbors and friends), and through this societal cohesion the elderly would initiate the therapy; consult one another and recommend a specialist healer. Sidinga (1995) posits that natural diseases such as diarrhea, skin rush and rheumatism may be treated by Western medicine or by traditional medicine or both, whilst human-induced illness ( unnatural diseases ) may be a result of sorcery, witchcraft, spirit  disturbances or breaching socio-religious obligations and taboos, especially with regard to the ancestors. Such diseases were referred to traditional healers according to their various specializations. There are herbalists, diviners, seers, spiritualists, traditional surgeons and birth attendants (nyamukuta) which were pejoratively referred as witches or blacksmiths. This study with lesser attention at colonialism, sought to bring a common understanding to the reader that traditional medicine in Gokwe continued to be widely used despite the negative stereotypic views and perceptions. In fact the whites had as they came to Zimbabwe mainly driven by economic interests, deliberately put stringent policies which sought to discredit everything African in favor of European style of living. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1899 dealt a heavy blow to African traditional medicine since its enactment aimed largely at dislodging and discrediting the traditional medicine.  The people of Gokwe believed in high God through the veneration of spirit mediums, amadlozi, vadzimu or bazimo and this saw the ritual practices such as umthethelo, umbuyiso/magadziro being eroded. Therefore this study points out that traditional medicine in Gokwe Kana  indeed did bring mixed feelings towards the use of such and they absolutely failed to take out the faith which the indigenous people had put in their medicine.

The attainment of independence in 1980 in Zimbabwe and the government had a lot of things to address and in their health sector formalization of traditional medicine was part of the core reforms. As such, an organization of traditional healers called Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) was founded. This was government’s deliberate move which aimed at safeguarding the independence of traditional healing from the oppressive and negative perception it had for some time. Thus this saw people in Gokwe-Kana again becoming free and they resumed their traditional style of health management. However whilst a number of people continue to use traditional medicine due to economic challenges and general interest in it, the Medicinal Control Authority of Zimbabwe has raised concerns on its use claiming that it does not take the correct prescriptions to the users thus chances of overdosing the patient is high and likely to pause some serious threats to the patient as they are not scientifically tested thus pseudoscientific. Whereas this study does not say people should use only traditional medicine but rather have an integrated health kind of system where the former is juxtaposed with Western methods for a sound health system.

Overall the study delved on the use of traditional medicine in Gokwe-Kana since the pre-colonial era to the present day. It has shown that the Tonga, Shona and Ndebele people still have faith in African medicine and they use it to cure a number of diseases which include among others; headaches, flue, asthma, cancer, sexual transmitted diseases and some social and spiritual calamities like ngozi/ ingozi which cannot be addressed by conventional medicine. Apparently, colonialism failed to dislodge the use of African medicine even though it had intended to wash it away. After independence, people again got the audacity to use it and it is continuing to gain much ground because of it’s accessibility and reasonable cost.

By Ngwenya Menelisi – Historian and Monitoring & Evaluation Officer with GOAL Zimbabwe

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Maita Gushungo

Maita Gushungo,
Muchero waNegondo,
Maita Tsiwo,

Usavi hwavamwe varume,
Kugara pasi kusimuka zvinohwira vhu,
Musati hutukwa,
Mutupo ndowenyu,
Tatenda varidzi venyika,
Vakabva Guruuswa,
Varidzi vamazhanje.
Maita vokwaZvimba,
Vazere muChakona,

Vene vamachiri namakute,
Vano kutizira kunenge kudyara nzungu,
Vakapangura nyika ino
Ichakatsitswa nezamu,
Vomutupo weGushungo,
Vari chipata, Zambezi naMaringohwe,
Aiwa mwana waZvimba,
Zvaitwa vaNgonya.

History behind the great Zambezi River

The Zambezi is the fourth longest river in Africa, after the Nile, Congo, and Niger Rivers. It is the longest east flowing river in Africa.

The name Zambezi comes from the Tonga phrase “Kasambabezi”, which means “only those who know can swim or take bath”. This was mainly because you were supposed to be careful when taking bath on the banks of the river as it is infested with crocodiles. The name is made up of two words, “kasamba” – meaning “those who bath”, and “bezi” – for “should know”.

It flows through six countries on its journey from its source in north-western Zambia to the Indian Ocean, an amazing 2 700 km. It is actually from this river where Zambia was named. It flows through the greater part of Southern Zambia and Northern Zimbabwe. The river had been the major economic hub for trade for centuries with the Tonga and Shona tribes being the major beneficiaries and “owners” of the great river for years. The descriptive Tonga and Shona names that were used to describe the “gigantic river” was “Donga” and “Gova”, hence the name of the tribes “Ba Donga or Ba Tonga” and “ma Gova”. Gova falls under Korekore which is northern Shona/ Karanga. These two tribes co-existed and lived in harmony for centuries with the Tonga having been the first to occupy the valley and welcomed other tribes who were fleeing from tribal wars from central and southern Zimbabwe. It is also important to note that Mutapa kingdom’s headquarter was based along the Zambezi river and stretched from Zambia, Zimbabwe through to Mozambique .

This river evokes mystery and excitement with few rivers in the world remaining as pristine or as little explored.

The source of the mighty Zambezi River lies at about 1 500 m (4 900ft) above sea level in the Mwinilunga District, very close to the border where Zambia, Angola and the Congo meet.

From there it flows through Zambia, Angola, Namibia and Botswana then back along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwefinally discharging into the Indian Ocean at its delta in Mozambique. The area of its catchment basin is 1 390 000 square km which is half that of the Nile.

The Power of the Zambezi River has been harnessed along its journey at two points, the first being Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe and the second Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique. Both these dams are sources of hydroelectric power and supply a large portion of power to Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

For years there has also been talk and plans of another Hydroelectric Dam to be built in the Batoka gorge just below Victoria Falls, of major concern is that these plans are very much alive again. The river’s beauty has attracted tourists from all over the world and provides great opportunities for game viewing and various water sports. Hippopotamus, crocodiles, elephants and lions are some examples of wildlife you will find along various parts of the Zambezi River.

The amazing river can be better analyzed in three sections:

Upper Zambezi

From the source the river flows to the south-west out of Zambia and into Angola for about 240 km (150miles). When it re-enters Zambia it is approximately 400m (1300ft) wide in the rainy season and is fast flowing at Cholwezi rapids and the Chavuma Falls.

The river runs south now for a distance of about 800 km (500miles) and in this distance only drops about 180m (590ft). It is very slow flowing for most of this section as it enters an area known as the Barotse Floodplain where the width of the river reaches up to 25 km (16miles) in the rainy season.

The upper part of the Zambezi River is only sparsely populated by pastoralists, farmers and fishermen. During the rain season when the plain is in flood a ceremony known as the Ku-omboka Ceremony take place as the local people move to higher ground to escape the flood waters.

One local folk law is that the Zambezi River has a spirit called Nyami Nyami – this spirit brings them water to grow their crops and fish to eat – and so they call the river “the river of life”. The name is believed to come from “Nyama Nyama” for “meat”. This Tonga River God is believed to have been moving from the Indian Ocean and passed through different locations to Victoria Falls area. Nyami Nyami is believed to be a snake-like creature with the structure of a snake but the flesh was like fish. It is said that whenever Nyami Nyami reached a place inhabited by people along the river, it could stop and emerge, showing only the back part of it and people would rush to cut the meat from its body, they were calling each other “Nyama nyama” has come and that’s how the name Nyami Nyami came about. After people got the meat it would immediately disappear and it was believed it would recover immediately and go to the next village.

The river then turns easterly and forms the border between Zambia and Namibia this is at the Katima Mulilo rapids.

Eventually it meets the Chobe River and briefly forms a border with Botswana, before becoming the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is at this point that the four countries; Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. The river then flows about another 80 km down towards Victoria Falls.

This section above the falls is where tour operators run lots of exciting actitivities including kayaking, canoe trips, river cruises and daily floats on both the Zimbabwe and Zambian sides. This is a spectacular section of the river with many islands and channels, crystal clear waters and sandy beaches. It teams with birds and wildlife.

The Zimbabwe side is a national park called the Zambezi National Park whilst on the Zambian side there are many small lodges which blend into the banks of the river, plus about 20kms of the river’s shoreline lies within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

The Middle Zambezi

The Victoria Falls are considered the boundary between the upper and middle Zambezi. For the next 500 km the river serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Below the Falls the river continues to flow due east for about 200 km (120miles), cutting through gorges of basalt rock between 200 to 250 metres (660 to 820ft) high. It is in these gorges where the commercial white water rafting now takes place. The Zambezi River is graded as a grade 5 river. This is the highest grade that a river can be graded for white water rafting meaning this is as wet and wild as it gets. The Victoria Falls also serves as a backdrop for many other adventure sports including the famous bunge jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge.

The river drops 250m over the next 200 km before entering Lake Kariba. The Kariba Dam which was completed in 1959 is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. The hydroelectric power generated at the dam provides electricity for much of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Lake Kariba is 226 km long and in places up to 40 km wide and supports a thriving commercial fishing industry and is a fantastic tourist attraction.

More on the Lower Zambezi  in the next article…

By Misheck Samanyanga

The rise of the famous Mutapa kingdom

It is interesting to delve into the major contributors of the the birth of one of the most famous kingdoms in Zimbabwe. Mineral wealth, available grazing land, abundant land for crop cultivation, salt deposits and favourable climate proves beyond doubt the birth of Mutapa state. Socially, religion was the binding factor and it supressed elements of coup and disturbances within the Munhumutapa kingdom, spirit mediums played a pivotal role in solving successions disputes. It is imperative to tackle the role played by politics in shaping the existence of Mutapa state. In fact, Nyatsimba Mutota was the founder of such a strong society who used his strong army to conquer and raid weaker states. Through raiding, Nyatsimba managed to bring in economics value to his state. Strong military maintained law and order. Mutapa state growth and development was economically driven. Thus how it’s social and political base was formidable.

Economic decay, stronger social pressures, anarchy and lethargic leadership within the Great Zimbabwe society led the collapse and birth of a stronger Mutapa state. Agriculture both crop cultivation and animal husbandry were the mainstay of Great Zimbabwe society. Boom in agricultural development erected a high population, better living standards, and strong social and political base. It is therefore this economic boom that overturned the fortunes of Great Zimbabwe society. Population growth led to competition over resources such as land, mineral wealth, trade centres and areas for hunting and gathering. These economic pressures weakened the social life of the Great Zimbabwe people. Living standards were eroded, people were dragged into abject poverty and misery. When the economy is not performing the social and political spheres succumbs to the pressure and thus how the marvellous Great Zimbabwe society collapsed. Economic pressure created pressure within the militant group which became porous for succession. Also, the state became weak due to hunger and poverty which gave neighbouring states powers to raid and destroy the Great Zimbabwe state. All this gave way for the Mutapa state’s rise under the stewardship of Nyatsimba Mutota. It is interesting to note that Mutota envied the Dande area which had abundant land for crop cultivation and grasslands for livestock, salt deposits, low population, and access to trade.   

The economic system was responsible in the rise, expansion and growth of Mutapa state. The growing of crops such as millet, sorghum and rapoko was necessitated by the fertile soils. Crop cultivation was done mainly by women and children while man were attached to other equal demanding chores. Existence of division of labour proves beyond doubt that surplus was achieved. Available food manage to feed the growing population within Mutapa state. Animal Husbandry of cattle and small livestock was a practise in the society. Cattle were a symbol of wealth. With the abundant pastures the Mutapa people had large herd of cattle and oral traditions indicate an estimate of 4000 cattle. The Mutapa diet was greatly enriched by eating small amounts of meat and animal fats. They also kept sheep and goat.  In fact, in so far as the Mutapa are concerned cattle fulfilled all the criteria of general purpose in that they were stores of value, standard of value and media of exchange. Cattle formed a form of social security in a society. Pastoralism led to the growth and development of the Mutapa state. Mining of gold, iron, silver, and cooper was done in the society. The abundant minerals brought economic gains through internal and external trade. Thus external trade links with the Portuguese were created. People exchanged goods and services. Hunting and gathering were chores done by everyone one in the society. Women and children were encouraged to join in the hunting activity through the ‘mambure’ system because very much noise was needed to panic the game towards the nets. This approach was adopted by the Shona people at Mutapa as their hunting method. Hunting was an important economic activity that supplied relish. Gathering of wild fruits and insects was an economic practise by the Mutapa people. Gathering of wild fruits was an important economic branch of pre-colonial Shona economies. Gathering was an activity of both children and woman and it was pursued even years of plenty. Mutapa land had abundant wild fruits consisting matamba, nhembetembe, hubva, maroro, nhengeni, nzambara and tsombori that were juicy and nutricious. Raiding as an economic activity strengthens the Mutapa state. Mutota and Matope his son managed to raid and conquer the Tonga, Tavara Kore-kore, Barwe, Guruuswa, Manyika and Uteve people. Women were mainly targeted since they were of economic value. They wanted women for more human production. Children were a source of labour.  They managed to raid grains, cattle and armoury. Thus, raiding other groups lead the growth and development of Mutapa Kingdom.

The social structure of the state was strong and formidable. The people enjoyed better living standards. The people were hunger and poverty free. Religion played an important role within the state. It gave authority to the Munhumutapa king. The king was allied to the religious leaders in the land. The king was also a religious leader and he led national ceremonies. Thus religion suppressed succession disputes and curbing anarchy within the society.  It was the role of spirit mediums and religious leaders to choose kings. Religion bonded the society. Internal marriages also united the people. Marriages were unifiers and symbol of wealth. Man married so that they will have children as sources of labour. Girl child were regarded as wealth as one could calculate his number of cattle with the number of girl child he has. Thus, social base of Mutapa state was the pillar in economic growth and development.

Politically, the army was headed by king as its chief commander of all soldiers. It was believed that, the commander was helped by an appointed commander of the soldiers. He was the second most powerful official in the state and he was called Nengomasha. Mutapa state witnessed change of leadership. These leaders include, Mutota, Matope, Gatsi Rusere, Changamire Dombo,Kapararidze and Mavhuramhande. These leaders uphold the ideologies of the founding father Mutota. These Munhumutapa kings were head of state, chief Judge, distributer of land, custodian of state property, religious leader, signing treaties, punish rebels and protecting the state.  They also followed economic techniques to strengthen the society. Economic prosperity was behind this strong army. In fact able bodied Mutapa people who ate healthily managed to dominate and raid weak states. Raiding manage to award the Mutapa kingdom the name Munhumutapa. This alone proves that Mutapa had a vicious army which was ruthless and that aimed on the expansionist agenda. Tribute payment by the subordinates supressed the ideologies of anarchy and succession. This form of political technique created wealth for the King.  Economic gains bonded the army to be loyal and respectful to the king. The political landscape became the hub of security of everyone in the society. It is therefore that this strong political structure protected the people hence promoting economic and social cohesion with the Mutapa state.

The state collapsed due to economic factors. Sound and viable economic structures created a big state that became unmanageable. Competition over resources such as land dealt the society a blow that it never recovered. Agriculture being the mainstay collapsed thus the death of the Munhumutapa kingdom. Mineral deposits depleted, some mines became death traps and were abandoned. Competition on hunting and gathering resources worsened. Drought was also to be blamed. These economic pressures begun to create social and political problems. These pressures saw the birth of civil wars, succession disputes, migration, in subornation and anarchy with the state. It is therefore prudent to ascertain that, ill managed economic based created social and political errors. External hand was involved in the demise of Mutapa state. The economic, socio-political activities weakened the great Mutapa kingdom. The Portuguese mingled into the economic, social and political branches of Mutapa thereby distorting its progress and performance. By damaging these strong structures, Mutapa state collapsed.   

Leon Chigwanda is an Economic historian and Researcher with Great Zimbabwe University.