Chinamhora Chieftainship falls under Goromonzi district in Mashonaland East province of Zimbabwe. The area is surrounded by communal lands of Chiweshe, Murehwa, Mutoko and Marondera. The people in the area are referred to as vaShawasha who are believed to have migrated from Fort Victoria. In Fort Victoria the vaShawasha people are believed to have occupied the Mazhumwi or Mahugi/Mahugwi communal land under Chief Tumbudu. Chief Tumbudu constructed a brave and courageous army that he used to raid weaker groups. As Chief Tumbudu expansionist policy widened he moved to settle at Wedza Mountain area where there was plenty of iron ore. His army would to take all the treasures such as cattle sheep and goats and women from the people they conquered. The chiefs of other countries were afraid of Tumbudu and his army because the vaShawasha used a Gona when they fought. This Gona was called maGumbatya. It contained their medicine (ndudzo) which they put in the porridge and ate. After eating they went to fight with the people whom they wanted to fight. When these vaShawasha people ate the mixture of porridge even the guns would never shoot them, the bullets would be caught by that medicine and the spear thrown at one of the muShawasha would bend, even the axe could not cut. No other gonas were as powerful. They made a fire and put medicine from the gona into it. Then they asked, Where are we going?” “Are we going to win the battle?” If the smoke did not come out immediately or if it went straight up they did not go, but if it came out quickly and went to the side they went in the direction where the smoke was blowing certain that they would win the battle.
The work of the vaShawasha was making spears, axes, hoes and knives. Discovery of Iron ore promoted the manufacturing of armoury such as spears, axes, knives and stabbing picks that were used to defeat other groups. Chief Tumbudu as the forefather of the Chinamhora clan was ascribed to the Soko (Monkey) totem with Mutinaye as Chidawo. After his death, his sons exchanged the Chieftainship up to present day.
One of his sons, Tingini became a polygamist. It is believed that, Tingini became famous in Wedza in iron smelting which compelled him to return to Zululand to sell the iron products. In Zululand he is believed to have left a dynasty with the totem Tsvubve. On his return to Wedza area, Tingini returned with his seven sons namely Derere, Chidyausiku, and Rusere to mention but a few. Unfortunately, on his return Tingini learnt of his father’s death and the Chieftainship was in wrangle. With the help of his sons and other relatives they managed to retain their Chieftainship in Wedza. He became chief, however Chief Tingini died and chieftainship was passed on to his son. Interesting, chieftainship up to present day is in Chief Tumbudu family. From the time of his death, it was Chief Nemango, Tingini, Derere, Chaitezvi, Nyamare, Chihunga, Chidziva, Chinamaringa, Nzvere, Chingoma, Kuvhimadzama, Chigodora, Muchenje Kurima and Kahari who exchanged the Chieftainship of Chinamhora. Currently, Chief Mhaka is the legitimate Chief being the son of the late chief Kahari. Installation of these traditional leaders was done by the whole family clan in agreement. The process was graced by the drinking of beer, music and dancing. People were well fed with sadza and meat as they grace the installation of their leaders. Thus it is prudent to assert that, Chief installation was an open ceremony witnessed by the whole clan.
Oral evidence suggest that, the word Chinamhora was derived from what one does when he wants honey. In Shona it’s called Kumora huchi. Interestingly, chief Chinamhora is believed to have fought with the bees/ Nyuchi to extract honey thereby he was given the name Chinamhora meaning the honey monger. In 1961, Chief Chinamhora, under a gathering in Seke Village was elected a member of Chiefs Council of Southern Rhodesia present day Zimbabwe. Thus, Chief Chinamhora played a central role in government. Being elected as Chief Council he had the role of overseeing other chiefs, monitoring and evaluating their roles.
Cultural Values of vaSHAWASHA people.
Every society is governed by its culture. Culture is the opium of every society. As this is the case of Soko people under Chief Chinamhora. Firstly, the society ascribed themselves to Soko/ monkey totem. This was the first stance in preserving their culture. Thus this animal specie is regarded holy and endangering this spice is a serious offence under Chief Chinamhora. Respect to totems was also spread to other tribes who were subdued through raiding and present day globalisation. Thus, every totem in Chief Chinamhora communal land is respected. Intermarriage within the people of vaShawasha was respected and allowed. Payment of lobola was done with iron tools such as hoes and present day people are paying cattle and money. However, women in the society had no land ownership. Land was men’s property. Thus, this culture still stands in Goromonzi area.
Furthermore, cultural practise of rainmaking is done by the vaShawasha people. Rain making ceremony was a process of appeasing the spirit mediums with beer so that they will provide people with sufficient rainfall for agriculture and drinking. Rainmaking ceremony was graced by Chiefs as it was their role. Also Kurova makuva, a process of bringing back the dead home is done in Chinamhora community. It is a Shona practice done by family of the deceased of retaining the spirit of the dead home and the process was also graced by the traditional leadership in Chinamhora community. Beer brewing, music and dancing and eating are witnessed on these occasions. Thus, Chief Chinamhora respected people diverse culture and norms.
The people were religious. Historically, the people respected spirit mediums as their god. They believed in spirit mediums as they do their sacrificial offering annually. Cattle blood was used for the sacrifice. However, with the advent of Christianity the people were diluted and they to a larger extent drifted away from spirit mediums to believe in the highest God, through Jesus Christ. This is evident with the number of Churches in Goromonzi such as Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Mapositori to mention but a few. Thus, Chief Chinamhora’s jurisdiction is diverse in nature.
Socially, the chief plays an indispensable role in solving societal conflicts. Through his counsel of wise and brave men, the Chief is helped to solve family, village and communal issues and disputes. He normally arbitrates and solves the matters without favour. They charge fines that are fair but deterrent so as to discourage people from repeating the same offences or misdemeanour. They behave in a manner that is professional and transparent.
Chinamora chieftainship is rotated from the family roots. Currently, Chief Mhaka is in reigning and is doing its best in turning the economic fortunes of the land by promoting agriculture, mainly horticulture. Socially, the chief upholds the practice of maintaining the moral fabric and values of their society.
By Leon Chigwanda – Researcher with Great Zimbabwe University