Chief Tangwena’s legacy

Traditional leaders and community development. A case of Chief Tangwena- Nyanga South.

This study analyses the role of traditional leaders and community development in independent Zimbabwe. It argues, that African leaders provide moral sanctions that help in shaping human societies and communities’ development.  It is through such inculcation of royalty, respect and honor in the young and the grown-up that social order is enhanced and preserved in a society to mold and shape development. In order to achieve this objective, the study classifies community development as achieved by good leadership. Good leaderships through good policy initiative, respect of humankind, confidence and commitment are helping Chief Tangwena and his headman to develop Nyanga South.  Nyanga south community has and is developing both economically, socially and politically. Economic development is being witnessed through sound and efficient irrigation agricultural system, good quality infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. Socially, respect of cultural norms and belief is being apprehended it fostering the preservation of environment, marriages and community continuity. The use of myths and tabooes in Nyanga South covering areas of Nyamaropa, Regina, Tombo 1 and 2, Bumhira and Matema area is beyond doubt that Chief Tangwena enacted and fostered such beliefs to protect his territory. Politically, the Tagwena area is well mature and participate in political life. However, much energy of these people are agriculturalist. A deep analysis of Chief Tagwena society proves that, his area is well developed and it is self-sufficient and sustainable.

Historical background.

Tangwena area is in Nyanga South constituency. It covers areas of Nyamaropa, Matema, Tombo, Bumhira Regina and Trout beck. These areas are under the stewardship of Chief Tagwena. In fact, the Tangwena in Nyamaropa are believed to have migrated from modern day Mozambique. Nyanga had a lot of other dialects that are the Barwe, Wanyama and Wahwesa in Kairezi. Distinguishing, the Tangwena people one could only say these people were the Vabarwe and were subdued to make the Manyika dialect. History says Rekayi Tangwena was born in 1910 in colonial Zimbabwe and was of the Nhewa/Simboti totem (leopard). He became chief of the Tangwena people in 1966.  He survived with two spouse’s Mai Karongo and Mai Elijah. It is believed Mai Karongo was a spirit medium. Therefore, in 1966 to 1984 the Tangwena area was under the stewardship of Chief Rekayi Tangwena. Chief Rekayi Tangwena became a revolutionary and defended land in Nyanga area. Oral tradition collates that, Chief Tangwena refused to be evicted from his ancestral lands. Tangwena refusal to abandon the land, made him been taken to court. Chief Tangwena won the ruling. He maintained the land but unfortunately intimidatory tactics were then employed by the oppressor to force the people off the land. In 1969 September, Chief Tangwena and his people were evicted from the land and some were arbitrary beaten by Rhodesian police. However, Chief Rekayi Tangwena joined others in Mozambique to fight for land. It is believed that, Chief Tangwena helped former President Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere into Mozambique. In 1984 Chief Rekayi Tangwena died and he was laid to rest at National heroes’ acre. It is therefore prudent to ascertain that, the land issue which Chief Tangwena died for is now the source of economic development in Nyanga area and Zimbabwe as a nation. Chieftainship remained in his family till present day and the custodians of this power are doing wonders to uphold the Rekayi Tangwena vision.  

Land and Community Prosperity in Nyanga South.

Land is the mother of economic prosperity in any nation. It is evident historically that Chief Tangwena firstly resisted eviction by the white settlers who then used force to control the rich grounds of Inyanga. This irked Chief Tangwena, who as a result joined the trek into Mozambique to get military training a move to fight the colonial oppressors. It is this land question that has enriched and empowered the Nyanga and Zimbabwe people. Abundant agricultural land in Bende gap, Matema and Tombo 1 and 2 is enabling ordinary people to grow cash crops for survival and improving the gross domestic production of Zimbabwe. Potato and fruit growing has dominated the area. This is aided by the abundant water the area received. It is thus, this water harvested for irrigational purposes. Irrigation is now benefiting low-lying areas of Regina, Bumhira and Crossdale. These areas are benefiting from irrigation system to improve their agriculture in crop cultivation. Crops grown under this scheme include beans, onions, garlic and fruits. These are cash crops and proves beyond doubt that the living standard of these people are above the poverty datum line. Money earned from agriculture is then diverted to other demanding economic pressures such as education and primary and secondly health care. Animal husbandry is also done in Nyanga south. Cattle ranching is aided by the mountainous privileged the area is. Abundant and fertile grazing area are been watered by the high rainfall the area receives. Forestry is also done. It is thus prudent to argue that, land is the source of economic and social prosperity.

Tourism as source of economic development is being implemented by Chief Tangwena people. It is through his passion and desire to see Nyanga South developed. Promotion of tourism in Nyanga is brewing positive fruits. In fact, Troutbeck Resort area in Nyanga is doing positive development in ploughing back to the community. This is witnessed in infrastructural developments such as roads, schools and health centers. It is therefore prudent to argue that, Chief Tangwena is playing a fundamental role in shaping and molding community development is Nyanga district.

Availability of educational facilities in Nyanga south also proves that Chief Tangwena was the fore-father of present day civilization of Nyanga south. It is now the role of the present day Chief and headman to allocate the land to the council to build schools. Abundant learning facilities in Nyanga south answers the land thirsty by Chief Rekayi. Currenty chief Tangwena is doing wonders to promote good quality education which is evidenced by adequate primary and seconday schools. Schools such as Regina Coeli, Bumhira Primary and Seconday, Kute High and Primary, Tombo Primary are accommodating pupils from different areas to acquire basic fundamental education. Practical subjects such as horticulture, agriculture and wood work are being promoted since the area need specialist in areas of the above trade. Provision of good quality health care in Nyanga south is an indicator of community development. Clinics at Tombo, Matema, and Regina Coeli and Bende gap are a true reflection of economic development. Education and Health are among the Sustainable development goals. In order to fully achieve these goals Chief Tangwena is using land reliably and enacting policies that are good for his people hence earning royalty and respect from his people. Hence, Nyanga south community development is being implemented by the present day families to benefit young and future generations.

Cultural norms and values are also being preserved by Chief Tangwena. Every society is bound to respect its norms and values a way to promote unity, peace and harmony. In trying to foster and maintain such cultural defect, Chief Tangwena, also use myths and taboos’. For instance, the cultural values of this place prohibits anyone to steal anyone property. It is then cemented by a taboo that if you steal then the item will follow you up until the owner get control of his or her valuable. These values, myths and taboos are also preserving the environment such as wild animals, deforestation and human existence. It is a taboo to comment any fun thing in Nyanga south mountains. Poaching of animals is also governed by totems in such area. It is therefore prudent to argue that, culture is promoting community development in Chief Tangwena area.

All in all, Chief Tangwena is fostering community development in Nyanga south area. Land has brew positive fruits in providing food and security to the people, provision of good quality education and primary and secondary health care. Preservation of cultural norms and values are also being done to foster community development. Thus, Chief Tangwena is developing Nyanga South.   

By Leon Chigwanda – Researcher with Great Zimbabwe University

13 Replies to “Chief Tangwena’s legacy”

  1. Am living in tangwena area. I grew up there and this author is misleading people. He did not so his research properly .

    1. True, I perceived this as I was reading. I am a Simboti and would like to come and leave in Nyanga South near the mountain areas, is there lands available ?

  2. I don’t get it! Isn’t it that simboti is dindingwe as known by local Nyanga people and dindingwe is a cheetah why do people keep saying it’s a leopard?

    1. I used to be confused bout this too. All I can tell you is check the cover of the book called “The political economy of land in Zimbabwe” by Henry Moyana.
      On the cover you will see chief Rekayi Tangwena walking with the clan.
      He is wearing the our totem skin. analyze the patterns ( rosettes) on the skin.
      Then compare with the animals in question and you will get your answer bro.

  3. I would like to learn more about my origin and I would like to correct you on my totem Simboti /Nhewa its a cheattah (mbada /ingwe) not dindingwe

    Thank you

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