Tracing Chimanimani tribes

Chimanimani district was previously known as Melsetter. The district is in Manicaland province of eastern Zimbabwe and is popular for its mountainous terrain. The highest peak is Monte Binga at 2,436m. In the terms of the boundaries, the Chimanimani mountains extend through the eastern part of the district forming the border with Mozambique. Then to the north and north-west by Mutare district, to the west by Buhera district and Chipinge on the southern side. The district has about five main chiefs and these include; Chief Ndima, Chief Ngorima, Chief Chikukwa, Chief Mutambara and Chief Muusha.


These are Vanyaushe by tribe of the Dziva/Mvuu totem and Muyambo as their chidawo. They associate themselves with mvuu (hippo) of the water (Dziva). The first chief to settle in the area was Chinyosi and succession is primogeniture-based, the first-born son (dangwe) takes over when the chief dies, but should there be no son to the deceased, the chieftainship goes to the next brother . Some of the chiefs who have assumed the throne include; Chinyosi, Mukungangedati, Nzimbiro Muyambo, Mafusi Muyambo, Zwiurayi, Ndima, Makwayidume and Mahaki.

Th first chief, Chinyosi, came from Mbire and he settled in the area now known as Mafusi (Mozambique). When the Europeans arrived in this part of Africa and divided the tribe into two by delineating the Portuguese East Africa(Mozambique) and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) border. Ndima became chief of the Zimbabwean side.

There are no special burial grounds for the chiefs, they are usually buried close to their homes. When they need rains they usually go to the spirit medium by the name Mbonyeya. This spirit is directly connected to chief Musikavanhu. There are two hills which people are not allowed to climb for pleasure – Kwenene and Deneni. Right from the beginning if anyone went up and misbehaved they would normally come across dreadful animals/creatures. After harvesting their crops, people normally take beer to the hills as an offering to appease the spirits for them to dwell in the hills. Maize is also taken to the hills as a thank you to the spirits for protecting their crops from drought. These offerings are taken by the chief’s advisers.

Some of the villages comprising the community include; Chishiri, Munendivunye, Mugiyo, Foroma, Ndima, Mutsvangwa. As for bounderies, the area under Ndima is on the eastern part of the Chipita river. On the judiciary, cases are received from all kraalheads, the courts sit on Saturdays and Sundays, handling a couple of cases per month. Cases on appeal used to go to Mafusi on the Mozambiquan side, but now to District Commissioer (DA). The people of Ndima used to fall under Chipinge but some years later the boundary was changed to include them in Melsetter (Chimanimani). They however preferred to see themselves back in Chipinge as there is a traditional tie with Chief Musikavanhu of Chipinge.


These are Vahode by tribe with Chindau as their language. They are of Moyo Ngombe totem with Sithole as chidau. They are vaRozvi from Mbire/Hwedza. They split from the people of Musikavanhu on arrival in the area. Succession is primogeniture based, where the first born son of the deceased chief takes over. A list of people who assumed chieftainship is as follows:

  1. Sahode – The first chief, who brought the people from Charter/Hwedza district.
  2. Nyatsanga – The first born of Sahode.
  3. Maningi – First child of Nyatsanga
  4. Marumauta – First born of Maningi
  5. Tsangire – First born of Marumauta
  6. Mwataira – First child of Tsangire`
  7. Kufakwenyika – First child of Mwataira (The Ndebele raids started during his time)
  8. Mushayinembeu – First child of Kufakwenyika (The Europeans arrived during his reign, the name of the chief was changed to Ngorima)
  9. Mwandiyambira – First child of Mushayinembeu
  10. Shangwa – First child of Mushayinembeu
  11. Garayi – First child of Shangwa

Nothing much is known about Sahode’s background , he was appointed leader of a group of people. These people, then in Charter district, were ruled by a spirit, which gave orders to the people by speaking from a tree or grass. This spirit was invisible and never replied to questions – it only gave orders about twice a year. A time came when people were dissatisfied with the spirit and decided to have a new beginning. Sahode and others decided to choose one of themselves as “Maambo” (the beginning). This word is now Mambo. It was decided to crown this new chief with the moon and the new chief was to have nothing to do with the old spirit. To get the moon, people decided to build a tower ad after building it for sometime the people began to speak different languages with Sahode speaking Chindau and other non Rozvi languages. As a result people dispersed due to misunderstanding and fighting that broke out as a result of the misunderstandings and the tower was destroyed. It is said the old spirit then asked leaders of the people to take them to different parts of the country. Sahode was instructed to go to a country that was going to be called Hode and Ngorima’s people are still being called as such.

Some of the villages include; Ngorima, Pireni, Hlabiso, Muchadziya, Tambaneshangu, Matsuro, Chiumba, Mutirasha, Matyukira, Paraara, Taakanye, Ndipeyi, Tsikiye, Majoka, MutingwendeMwandihamba, Mutiho. In terms of the boundaries, to the north is the Zhungure river, to the east the Harowe river, to the south the Rusitu river and to the west the Nyahode river.


These are Waungweme by tribe of the Ishwa totem and Beta as their chidawo. Succession is primogeniture-based, the first-born son (dangwe) takes over when the chief dies, but should there be no son to the deceased, the chieftainship goes to the next brother . Some of the chiefs who have assumed the throne include; Dzwinzwi, Utengamui, Mungirwa, Muwani, Ndima, Sakurauwone, Takura, Mafuwa, Saungweme (Taanacho), Chikukwa and Taedzwa just to mention but a few

This tribe came from Mbire (Hwedza) as an offshoot of the Rozvi empire. They are originally Varozvi who came from the area called Njanja in Charter/Hwedza district. Chief Ndzindwi brought the people to the Melsetter/Chimanimani district. He was led by a spirit which also mark the boundaries of his present area. This area was, and is still known as Ungweme and the people are still known as the Ungweme tribe. The tribe was raided by the Matebele/Shangana during the reign of Saungweme. The raiders were led by Gungunyana. Saungweme and his people fled to Makoni area and lived there for a number of years. On his way back to Ungweme, Saungweme stayed with Chief Mutasa. It was here where he was given the name Saungweme, previously known as Taanacho. When asked the name of his country by Chief Mutasa, Taanacho said, “Ungweme” and the Manica added the respectful prefix “Sa” to Saungweme. It was during his stay that war (Hondo Huru yePamanda) started between Mutasa and Makoni. Mutasa asked for Saungweme’s help. The Ungweme people were reputed to be good fighters. Saungweme sent his son Chikukwa, back to Melsetter while he remained and died in Mutasa.

The first European, Tom Moodie arrived during the reign of Chikukwa. Then another European, called by the Africans as Dabuiezizwi – “the one who makes the way” – arrived about the same time. Others to arrive later were; the Martins, Moolmans, Humans and Princes. Mr English, who farmed on the present Tilbury Estate, also settled here. There was no trouble between the newcomers and the tribesmen, who worked on the roads. Mr Meredith was the first Native Commissioner and the Africans called him Makuwire. Mr Longden was the first Magistrate.

Some of the villages in Chief Chikukwa include; Chikukwa, Mukweye, Muzangepi, Hukuimwe, Mutembedzi, Gube, Matsekete, Chirawo, Mawoneke. Regarding boundaries; to the north is Junction Ruwedza and Nyanyadzi rivers; to the east Sawerombi, Melsetter village, Musimbi stream, Shunguni stream; to the south the boundary is down Haroni towards Chimani, up the Bundi river, Skeleton Pass, towards Martin Falls, Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), to boundary of Mahati’s country, Sangadzi river, beyond Msapa’s Gap, Dziro river, to source, then down Ruwaka river to Msapa source, through Nyamiti hill and back to the starting point.


These are VaGarwe by tribe of the Bonga totem and Mueraimbwa as their chidawo and Ndau as their language. Succession is collateral-based, the spirit medium (svikiro) assists in the selection of the chiefs. Some of the chiefs who have assumed the throne include; Barambabvu, Muchara, Gahadza, Mukonawanhu, Fuhwa, Chikomo, Mavame, Charima, Mukuze, Mutambara, Nyisa, Tumwani and Dindikwa among others. The line of chieftainship succession is from father to all his sons, the first one first, and from the last son to his first born, and so on. There is therefore, only one chieftainship family. The system started at Chief Barambabvu for no particular reason.

According to the District Commissioner’s report; the Mutambara people were originally VaRozvi living in the Gutu district. Chief Barambabvu was told by paramount Chief Murozvi of the Varozvi tribe to go and settle in the country called Garwe, his present area in Chimanimani district. The reason for this was due to the increased number of families close to Mambo and to prevent conflict these families were sent away to occupy another country/territory. There was a person sent by Mambo to guide Barambabvu and set boundaries on arrival.

On arrival in the new country, they found people who lived without any order. They belonged to no tribe and had no name and these were absorbed by the newcomers. People in Mutambara area are still known as vaGarwe. Fortunately the tribe has never been troubled by anyone outside their area. The Shangana were a threat at one stage but were appeased and left. It was during the reign of Mutambara that the Europeans arrived. Captain Nesbitt was the first Europeans in the area. The chief was given a bag of sugar by a solder called  Mr Mack, and thinking it was poison it was thrown in the Umvumvumvu river.

All late Mutambara chiefs are buried at Kuhune, which is a mountain . In the Mutambara country there were usually people possessed by a spirit to guide the people. Anyone can be possessed by a spirit and there is no system of inheritance. Just before the rains are due, the spirit tells the people to have feasts throughout the area to have good rains. These feasts are also called when there is an outbreak of disease. Occasionally, the spirit medium also predicts Districted Commissioner orders and tell people to carry them out. There has never been any trouble between the spirit and the people. The spirit came with the people from Gutu.

Some of the villages in the area include; Mutambara, Nemutenzi, Chikona, Mudzinwa, Chipinda, Munyebvu, Nemaramba, Neshiri, Mawunzi, Chiyeza, Shati, Mkono, Gonoyi, Tagarihwa, Tayirenyi, Mukotsori, Muchakagara, Nyore, Tiritese, Mushambi, Nedahwa, Namire, Chibuwe, Chizemo, Mundiroki, Chioryo, Nomakonde, Nenohwe, Nezandunye, Mwarutsa, Musukutwa, Tambarari, Maguta, Kwanaka, Rekerwi, Mahama, Patyiwi, Mafoteni, Bvumbura, Manyandi and Mudoro among others.


These are VaNyamwazha by tribe of the Ngombe totem and Sithole as their chidawo and Ndau as their language. Succession is collateral-based. The tribe claims Rozvi connection and say they migrated from Mbire/Wedza and Charter districts. Apart from Masango (a wild man) they found the area empty. They lived in peace until the Shangana conquered the area during Mupakata’s time. However, the VaNyamwazha agreed to pay tribute and were allowed to live in peace. Shortly after, the Europeans came. According to the District Commissioner’s report, the tribes originally came from Mbiri (Enkedoorn/Chivhu district). They came under the leadership of Chief Noushoma and were led by a spirit. They were told to go and occupy by the Paramount chief of Mbiri. They first settled in an area later called Cyclope Farm. On arrival they found a wild man called Masango living alone in the area. He lived on wild fruits and belonged to no one.

Below is a link to part of Muusha Family tree

However, it is highly probable that certain information was withheld by the primary source of this information. It is more likely connected to the house of Gariadza. Gariadza Haareki disappeared shortly after being sworn in. One reason given is that he was moved from his ancestral home (Cyclope) and rather than live in his now site (near Nyanyadzi) he “disappeared”. Some deep mystery surrounds the Muusha chieftainship and may have accounted for the reluctancy of the chief or his son to reveal the names of the lineage. Further research would be invaluable. Muusha chiefs are buried at Totororo, near  Biriwiri business centre

Boundaries – Down the Biriwiri river to the Nyanyadzi and then to the Hodi, then to Sabi and over to Dewure, then down the Dewure to Sabi and up to Changadzi and then up to Changadzi to its source. From there to Rusitu river and then through Cyclops farm to Biriwiri.

Villages – Some of the villages in the area include; Gariyadza, Muwusha, Chinyai, Chirinda, Dirikwe, Pfumo, Kutseza, Makwari, Zimunda, Manzowu/Manzou, Matiashe, Matsamwa, Mutizhe/Mutize, Nyanhanda, Mukowangedai, Sabumba, Saziya, Dzitiro, Dzingire, Ruchiyo, Muziziyi, Manjengwa, Nyeredzawanda, Pedzana, Changimara, Chikutukutu, Chipiro, Duri, Mutsereketa, Guriyanga, Magura, Mandidzidze, Manzowo, Masasi, Mumera, Muchada, Nechiwora, Nyaruwa, Rupakwe, Satiya, Tonhorayi, Chishakwe, Nyamadzawo, Zimunda, Ndiyembodzeni, Mutendadzamera, Zayawo, Muchadzinesa, Mwandiyambira, Saurombe and Musiyandaaka.  


Was initially muchinda under Chief Muushu. They are Vanyamwazha with Ngombe totem and Sithole as chidau. According to Dzawanda, Dzingiri was the first jinda (headman) who was appointed by Nyanzou who either held chieftainship or was regent. Succession order included the following; Noushoma, Chipusha, Chirongera, Manzou, Dzingiri, Ndanyasara, Godzevu, Dzawanda, in this order. Some of the villages include; Dzingiri, Kutseza, Manjengwa, Manzou, Pfumo and Zayawo.


They are Vanyamwazha with Ngombe totem and Sithole as chidau. In 1955, selected by elders and chief Muushu. Succession is collateral based. The order of succession from inception has been like; Murinirwa, Nesanga, Mutsikwa, Bandara, Maswinu, Garamanuwa, Piresu, Mwanditope, Chomusatita and Maswinu.

The origin is said to have stemmed from Noushoma’s brother Murinirwa (Others say they were not related). Upon their arrival in the district, Noushoma settled on the highlands and Murinirwa went to the lowlands (Gowa), where he became a proficient salt-maker, a commodity he supplied to the chief, carrying it in a gumbu (soft beaten bark container). He was given control of the area below the escarpment between the Changadzi and Nyanyadzi rivers and over the Sabi, Chomutsa and Nhemadziwa which now fall under chief Nyashanu. Some of the villages include; Dzitiro, Chipiro, Muziziyi, Ndirikwe, Tonhorayi and Guriyanga

Compiled by: Misheck Samanyanga

Source: Mainly National Archives S2929/1/6

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