Mt. Darwin tribes and their origins

Mount Darwin, named after the British naturalist Charles Darwin, is one of seven districts in Mashonaland Central Province of Zimbabwe. The mountain is known as Pfura meaning large Rhino. Mt. Darwin district is the largest district in the province with forty wards and six chieftainships. It is in the north-eastern part of Zimbabwe and located about 156 kilometers from Harare. The district borders with Mozambique to the north, with neighbouring districts like Shamva to the south, Rushinga to the east and Muzarabani on the west. It once served as the headquarters of the Tribal Trust Lands areas set aside for black occupation. The district is home to the Korekore people who have a number of different clans, which have their own totems (mitupo). The language spoken in the district is ChiKorekore.

The area is believed to have been the first to be worked by missionaries in the region of southern Africa by the Portuguese named Father Goncalo da Silveira in 1560. Darwin originally belonged to the Mazoe district, which was divided into north and south districts in 1899. In September 1909 it was formally changed to Darwin district.

Early history

The original inhabitants of the area are believed to have been hunters and marauders who traded with the Arab (Mahommedan) ivory and slave traders. During the first half of the 17th century the area under discussion was a well-defined geographic unit and formed a province of the Monomutapa Kingdom known as Chirunya. Its boundaries were the Mazowe river up-stream to the Ruya River. Oral history in the area is strong and the people believe that they descended from Koswa, their female founding ancestor. The Mutapa state occupied the land between the Zambezi River in the north, the Hunyani River and Umvukwe range on the southwest and the Mazowe and Ruya River on the southeast. Monomutapa Kazurukumupasa Siti was the ruling king until his death in 1666. Mukombwe Kamharapasu, son of Mavhura became Monomutapa (1663-1692). After marrying the widow of Kazurukumupasa Siti, Mukombwe fathered a son called Nhemuru Siti circa 1670 and as per tradition, the child was regarded as the son of Kazurukumupasa, his elder half-sister and daughter of Kazurukumupusa was named Koswa. It was custom of the Monomutapas to place princesses in authority, probably due to the fact that some of the tribes they found, like Tonga were a matrilineal society and women were preferred for inheritance, including leadership. Three of the daughters were sent out to be princesses by Mukombwe. Koswa was to be princess over Chirudya, whilst Nyahuwi and Anadondo were allocated other areas/matunhu. They set off from the royal Guta and Koswa and Nyahuwi settled at Usirisiri. They had been accompanied by their brothers Nemhuru and Dombo. Historians date Koswa’s migration with Nyahuwi at circa 1680. Mukombwe was Christian by name only but lived as a true African who followed traditional rites and never going to church. He reunited the Sena, Barwe/ Lower Zambezi Tonga people under the Mutapa Empire. He successfully drove back the Portuguese from lands in Mutapa and managed to resettle various Mutapa families in the lands he had freed. When he died in 1692, his younger brother Monomotapa Nyakunembire. Mukombwe’s ancestral spirit (mhondoro) is great in Mt Darwin (Pfura), Chipuriro/Guruve, Mutoko, Shamva, Mazoe and Bindura. It is important to note that, the name “Mukombwe/Munkombwe” is widely used in Zambia, among people of the Tonga tribe and these are likely to be offshoots of the Mutapa state as they also claim to have been under Mambo rulership in the present day Zimbabwe.

History of chieftaincy in the Tribal Trust Lands of Mt Darwin

The Tribal Trust Lands were developed with the following objectives by the Government:

  1. To provide land for settlement in line with the increasing demand for land by tribesmen and to provide a livelihood for a growing African population which could not be absorbed in industry and elsewhere;
  2. To provide employment on the Tribal Trust Lands for those who were without land or who had to supplement their agricultural earnings in order to subsist in times of drought or crop failure;
  3. To assist by means of settlement, in the control and eradication of tsetse fly thereby opening up production and at the same time protecting areas which are being formed properly.

Chimanda and Masoso Tribal Trust Lands

  1. Chief Nyakusengwa (Mukosa)

The traditional name is Nyakusengwa prior to the chief’s appointment the chieftaincy was called Mukosa during the period when the chief was out of the area and had left someone else in charge. His chidau is Nzou and praise names are Samanyanga, some now use Chirandu although it is believed that it is not their true chidau but was a result of mixing with other people from the Chimhanda reserve and most likely the long association with the Mutapa whose founder, Nyatsimba Mutota himself was of the Moyo totem but changed to Nzou, Samanyanga. He is of Korekore-Tavara tribe. Records are not clear as to when exactly he was appointed but it was between 1945-1953. Chief Nyakusengwa was the authority of this area. People from outside the district would be refused the right to settle in the district without further thought. Preference was somehow accorded to people from within the district but living outside chief Nyakusengwa area though the chances of them gaining access to the area were very slim. This area was not affected by the land husbandry pattern and the Land Husbandry      Act was not applied in the chieftaincy.

Below is a link to Nyakusengwa family tree:

Spiritual function:

Chief Nyakusengwa was installed into office by the Mhondoro Koswa the female ancestor of the tribe. Rainmaking and harvest ceremonies are done. This chief plays no significant role in these ceremonies but to call on to the public in order for the beer and other offerings to be prepared. The actual spiritual function’s is in the hands of the Svikiro.

Chief Rusambo

The traditional name is Rusambo of the Soko totem. The Rusambo community migrated from Shawasha as a result of Ruwambwe’s exploits and he had to flee and was allocated land by Mutota. Administratively the area is known as Chimanda tribal trust land. The land that he had authority over was devided into;

Rusambo –Mahutwe

Gwangwava- Dumbwe

Katevera – Tsombe

Chimanda – Chibonga

Magaranhewe – Romba

Below is a link to Rusambo family tree:

History of the Chimanda community

Manetsera hunted into the area from the east, he crossed Ruya river and cleared the country setting fire to the bush. He later brought his father Zarezare into the area as their first chief. They claim to have been vaRozvi of the Moyo (Chirandu) totem. He was betrayed by Madyirapanze (his son in law) and founder of the Gwangwava chieftainship leading to Manetsera’s disappearance.

Chief Gwangwava

Their traditional name is Gwangwava of the Nyoni kasirisiri totem and Korekore tribe of the Dumbwe dunhu. He was appointed between 1951/2 by the tribal Mhondoro Nyambisi

History of the Gwangwava community

They moved from an area called Chipadze near Bindura during the reign of Mudyirapanze owing to ill feeling among the people. Madyirapanze was the son in law to Manetsera, the founder of the Chimanda dynasty. Manetsera was rebellious towards Mutota and went into a long unsuccessful battle with him. Madyirapanze was granted the dunhu of Dumbwe for the part he played in subduing Manetsera. Madyirapanze had five sons and they all succeeded him although the order is not quite clear. Three of the sons grew up in Dumbwe and two in Choma. Nyambisi, Makatyi and Kamombe were the Dumbwe sons and Nyaromo and Nyamapako were the Chomo sons. From Nyamapako’s death the successions are believed to be as follows:

Chipara – Kazhou- Chimhapa-Gwangava-Kanwambvura-Museka-Nyajina-Nyambisi 

Below is a link to Gwangwava family tree:

Some villages which form part of Gwangwava community but are outside the traditional boundary are: Mukotyo, Kachidza, Barangiro, Mukombwe (in the Katevera area) and Maropa, Mukutyu, Chaswera andMutyoromungo (in the Chimanda area).  

Chief Mukuni

His traditional name is Mukuni

History of the chieftaincy

Dombo Makuni who was brother to Nyahuwi and Koswa, daughters of Monomotapa Mukombwe was appointed to rule as chief in a village at a place called Sirisiri on the Ruya River, not far from Ganganyama hill. He became the founder of this dynasty. 

Nyahuwi daughter of Monomotapa Mukombwe is the founder of the Mukuni people. Koswa and Nyahuwi came through Choma and crossed the Ruya river near Gungwa hill thus entering Diwa. They built a large village at a place called Sirisiri adjacent to the Ruya river not far from Ganganyama hill. Dombo Makuni, the brother was appointed to rule as chief and he became the founder of this dynasty.

It is not clear if there is a relationship between this chief and Chief Mukuni of Victoria Falls of the Toka-Leya tribe who also migrated from the eastern side of Zambia. In addition, the fact that there is an area called Choma in Zambia may be a strong indicator of the tribe’s origins as these are said to have passed through Choma, and in the history of Chief Mukuni of Victoria Falls, they also mention have passed through northern Zimbabwe.

Kandeya Tribal Trust Lands

Chief Dotito

The traditional name is Dotito, of the Nzou Samanyanga totem. They are of the Nyombwe tribe (Korekore) and speak chiKorekore. The chief was appointed in 1938. The chieftainship covered by the Kandeya Tribal Trust Land consisted of the following matunhu:

Dotito community, Matope, Kandeya, Nowedza, Nembire, Pachanza and Chitsatu.

Below is a link to Dotito Family Tree:

Gutsa Tribal Trust Land

Chief Hwata

His traditional name is Hwata of the Shava totem and Chidau Mufakose from the Zezuru tribe.

History of the chieftaincy

In the days before European occupation three sons of Nyashanu (Chiweshe, Hwata and Gutsa) who lived in Buhera left their homeland and migrated northwards. Gutsa was a warrior who conquered and established two chieftainships for his elder brother Chiweshe in the Chiweshe Tribal Trust Lands and Hwata in the Gutsa Tribal Trust Land of Mt Darwin. After the rule of the Europeans in Rhodesia Chief Hwata was moved to Chiweshe where he had no area of his own but was under chiefs Makope and Negomo until he was given an area in the Gutsa Tribal Trust land in Mt Darwin.

However, during the colonial period, after 1950/1 there were many claims of chieftainships. A number of chiefs had been demoted to headmen as they were regarded less important to government programmes. Since the 1960’s, the Rhodesian front administration wanted to work with chiefs for their political benefits and efforts were made to upgrade the chiefs in the 1970’s and around 33 were upgraded in 1976. As a result, some people who did not deserve to become chiefs by tradition were appointed, thus creating challenges after the colonial period when colonially disadvantaged people sought to have their abolished chieftaincies reinstated made claims for restoration. Some of the factors considered for upgrading demoted chiefs included iter-alia:

The history, previous status, current practice; confirmation for the desire to upgrade; confirmation that the headman was accepted by the tribe as the right person to be appointed; confirmation of an updated family tree; confirmation that the boundaries are known.

In Mt Darwin District a number of headmenships were placed under chief Rusambo who was a recent immigrant in the area and could not have political power as some of his headmen had lived in the area for centuries. The chiefdom was an amalgamation of various autonomous units into one chieftainship. However, there seems to have been issues in the Rusambo chieftaincy as there was jealous and annoyance with chief Dotito who was placed in authority over Gwangwava, chief Gwangwava was traditionally a chief in the eyes of his own people whilst chief Rusambo wasn’t really regarded as a senior chief in the tribal hierarchy.

Current chieftainships in Mt Darwin District

Mt Darwin has six chieftainships and they are namely: Chief Matope of the Makombe clan; Chief Nembire –Nembire village; Chief Chiswiti (Nhari Nendoro totem) and installed in 1984; Chief Kandeya (Tembo Mazvimbakupa); Chief Rusambo-Rushinga area of Mugaranhewe and Chief Dotito (Nzou Samanyanga totem).

Chief Nembire

Nembire was the Headman to Chief Dotito of Kandeya Tribal Trust Lands in 1964. His mutupo being Soko and chidau Bvudzijena of the vaMbire tribe, speaking chiKorekore. His dunhu is Mbire, they call themselves vaMbire though the true Mbire are from Hwedza

History of the community 

They migrated from an area around Wedza where they are affiliated to the Soswe chieftainship. They were allocated their dunhu by Mukombwe, the then ruling Monomotapa at that time, the boundary with Dotito is the Fusiri stream.

Below is the link to the Nembire Family tree:

Functions of the headmen

The headmen administer authority at village level and play the following roles:

  1. Judicial –  some cases include adultery (hupombwe) divorce (kurambana), slander (kutukana),trespass, debtors (chikwerete), Fraud, Kureverana nhema
  2. Land authority
  3. Developmental – developmental activities received sanction of the headman.                                                                                                                                                                      

Author: Ashley Maganzo is a Cultural Heritage Specialist and a freelance Research Historian for She is a strong consulting professional passionate about safeguarding intangible heritage and the history of Zimbabwe. She possesses exceptional communication skills and experience working with people of different cultural backgrounds and age groups.

If you would like to contribute to research efforts by Zimtribes to document and promote the history of each tribe in Zimbabwe click the button below.


Bishi, G. (2015). The colonial archive and contemporary chieftainship claims: the case of Zimbabwe 1935-2014. The University of the Free State.

D, B. N. (1976). The Mutapa Dynasty: a comparison of documentary and traditional evidence . History in Africa .

Latham , C. J. (1975). Rusambo Chiefdom. NADA, 68.

Mashingaidze, G. (2022, May 6). Let’s give credit where it’s due. Retrieved from The Patriot :

Mt Darwin District. (2019). Retrieved from

NAZ. (1964 ). S2929/2/2 Darwin D
4012istrict Delineation Report November 8-196 January 11.

Wrathall, J. J. (1968). Developing The Tribal Trust Lands. RJE, 54-65.

6 Replies to “Mt. Darwin tribes and their origins”

    1. Also there is no mention of HEADMAN KAITANO’s historical background.
      I witnessed the reins of Liason Chimbangu as CHIEF KAITANO in the 70s, the Chieftaincy has had to be relegated to the HEADMANSHIP at independence Zimbabwe. Research more about that

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