Kariba Chiefdoms unpacked!

Kariba district is located in Mashonaland West province of Zimbabwe and is widely known for its majestic Kariba Dam, along the might Zambezi and is one of the biggest man-made lakes in the world. The Lake is about 1,300 kilometers upstream from the Indian Ocean, along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Kariba town is a tourist town due to its vast waters and wildlife. One can enjoy game viewing, boat cruises, fishing and hunting among other leisure activities.

Lake Kariba

Kariba district mainly constitutes of four (4) traditional chiefs – Mola, Msampakaruma, Nebiri and Negande, with Nyamhunga falling between Hurungwe and Kariba. These were some of the traditional leaders who were displaced from the Zambezi river to pave way for the construction of the Kariba Dam around 1957. After displacement each of the four chiefs was allocated an area on the lake shore to establish Fishing Camps and these include, Msampakaruma, Charara, Sibilobilo, and Makuyu camps. In some cases, old villages were used for these camps. I will not dwell much on other chiefs on the eastern side who primarily fall under Hurungwe, as these will be covered in a separate dedicated article.

Chief Nebiri

These are Shangwe by tribe of the Shoko-Ncube totem. Their chidawo is Chirongo. The area as a whole is called Nebiri, and it has various sub-names , such as localities bearing names of rivers and streams like Chifudze, Hwadze, Kasvisva etc.


For the Family Tree of the chiefdom till the time of Chief Matashu, kindly follow the link below:


The name Nebiri is derived from the name of the valley, it was never a personal name. The chiefs have always been called Nebiri and this is now a traditional name. This tribe was granted chieftainship by Chief Chireya who falls under  Gokwe. Chireya was regarded as paramount chief in Gokwe where he had six headmen under him where all functioned as independent chiefs with headman status. This is because there was no post of paramount chief that existed and promoting them to chiefs would make them independent of Chireya. In addition to the six, Chiefs Nenyunga, Nebiri and Negande all regard Chireya as their senior.

The Nebiri family married from the Chireya family and became vazukuru to chief Chireya. Because of this relationship, Chief Chireya agreed for them to have an independent community but they had to pay for their land with blood in the form of human sacrifice. Kasusira, their first leader, agreed to be beheaded in order to earn the soil for his people. Similar ceremonies were conducted for others, such as headman Nembudziya, etc.

Nebiri family are still responsible for assisting in the selection of chief Chireya , though they are not the only ones who have this function. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, spiritual installations were conducted , but since the native commissioners have been taking part in the selections all spiritual functions associated with succession have ceased.

At these ceremonies,  string of black beads (matimba) had to be placed around the successor’s neck. Chief Chireya had the responsibility of installing (placing matimba on)  most of the chiefs and headmen in the Kariba-Gokwe district. Although chiefs are no longer installed with Matimba, the significance of this function still persists in certain respects – for example, Chiefs Mola or Nebiri would not dare spend a night at Chireya’s village because they have never been presented to the spirits.

Rain ceremonies are usually held each year, at a place near the chiefs’s kraal. Gifts are also sent annually to Nevana, the rain svikiro (spirit medium) of the Vashangwe residing in the Gokwe district.

Masava/Masaba Community (Chief Nebiri)

It’s important to mention the Masava group who were appointed by Chief Nebiri as headman. These are also of the Soko totem (Chirongo) and Vashangwe tribe. Masava was appointed around 1939 by Chief Nebiri as Sadunhu and was selected by the elders of the group. Basis of selection was collateral successon (patriarchy). These occupy the Bembera-Chifudzi area.

Chief Nebiri was muzukuru to Masava – that is , the mother of chief Nebiri was the daughter or sister of the Masava family . Masava was a bodyguard to chief Nebiri, thus they came into this area together. Masava first settled at Vuranduli  and were relocated to Chifudzi to after the construction of Kariba dam. Some of the vilages under Masava included; Gasura, Mapinda, Masava, Tapererwa or Mazezewa, Basaroukwa, Marairomba, Makumbirofa or Kanegocheka, and Makwerere or Marundura.

For the Family tree, kindly refer to the link below:



Chief Negande

Negande people are VaShangwe by tribe of the Shava, Mhofu totem, with Gamanya Kuenda as their chidawo. They border chiefs Mola, Nebiri, Nenyunga and Siabuwa. They use both Tonga and Shangwe as their languages. The chief is normally referred to as Mwami by his subjects.


Kamkota, son of Chireya, was given this area and the people regard him as their ancestor. Kamkota was given a branch of a tree by Chireya and he was told to go forth and start his own tree. When they came to the area, they found people of the Sakurebgwa tribe, whom they fought and drove off. Their ancestors then settled in the very place where the tribe is still living today – these were not affected by Kariba dam displacement.

There were some movements into the area with two kraals from Mola, that is, Moswera Kahusu and Magwama and these settled in Dela. Makaza kraal moved in from Sinakatenge and settled at Munengi.

The Family Tree of chieftainship is as per the link below:


Some of the villages in Negande included; Chibanka, Kanengocheka, Katizandima, Makaza, Mapwatu, Mazabuka, Mazinyo, Negande, Siachamwaika, Siachikalanga, Zimonyo, Jeke, Mafuriranwa/Jatakalula, Magwama, Malobokela, Marumasangu, Murota, Miyozi, Siachakanzwa, Sianjalika, Mudenda, and Siansangu Makaringe.

Chief Msampakaruma

Were also affected by Kariba dam and move further south in the interior. Before displacement they occupied the area between Sanyati and Bumi before being moved in 1956. They are baGova (Shona) by tribe and of the Shoko totem going by chidawu Wafawanaka. Common names of occupied areas include Marowa, Chidyamugwamu, Karongwe, Chisanga and Gunguwe among others. The chief is normally referred to as Ishe by his people.


Even the oldest Sampakaruma last interviewed didn’t recall legends of his tribe living anywhere other than the Zambezi, possibly meaning they were some of the first Shonas to come to Zambezi. The tribe was conquered by the Ndebele tribe and made to pay taxes to the Matabele king in tobacco.

The basis for selection of a chief is collateral and follows roughly four main houses. Among these people a new chief is chosen by the vazukuru and the makota. The muzukuru puts matimba on the chief- Nemawana is the muzukuru and it’s a traditional name. The first to hold this office was a son of the first chief’s sister. The name and responsibility are passed on to the next successive generation.

Other vaGova chiefs who lived in the east of these people were Nyamhunga, Dandawa, Chuundu and Mudzimu. Although these are of the same tribe, Sampakaruma claims no relationship. When Sampa lived in the Zambezi he had two abalisa, Litswara and Chitondo, who ruled their own small areas  and were subservient to chief Sampa. However, since they have been displaced to the bush, they have not been given areas and they are no longer as functional making them to be regarded as mere kraal heads.

It is said that when chief Sampa shifted to his new settling ground, he carried with him his ancestor , Kasengeri – that is he dug up his bones and transported them to their new burial ground. Kasengeri is their tribal spirit and he used to speak to them through the medium of Pinchisi, alias Kasengeri, a son of Chinodakufa. For the Family Tree, kindly follow the link below:


They claim that chieftainship should alternate between four houses – Chavonga, Maguranyonga, Morepori and Nyamadzawo (Chigwededza). Some of the villages found in Msampa are; Chibayamagora, Chikwasha, Rudondolo, Mugara, Mashowedzana, Mutanaugwa, Matengambiri, Msampakaruma, Siantumbi, Kuchacharika, Chibumba, Chunsiya, Chipura, Djumba, Kashambe, Mutandira/ Katandira, Mutimutema, Siachazangwa, Marambo, Mashonga, Matekenya, Siamatari, Munanga, Chakazamba,Honye, Mapokotera and Mutukura.


Chief Mola

Were equally affected by Kariba dam and moved about 15 kilometers further into the interior- They are the closest to the Zambezi river. Before displacement they occupied the area between Sengwa and Bumi or Ume river. They are baTonga by tribe and of the Nyoni totem going by chidawu Mushanga Muyuni. Common names of occupied areas include Bumi, Chitenge, Dove, Mayove,Kalundu, Mangwala, Chiweshe among others. The chief is normally referred to as Mwami  by his people.

Unlike the Shona patriarchy selection of chiefs, Mola use matrilineal succession with nephews (sons of sisters) taking prominence in selection, this is similar to most Zambia tribes, including the Tonga of Bamutala (across the river). Successors are selected by the makurukota (the equivalent of masadunhu in Shona). Masvikiro or mhondoro play no part in these functions.


As far as the tribe can recall, they came from the Zambezi and can hardly trace their history or origins beyond this point. They do not claim relationship with the surrounding tribes or chiefdoms.  Prior to their displacement in 1956, Chief Mola and his people occupied the southern bank of the Zambezi, from Sengwa to Bumi (Ume) rivers. Their neighbors across Sengwa were Sinakatenge and Msampakaruma across Bumi. Chiefs Nebiri and Negande were neighbors to the south living some distance from the Zambezi river.  The main Chief Mola and the majority of his subjects lived upstream around Sibbilobbilo area with a few living in Bumi’s Kasonde area , just close to the current Bumi Hills and this is where he used to appoint his nephew as headman or subchief to handle issues and oversee that area.

All Mola people were affected by the displacement, and apart from two kraals, all settled around their chief. The two kraals excepted were Jeke and Siampamba – the latter is still under Mola’s control, while Jeke switched allegiance to Chief Negande.

Some of the villages (sabhuku) included; Dumbula, Gwangwaba, Jeketera, Kai, Lutope, Masaba Kayungwa, Siachiwa, Siakaloba, Siachitema, Kubanyawu, Siampanda, Siamavu, Simuguga, Chalibamba, Liyongwesha, Mujokeri, Musana and Zvamoyo (Chirume). Chirume was a minor Muchinda of chief Mola on Kasonde side and he controlled Liyongwesha, Mujokeri, Musana and Zvamoyo.

There were two subdivisions of the Mola community – Chirume and Siachamwaika (Bokisi). Chirume was a minor subdivision of the community.

Sialonje was a muzukuru of chief Mola and was responsible for appointing successors to the chieftainship. He was appointed by Chief Mola (Siajeya) around 1941. He was of the Soko totem (Chirongo). This privilege has been passed down to the present generation.  This family holds a prominent position in the chiefdom. This group lived on the Bumi near the present day hotel. The area they currently occupy belonged to chief Nebiri. Some of the villages under Sialonje included Chigwagwa, Shangwe Siandima, Lusinga (Siamabechu), Majomba, Mola Mutami, Sianembwa and Viringana.

Chieftainship structure

For the Chiefdom tree, kindly refer to the link below:


Bounderies with other chiefdoms

Ndepa mountain range is the boundery with Nebiri, whereas the Bumi river is the boundery with chief Msampakaruma. The boundery with chief Negande is not so clear-cut. It is approximately as follows: Starts at Ndepa, then follows a north-westerly direction to Marambwa, a pool or pan, then to a strean called Sonda, which flows into the Sengwa about fifteen miles north of the Dela.

Rain ceremonies are held each year, and gifts are sent to Nevana (the rain svikiro in Nemangwe, Gokwe).

By Misheck Samanyanga

Source: Mainly from the National Archives records.

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3 Replies to “Kariba Chiefdoms unpacked!”

  1. Very informative i remember my father spoke about chief musambakaruma and I i see the origin of the siatumbe name am bearing i wish I can relocate my roots in Zimbabwe im am currently in Zambia

  2. This is awesome. It leaves no-one without the knowledge of his chiefdom. Tonga people from Zambia and Zimbabwe are close relatives and share very important traditional rituals though were separated by the Zambezi river.

    This is a well researched piece of work.

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