This article dwells on the birth and growth of Makoni kingdom. Makoni District is located in Manicaland province that is north-eastern part of Zimbabwe. The settlement pattern is said to have been drawn by the BSAC- British Southern African Company. This settlement pattern was affected by both first and second Chimurenga which saw disturbance in growth and development. However, the attainment of independence saw massive development in Makoni district. Development was witnessed in key structures of education, agriculture, infrastructure and health. As these development goals are being implemented, Chief Makoni and his predecessors had a vision of mapping Makoni society into a more developed and civilised community. It is also regarded as one of the richest regions in Zimbabwe with its wealth ranging from cattle rearing, abundant fertile and arable land and good climatic conditions. Cultural values and religious norms are also preserved in the district like most societies.
A society is moulded by its ability to sustain its population. Chieftainship has managed to preserve the Makoni lands and heritage. Like other Shona communities, Makoni society is believed to have emanated from Mozambique where they settled after leaving the Great East lakes in East Africa . The Makoni kingdom is also referred to as Maungwe Kingdom and it was founded in 1635. The Maungwe rulers (title Mambo) are as follows: Makoni IX Muswati (1831 – 1839), Makoni X Zendera (1839 – 1840), Mukunyadze (1840 – 1865), Makoni XI Nyamahindi (1865 – 1889), Makoni XII Muruko (1889 – 1896), Makoni XIII Mutota (Chingaira) and Makoni XIV Ndapfunya (1896 – 1921). The above named are the great rulers of Maungwe kingdom. Currently, Chief Cogen Simbayi Gwasira is in charge of the district. Makoni is Nyati, Shonga, Mhenyu and Makoni totem is Nyati -Buffalo one of the big five animals in Zimbabwe. They say Nyati Imhenyu-meaning a buffalo is ever alive. Makoni rulers were regarded as fighters of social in justice from the white colonial settlers. For instance, Chief Gandanzara ruled from 1996 to 2008 and he managed to fight for land and resettled his people in fertile lands. The Makoni princesses are regarded as a symbol of wealth and they had a special burial site. Oral evidence suggests that, the princesses were buried at sacred mountain of Chitsotso in Rusape. This mountain is being preserved even today through the respect of sound and viable cultural norms and values. It is therefore prudent to say that Makoni district under the stewardship of Nyathi/ Shonga people has flourished economically and socially and thus it became a civilised community.
Makoni district is one of the richest society in Manicaland Zimbabwe. The district covers areas of as Chendambuya, Mapaurura, Chinhenga, Tsanzaguru, and Tsikada, Nyahove and Bingaguru to mention but a few. These places are regarded as the hub of agriculture in Maungwe dynasty. Abundant land for crop cultivation saw the growing of maize, rapoko-mapfunde and mhunga-sorghum, millet, groundnuts-nzungu, and sunflowers. As the place is not urbanised, the society had developed methods of self-sustenance and survival. Growing of commercial crops like sunflowers for the production of cooking oil is an indicator of prosperity. Processing of sunflower seeds to oil is also being done by man-made machines designed and made by blacksmiths in the district. Thus the growing of maize and other grains is being witnessed by storage bins- matura at nearly every household. This indicator clearly depicts that, Maungwe society is endowed and clustered by able – bodied people who have the vision of transforming Makoni district. As the area receives high rainfall, some areas such as Tsikada, Mhandambiri are swampy and hence, the people inhabiting these area enjoy the growing of traditional rice- mupunga, yams- madhumbe and mbambaira (sweet potatoes). These crops provide good dietary needs for the Maungwe people and thus supplementing food distribution in Makoni area. Groundnuts farming has also tremendously transformed the Maungwe community in that it’s regarded as cash crop. The crop attracts buyers from Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare. Proceeds of selling of ground nuts are channelled to other needs and wants of the Maungwe people.
Cattle is regarded as a symbol of wealth like in many other societies in Zimbabwean. This ideology was thus bestowed by Maungwe leadership. Maungwe/ Nyathi/ Shonga chieftainship was believed to have kraaled thousands of cattle, goats and sheep. Cattle ranching was as a result regarded as the backbone of the Maungwe territory. Abundant grazing and fertile land improved cattle farming. As the society was ahead of its time, they used the cow-dung as fertilizer, thus improving yields per-capita. Cattle were and is still a form of lobola, draught power and other laborious work. Cattle also provide the people with milk and meat thereby enhancing their health. Even present day, the Maungwe community has large herds of cattle, goats and sheep. Rearing of small livestock is being done and it thus provide dietary needs to the people. It is therefore prudent to argue that Maungwe Kingdom is enjoying the benefit of land ownership and black empowerment.
The development of education systems in Makoni area is a commendable step towards community development. Development in school infrastructure such as Mugoti High School, Mutungagore Secondary School, Muvhimwa Primary, Muziti Mission School, Nhahonye Secondary School, St. Faith School, St Joseph Secondary School, St Killian’s Secondary School, St Theresa High School, Sanzaguru High School and Tsikada Secondary School to mention but a few. Education development in Makoni district is aimed at providing good quality education to the society and this is evident through highly literate people who are using the knowledge and skills obtained in learning facilities to develop the Maungwe dynasty. The Chiefs are playing a pivotal role by providing land to the council for the construction of these marvellous infrastructures. It is therefore, prudent to credit Maungwe leadership in shaping and developing Makoni district. Infrastructural development is also witnessed by the construction of clinics and hospital in Makoni district. Existence of Rusape General Hospital, Tsikada Clinic, Rest-Camp clinic, Dhanji Clinic are a clear example of community development.
Maungwe Chiefdom is doing wonders to promote and uphold cultural values of Makoni district. Villages and communities under the kingship of Chief Makoni are being fostered to promote sound family values. Every society is governed by its culture, norms and values. The values are prescribed in a way to see the continuity of Makoni society. Religion is also practised in Makoni. Interestingly, Chief Makoni, had the onus to take measures to preserve the culture, tradition, history and heritage of their communities, including sacred shrines, places and mountains. As the Maungwe people are agriculturists, the chief spearheads rain-making ceremonies at the beginning of every rain season. This is done to appease the spirit medium and ancestors. The practise saw brewing of beer, music and dancing. Human settlement in sacred shrines and mountains is an offense that attracts a stiffer fine in the district. Adulterous activities- Makunakuna in Makoni district is a dismissible offense and the chief has the right to resettle these people. It is also the role of Chief Makoni to observe and preserve the cultural norms and values of the Makoni dynasty. The chief also uses myths and taboos to do his work. Respect of totems is also being initiated to preserve the environment in Makoni district.
Makoni dynasty has survived for years through good leadership. Shift of leadership in Makoni society is being done smoothly and systematically. Thus, the society became egalitarian. Respect of chiefdom in Makoni is the reason behind community prosperity.
Author: Helen Gwatidzo (Master’s degree in African Economic History UZ)