Mutasa kingdom (district)

Historical Background of Mutasa Chieftainship.

Mutasa District is one of seven districts in the Manicaland province of Zimbabwe. Mutasa district is located 30 km from Mutare and stretches up to the Honde Valley, which is about 100 km northeast of Mutare along a tarred road that branches off the Nyanga road. The area extends from the eastern border of Zimbabwe into Mozambique. The area receives annual rainfall of about 850 mm to 1000mm annually and a relative average mean temperature of 2 -30˚C. Mutasa area covers areas such as Honde Valley, Hauna, Erin Forest, Zindi, Penhalonga to mention but a few.  Founder of this society is believed to be Tendayi from the house of Chikanga. Tendayi from the house of Chikanga was banished from the clan by his brother Vumbe and went into hiding becoming known as Chifambausiku.  Tendayi was astonished by Vumbe conduct. This culminated in return of Tendayi to overthrow Vumbe and reign as Mutasa Chief. The Mutasa people are Shona speaking whose territory stretch into now Mozambique. They were originally known as the Chikanga. However, wars over succession and factionalism within Manyika dynastic politics led to groups splitting from one another.  This then led the Mutasa people to recall their lineage to have rooted from the house of Chikanga. In the early days of the Mutasa dynasty, the clan came into contact with Portuguese textile traders and entered into business with them. This conduct resulted in trade which resulted in Tendayi acquiring armoury to protect his kingdom. His people obtained jewels and other precious materials in return of gold and ivory. Mutasa chiefdom adopted the custom of being carried in hammocks or chairs by their subjects as way of superiority and authority. During their migration from the north of Zimbabwe to the east the Mutasa clan passed through the north-western region of Mozambique, an area known as Sena. Various ancestors of the clan are buried along the route they took.  They passed through Gorongoza a place in the heart of Mozambique. Southwards, the area is bordered by the Jindwi dialect also known as Chibocha. Mutasa clan is thus believed to have emanated from Mozambique.

Mutasa totem is the lion/ Shumba Murambwi. Oral tradition thus exposes out that, clan praise is of the Tembo-Shumba, the Zebra-Lion a mythical totem animal that serves as the emblem of the Mutasa people. Interestingly, by integrating together the attributes of Lion and Zebra into one creature, the Mutasa clan creates a scared totem.  Shumba Murambwi praise totem glorifies the Lion’s courage, braveness and fear it inspires in other animals. The male zebra is known for being well-endowed and its member resembles a green maize stalk when aroused. This line is a subtle boast of the attributes of the men of the clan. The totem also celebrates the marvel, beauty, sophistication and virility of Zebra. By fusing the two animals, Chief Mutasa was regarded as the well-dressed one.

Due to colonialism and resettlement coupled with globalisation the society is mixed with different tribes with different totems. However, with good leadership qualities Chief Mutasa and his headman have maintained and crafted values to respect both men and the environment. 

Richness of Mutasa Kingdom

Agriculture dominates the Mutasa dynasty due to ubundant land, availability of water, sound and vibrant human resources which have transformed Mutasa area into a self-sustaining society. Mutasa is a society that is egalitarian and its people respect its core values, norms and tradition. Royalty and respect of traditional chief Mutasa had paid dividend in economic and social development in Mutasa dynasty. Traditional leaders that is chief Mutasa, headmen and cowboys have played a central role in mapping societal development in Mutasa district. The economy under Chief Mutasa has boomed in agriculture, forestry, and mining, tourism and electricity generation. It is prudent to credit traditional leadership in Mutasa district in working flat out to unveil and utilise resource in Mutasa for community development hence national development. It is also critical to finger out that economic development in Mutasa area has improved and advanced social lives of ordinary people as we witness the traditional leaders are in a position to provide basic human needs to the people, creating opportunities for youths hence community prosperity. It is therefore prudent to credit the roles of traditional leadership in community and national development.

Abundant land for cash crop cultivation has earned Mutasa area the status of being a rich belt in Manicaland. Fair fertile land distribution by traditional leaders have born positive fruits as everyone in Mutasa area is a custodian of adequate farming land. Honde Valley became famous for Banana, sugarcane, avocadoes and yams growing. The area annual rainfall is high and possibly the factor behind the growing of these cash water demanding crops. Products from Honde valley have dominated the Mbare (Harare), Sakubva (Mutare) markets places and all major supermarkets such as OK, Spar and Pick n Pay Zimbabwe. Exports are also done as bananas and yams are exported to Mozambique and South Africa respectively. Growing of fruits such as peaches, apples, peas, and mangoes is being done commercially in the area. Cash crop farming has transformed people’s lives and the community at large. Ordinary people in Mutasa society are able to buy food, build permanent shelter and access to cheap health cares and fund for education. Thus the profits return from selling of cash crop enormously transformed Mutasa community and its people. It is therefore, prudent to credit the role of land distribution by Chief Mutsa. Chief Mutasa is playing his roles and duties to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment in Mutasa area.

Forestry development has transformed the lives of Mutasa people. With the ability and good leadership qualities in Mutasa traditional leaders, they have managed to distribute land for the growing and processing of timber. Areas such as Erin Forest Nyakupinga, Penhalonga and Sakarombe are famous timber hubs. Establishment of Wattle Company and Allied Timbers in Mutasa district is a clear indicator that the area is developing economically. Timber production is done commercially and the product is being processed into finished product in Mutasa area. Much credit is given to traditional leadership who by authority vested in them managed to fairly distribute land and other resources to people to erect community development. Social progress has also been witnessed as the area leaders are creating building blocks for employment creation. Wattle Company and Allied timbers are employing a sizeable number in the Mutasa community. Creation of employment improved living standards of ordinary people. People live healthy and have access to better primary health care, quality education and infrastructural development. The community is also benefiting from the establishment of these timber processing companies as witnessed by infrastructural development established by the companies. Road construction, construction of schools, hospitals and shops are indicators of economic and social development in Mutasa area. Timber production tremendously developed Mutasa area as the area inhabitants enjoy formidable and commendable good quality living standards. Thus traditional leaders are playing their roles and duties of community development.

Power generation in Mutasa area is an economic indicator of community and national development. Abundant rainfall received by Mutasa area have transformed the area to be a power generation society. Hauna electricity scheme was built from May to December 2016 and commissioned in 2017 with the beginning of rains. The station has a capacity of producing 2.3MW of electricity and a transmission of 33kv into the national grid. The brains behind this idea is a clear highlighter that Mutasa area is developing under the stewardship of Chief Mutasa. Power generation for domestic and national use significantly helped the operations at Wattle and Allied Timbers. These companies require adequate electricity for operations. Operation that need electricity such as schools, hospitals are not much affected by national load shedding hence executing their jobs diligently. It is therefore prudent to credit roles being played by Chief Mutasa and his team to develop Mutasa Kingdom.

Culture and the traditional leadership

Culture is the opium of every society. It is the role of tradition leaders to guard jealously its cultural norms and values. Like other Shona communities Chief Mutasa practises the rain making ceremony, kurova guva, and masvikoro among others. Rain making is a traditional ritual for the rains. This is done at every start of the raining season. Brewing of tradition beer is done to perform the rain making ceremony. It is believed that by performing such ritual acts the Mutasa area annually receives adequate rainfall. Kurova guva is a Shona traditional way of bringing the dead spirit in the family and society at large. Respect of totems in Mutasa area is also practised. As the area is inhabited by different people with different totems, the Chief thus crafted preservative measures to guard these species. People in Mutasa are ascribed to different totems such as Lion/Shumba, Soko/Monkey, Nyati/Bufallo, Humba/Pigs, Nhewa/Leopard, and Moyo. Thus killing of these animal spicies is a punishable offense in Mutasa kingdom. Cutting down of traditional fruit trees is also a punishable offense. These trees include, muhute, mutamba, musekesa, munzviru, and mutohwe. Such trees provide the Mutasa people with delicious juicy that is healthy.

The traditional leadership has managed to erect sound and vibrant systems to map economic and social progress of both community and national development. Preservation of culture is being done as a way of integrating people. Therefore, Chief Mutasa has developed Mutasa district.

By Leon Chigwanda – Researcher with Great Zimbabwe University

11 Replies to “Mutasa kingdom (district)”

  1. This is insightful. I am wondering if the authors can cite their sources for credibility- that is important in historical writing. A novel by I. M Zvarevashe, title Dzinza raVagovera VaChirumhanzu naMutasa has very important narratives about the Mutasa.
    Concerning tradition and culture, I am wondering why there is no mention of the Bingaguru rekwaMutasa?
    The historical background also ignores key figures such as Mutasa women, like Matida and others who played a key role in the traditional electoral processes. Also, H.K Bhila’s Trade and Politics in the Manyika kingdom is an important piece to think with.
    Good work comrades. This work you’re doing is important.

    1. The history of the Manica Kingdom has been distorted over the years owing for the most part to its preservation and transmission (oral). While I certainly found the narrative informative, I have additions I’d like to share based on my own studies. The name ‘Mutasa’ would be a good place to start. Jason Machivenyika and a few other historians – whose manuscripts I’ve been lucky enough to read – attribute its origins to Nyamubvambire’s (the original Mutasa) line’s alien practice of being buried extended in the supine position “vakati tasa” as opposed to prone “vakasungwa mbira dzakondo”. The latter practice was the norm during Muponda’s reign as mambo we vaManyika and before, this is evidenced by the small round graves that can be found in the area to this day. Mutasa is therefore a title to be given to any ruling descendant of Nyamubvambire’s rather than an actual name.

      As for the Mutasa totem, it was stated correctly that its praise poetry and heraldry reveals a weird blend of mbizi (samaita) and shumba totemic praise. The story goes, Nyamubvambire (whom I have learnt is also part of many other tribes’ origins story – there is need to investigate) a great hunter, married Mambo Muponda’s daughter, then progressively usurped the king’s power a process which culminated in him claiming first born son status whereupon he took on the shumba totemic identity and the kingdom. His original totem is mbizi/samaita.

      As for Matida, HE is definitely an important figure. Matida was Muparutsa and Chifambausiku’s father. He was exiled and killed by Bvumbe, his brother, forcing his sons to exile with their maternal relatives (mambo Makoni and the Vaungwe) until they came of age and avenged their father’s murder.

      There are many more interesting stories. I’m willing to share and trade.

  2. As a Muzvare Mutasa myself I remember my Aunt telling me about Tendayi Mutasa the founder of the clan. Im a muera shumba, and our praise poem starts with the words Maita Shumba, Maita Mbizi.

  3. Tendai Mutasa was not the Founder of Mutasa Clan .Tendai was actually alive in the 1890s.The Orignal totem of Mutasa is Mbizi.Tendai started to call himself Chifambausiku as in Shumba thus his Descendents are now using Shumba as a totem .

  4. Mutasa is now Shumba & Mbizi at the same time,this could have been done to unite the people pave way for reconciliation after protracted wars of succession being ignited by the presence of Portuguese traders.

  5. am very keen to read about our Zim clans and totems especially the mutasa clan ‘Tadiwa Muparusa’ please share some more, credible referral texts would be appreciated.

    Great job good people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *