Tonga Tribes

There are many different Tonga people, including the ones in the Pacific (though not related to Bantu Tonga). In southern Africa, Tonga people were groups of people (some related to the Karanga/Shona) who were initially not under the direct rule of the Mwene-Mutapa. The greatest numbers being in Zambia and Zimbabwe with some also found in Namibia and Botswana (Subia). Zambia has the highest number of the Tonga population averaging more than 15% of the country’s total population. Like many other tribes in Zambia, the name of the tribe is also name of the language, which is the case for the Tonga. The Tonga form part of what is known as the ‘Bantu botatwe’ languages which are spoken by the Tonga, Ila, Lenje and smaller dialects like the Leya, Sala, Subia and Totela and these cover the greater part of southern province, including the Solis around Lusaka and Lenjes in Central province. In Zimbabwe, they are found mainly in Binga District of the Matebeland North province and parts of Kariba and Gokwe districts, though Kariba and Gokwe is highly mixed with Shona tribes. The name ‘Tonga’ means independent’, which refers to the fact that before colonization, the Tonga tribe did not have chiefs (traditional leaders) as other tribes did. According to anthropologist Elizabeth Colson, “Until the beginnings of the colonial period, approximately seventy years ago the largest named territorial unit among the Tonga was the small neighbourhood community.

There are also different types of Tongas of the Lower Zambezi Tonga (among them are the Barwe-Tongas/Sena-Tongas and Samungazi-Tongas) who have a history with the Karanga/Shona people. There are even Tongas in the south of Mozambique who have mixed with the Karanga/Shona under Ishe Gambe/Gamba to form the Chopi people. There is apparently interesting link between the Manyika’s Shona dialect and Tonga when calling names -In Manyika they use prefix ‘Sa’ and in Tonga they use ‘Sia’ or ‘Ha’ (for plateau Tonga) and these mean the “owner”, e.g Samukange in Manyika is Siamukange or Hamukange in Tonga, similarly Sachitema in Manyika is Siachitema/Hachitema in Tonga. However, the greatest number of Shona dialects related to the Tonga are Korekore of Hurungwe and Mashonaland Central and the Shangwe of Kariba and Gokwe. These tribes lived together for decades if not centuries along the Zambezi valley before the construction of Kariba dam thereby giving rise to a generation of hybrid tribe that is both Tonga and Shona and these are still found on both sides of the Zambezi river.

Tonga are believed to be the very first Bantu group to cross the Zambezi river coming from the North East (between 300 – 400AD) i.e. from Nubia and the Kingdom of Kemet which comprises areas around present day Ethiopia/Sudan and Egypt and their original totem(mutupo) was the lion (Tau or Dau) though many changed thereafter. Iron Age settlements from as early as the 7th century have been found in various parts of the Southern Province of Zambia, with the most popular being Ingombe Ilede which is translated as ‘the sleeping cow’ due to the large fallen baobab tree in the vicinity of the site. It is believed that the Mbara people who settled at the site were ancestors of the Tonga due to the similarity of their pottery to that of the existing Tonga. Therefore, this proves the assertion that the Tonga’s were some of the earliest Bantu settlers in Zambia, as they were already present in Zambia before the other tribes that migrated into Zambia as part of the Bantu Migration of the 15th – 17th centuries.

Though some Tongas voluntarily joined the Mutapa empire and its great council, serving as the Mukomohashas for Mutapa’s province of Barwe, some Tonga resisted. The Tongas who were the Mukomohashas/Generals were ‘royal Tongas of the Tembo totem’ (and it is said the Tonga dynasties came from Mbire). Many of the Tonga who were independent were led by the Samungazi (who was known by the Portuguese as the Mongaz or Siamungazi in Tonga). When Mwene-Mutapa Negomo Mupunzagutu killed a Portuguese priest who attempted to convert him, the Portuguese sent an invasion force led by Francisco Barreto from Lisbon to port Sofala in modern day Central Mozambique where it marched up river to Sena. In July 1572 Barreto proceeded inland from Sena with 650 Portuguese gunmen, and around 2,200 African slaves/marauders. A Tonga fraction led by the Samungazi (Siamungazi) had rebelled from the Mwene-Mutapa in the 1550s, and was attacking the Portuguese at Tete. It is quite interesting to note that Kamharapasi Mukombwe (1663 – 1692) was one of the Mutapa kings and Munkombwe surname is a very common surname among Tongas, so is Mwene (Mweene).

As Barreto marched from Sena in July 1572, the Tonga attacked his force, and it was recorded that they attacked in ‘traditional crescent formation’. Barreto perished and only 180 Portuguese members of Barreto’s army survived and they retreated to Sena. The Samungazi Tonga, however, were weakened, thus the Mutapa forces reconquered them. The Lower Zambezi Tonga were an important part of Mutapa, they supported leaders who were anti-Portuguese, and such as the rival Mwene-Mutapas Matuzvianye, Kapararidze, and the brave Tonga chief, chief Chombe. Chombe was the brave Barwe-Tonga chief who cut the trade routes from the Indian Ocean to Mukaranga and fought the Portuguese warlord Diogo Simoes Madeira to a draw. Chombe fought the Portuguese with Tonga warriors from the Samungazi. He would retreat north of the Zambezi.

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, the Lower Zambezi Tongas would unite with Mwene-Mutapa Chioko Dambamupute’s liberation force, along with the Chikunda (former slave marauders of the Portuguese), the Barwe (under the Makombe), and Mapondera’s warriors in ‘the last great African struggle for independence’, the Barwe Rebellion.


The Tonga are divided into exogamous matrilineal clans (several families who claim descent from a common ancestor) called mikowa, each of which have a totem. Most clan totems are animals such as hare (rabbit), cow etc. A Tongan has two clans, one from the father’s side called kumausyi and another on the mother’s side called kumanyina or kumukowa.


Like other Zambian and Zimbabwean tribes, naming is a very important part of Tonga culture. A child is typically named under the circumstances it was born. For instance, a child called Miyoba which means ‘rain’ could have been born during a time of heavy rains. A child named Mutinta which means ‘different’ was the first child born of a different gender in relation to its older siblings. Banji is a name given to the first twin and means ‘we are many’, while Mpimpa is the youngest twin. Like the Bemba and Shona tribes, Tonga names are unisex.

By Misheck Samanyanga

The Mutapa state 2-detailed version

The Mutapa, or Mwene-Mutapa empire – also known as the Great Zimbabwe empire – was a great empire which covered both Zimbabwe, central Mozambique, Zambia and other parts of neighboring countries. The Mwene-Mutapa empire was named after its leader, the Mwene-Mutapa, and the name means “Lord of the Realm” or “Owner of the Mines”. Mwene means “Lord” or “Owner”, and Mutapa means ” Realm” or “Mines”. The Mwene Mutapa empire existed from about 900CE to 1902CE (CE = Common Era), and was about 1002 years old. In the 1400s, the capital now known as Great Zimbabwe, was abandoned by the main leaders of the empire. The two princes would take many people with them; one would go north and the other west. Although the main leader of the empire moved north, the ruling dynasty was still the same bloodline, and the empire continued to thrive and expand, gaining new trading routes and partners. The people of Mutapa were mainly from the Shona, (previously called the Karanga, or Nyai group). Other groups such as the Tonga of modern-day Zambia and Mozambique- who would join the empire voluntarily- also served in great council of Mwene-Mutapa.

Mutapa map


The Shona/Karanga people have no idols, but believe in one supreme God named Mwari. According to the Shona, Mabweadziva or Matonjeni, is where the first man was created by Mwari. Mwari, the Supreme Being, made the first man, Musikavanhu, in the heavens. He put the man to sleep and dropped him down to earth. As Musikavanhu was falling he awakened and saw a stone falling near him. Mwari told him to step onto the stone. Water gushed from the place the stone landed with Musikavanhu and it became a sacred place for the Shona. Musikavanhu had dreams and visions of birds and animals. When he awakened, his dreams and visions had come true. Birds flew through the skies and animals roamed the earth. A woman appeared and when Musikavanhu touched her, she came to life and became his wife. Musikavanhu instructed their children in the ways they were to live and then he and his wife went to the heavens to dwell with Mwari. Musikavanhu exists within the shadow of Mwari, and the earth exists within the shadow of Musikavanhu.

The Shona believe their dead ancestors go to Nyikadzimu (Ancestral Spirit World), and refer to them as Mudzimu. They call upon them in times of need, as others do to saints. The spirits of their kings return as lions called Mhondoro, and the word Mhondoro is also used to refer to the founding father of the Dynasty. The Mhondoro ancestral creed, and the Mwari Creed, were the largest and most extensive creeds in Southern Africa. The Tonga of Barwe (Mozambique) also believe in the Mhondoro. In the hierarchy of spirits, Mwari is the Supreme Being and Lord of all spirits. Under Mwari is the Gombwe spirit. It is second in the hierarchy of spirits, these being spirits which were never human beings. The worship of Mwari is done through ancestral spirits known as Mhondoro. There is a hierarchy of ancestral spirits. On the top being the mhondoro, and on the bottom being the mudzimu. A mhondoro is an ancestral spirit of a king who started a dynasty. A mudzimu is a family ancestral spirit.

The Pre 1450CE Mwene-Mutapa Empire

The Mwene-Mutapa empire was an expansion of another Shona civilization which dates back a century or so from the year 1000CE. This civilization is known as Mapungubwe, and its first king was called Tovera (Thovhele) Nemapungubwe. To know who the Shona, and their close relatives are, we must know their sacred ancestors. The earliest “Mhondoro”, or royal ancestor of the Shona, and their close relatives such as the Venda, and Lobedu is Tovera. He is also known as Thobela or Thovhele (Nemapungubwe) by the Venda, and he was the first recorded legendary king. There is a song which recognizes Tovera as the royal ancestor of the Shona, it includes the following lyrics: “Tovera mudzimu dzoka! Vana vanorwara. Mudzimu dzoka! Kwaziwai Tovera!” There is also a road in Zimbabwe named after Tovera. The son of Tovera was Mambire. He was the father of the legendary Murenga Pfumojena Sororenzou, also known as Thohoyandou. Murenga Sororenzou was the founder architect of Zimbabwe, and is also the legendary ‘Murenga’ after whom all the liberation wars of Zimbabwe are named. He is revered as the great ancestral spirit of war. It was recorded that during the Chimurenga war, Shona warriors would shout the war-cry “Murenga wamuka” meaning “The God of War has awakened.” When hunting, Shona hunters would shout “Komborera, Murenga” meaning “Bless, oh God” and the animal would instantly fall or die. Murenga was the father of the original Runji, Chaminuka, Nehanda, and Mushavatu. Today there is a city in South Africa named after him. Murenga was a manifestation of Mwari who aided the Shona/Karanga people in great wars.

Mapungubwe was one of the first major cities of the Shona ancestors in Madzimbahwe, or Southern Africa. They later moved to Zimbabwe and built their capital at Wedza in Marondera. The original Chaminuka’s son, Kutamadzoka, became Mwene-Mutapa I. After Kutamadzoka his brother, Chingwangu, became Mwene-Mutapa II. He moved the capital to Great Zimbabwe and he became known as Rusvingo, which means “Stone Mason” or “Builder of Stone Walls”.

Great Zimbabwe is actually the largest of many zimbabwes, or stone cities, built without mortar in Southern Africa. Mwene Mutapa Chingwangu Rusvingo instructed through his council, that every visitor to the city of Great Zimbabwe had to bring five stones. This was to build the walls of Great Zimbabwe. On every valuable thing exported from the empire of Mwene-Mutapa, the leaders of Great Zimbabwe took a 50% cut. If Swahili merchants extracted ivory from an elephant, the emperor would keep one tusk. Great Zimbabwe is located in the Masvingo province of the modern-day country of Zimbabwe. The city was built almost 1000 years ago by the ancestors of the Shona people. After the era when Great Zimbabwe was the capital of the Mwene-Mutapa empire, the sub kingdoms, or provinces, in the east or in modern day Mozambique included the sub-kingdom of Gambe and zimbabwes which were called Manyikeni and Chibuene.

There were nine Greater Mwene-Mutapas at Great Zimbabwe:

1 Kutamadzoka Chaminuka

2 Mwenemutapa Chingwangu Rusvingo,

3 Mwenemutapa Chidyamatamba,

4 Mwenemutapa Chimedzamabwe,

5 Mwenemutapa Kangambeu-Kurima-Kwakona (Dyambeu),

6 Mwenemutapa Mombemuriwo,

7 Mwenemutapa Mavhudzi (Chibatamtosi),

8 Mwenemutapa Nyatsimba Mutota (He would later move to Dande)

9 Mwenemutapa Munembire Mudadi

According to oral history, Great Zimbabwe also served as a sanctuary for Murenga Sororenzou, and his spirit was against blood being shed amongst his children. It was said that during the fight for the throne there was bloodshed. Murenga’s spirit was appalled and then it moved away from the site, moving west to Mabweadziva or Matopos. Nyatsimba Mutota, a feuding prince, moved north perhaps to find resources, and new convenient trading routes, and Mukwati/Torwa (a rival feuding prince) moved west; following Murenga’s spirit to Mabweadziva. According to some historians that is when the city of Great Zimbabwe started to decline: however, there were Portuguese manufactured shells which were discovered at the ruins. There were also people living at Great Zimbabwe in the 1890s, who were removed by the British South African Company

Historians say that the Mwenemutapa empire was an offshoot of the Great Zimbabwe Empire. The decline of the Great Zimbabwe Empire led to the rise of the Mwenemutapa empire. However, new evidence suggests that the Mwenemutapa empire and the Great Zimbabwe empire were one and the same. The bloodlines of the dynasties were the same, sharing common ancestry. Nyatsimba Mutota’s movement northwards was to lead the expansion of the same empire, and to find easier, more convenient, trading routes as well as new partners.

Much of the Shona royalty left the city of Great Zimbabwe and went to surrounding countries in the region to expand the Mutapa empire and perhaps gain new trading routes and partners. Princess Dzugudini of Great Zimbabwe returned to modern day South Africa and became the Lobedu and Venda. They built zimbabwes or cities, and among some of their zimbabwes was the stone city of Thulamela. Other Shona/Karanga people went east to modern day Mozambique. Those following Mukwati or Torwa went west to expand and secure the spiritually significant and mineral rich sub-kingdom of Guruhuswa. Their zimbabwe was Khami. It was thought that there was rivalry between Nyatsimba Mutota and Mukwati/Torwa, however in the future, Torwa’s people paid tribute to the Mwenemutapa in the north. They even kept the northern Mwenemutapa’s cattle. Those under Nyatsimba Mutota, as stated, went north to find new resources/trade routes, and expand the Mwenemutapa empire, though some of the Mwenemutapa’s wives stayed at Great Zimbabwe. Their zimbabwes were Zvongombe, Tuuyu Tusere, and Mount Pfura. Pfura means Rhino in ChiShona/Chikaranga, and there was a golden rhino found at Mapungubwe.

An account says that Nyatsimba Mutota, before the decline of Great Zimbabwe, was just a prince sent to find salt in the north. According to oral history emperor Mavhudzi (Chibatamtosi), Nyatsimba Mutota’s father, sent Nyakatondo the messenger to the area north of Great Zimbabwe to look for salt deposits. The messenger brought back salt samples which pleased the Emperor. His son Nyatsimba Mutota decided to move to the Dande area. Prince Mutota then went to the Zambezi area where he reconquered the local tribes such as the Tavara and the Tonga. As a result, Nyatsimba Mutota took control of the salt deposits, and gold mines becoming the Mwene-Mutapa, or the “Emperor”.

Another account says that before he left Great Zimbabwe for Dande, incidentally there was a fight for the throne. The story states that when it was Nyatsimba Mutota’s turn to rule, prince Mukwati (who was also called Torwa) said “Bva torwa” or “Bva togwa”, meaning “Then let’s fight”, thus Mukwati was given the praise name Torwa, and a war of succession broke out at the stone city. Prince Mukwati/Torwa fought with prince Nyatsimba Mutota, but nobody won the war. Murenga’s spirit moved to Mabweadziva or Matopos as a result of the bloodshed, and Torwa followed it. Meanwhile Mutota stayed at Great Zimbabwe for a while before moving to northern Dande where there was fertile soil, and wild game Mutota. Murenga’s departure was also a factor. They would leave behind Great Zimbabwe under the leadership of their relative, Mwene Munembire Mudadi. Nyatsimba Mutota would arrive at the Zambezi where he built the Zimbabwes called Zvongombe and Tuuyu Tusere, and where he protected the Tavara since he had a strong relationship with them. Prince Mukwati/Torwa was forced to move away from Great Zimbabwe to the province of Guruhuswa, because of Murenga’s departure. He ended up moving west where he built the famous zimbabwe or stone city of Khami, which was near Murenga’s great spirit. The dynasty he left behind was the Torwa/Togwa dynasty of the kingdom of Guruhuswa or Butua. Nyatsimba Mutota established another new capital, Zvongombe, by the Zambezi. Mutota achieved total control of the area through conquests, intermarriage, and economic intercourse with the northern people. Under Mutota, political control extended to the South, and the North to include the Mbire province. Nyatsimba Mutota was said to have had many wives.

The Post 1450CE Mwene-Mutapa Empire

Nyatsimba Mutota ruled from 1430 – 1450. Nyatsimba Mutota’s successor, Mwenemutapa Matope Nyanhehwe Nebedza, extended the Mwenemutapa empire to encompass most of the lands between Tavara and the Indian Ocean, securing new trade routes, and provinces. Matope was the most powerful African leader south of the Equator in the latter half of the 15th century. His regal costume included an exquisitely decorated small hoe as part of the belt. The hoe had an ivory handle and suggested peace through the ability to gain wealth from the earth. Other symbols of the kingship included granaries, animal horns, and spears or weapons. The Mwenemutapa or Emperor was believed to be the “lord of the sun, and the moon, king of the land and the rivers and conqueror of enemies.”

The Mutapa empire had achieved uniting a number of different peoples in Southern Africa by encouraging states to join voluntarily, offering membership in the Great council of the Empire to any whom joined without resistance. The Mukomohasha/General of Mutapa’s army as well as its sub-kingdom of Barwe, was said to be always a royal Tonga of the Tembo totem. The Mwenemutapa became very wealthy by exploiting copper from Chidzurgwe and ivory from the middle Zambezi. Matope’s armies secured the kingdom of the Manyika as well as the coastal kingdoms of Barwe, Uteve and Madanda. By the time the Portuguese arrived on the coast of Mozambique, the Mwenemutapa Empire was still the premier Shona polity in the region.

The Mwenemutapa Empire had a social welfare system for the blind, and the maimed who were known as the “King’s poor”. The empire had expanded to its full extent by the year 1480 a mere 50 years after Nyatsimba Mutota left Great Zimbabwe. The Portuguese made contact with South East Africa by around 1515. Their main goal was to dominate the trade with India; however, they unwittingly became mere carriers for luxury goods between Mutapa’s sub-kingdoms/provinces and India. As the Portuguese settled along the coast, they made their way into the hinterland as sertanejos (backwoodsmen). These sertanejos lived alongside Swahili traders and even took up service among Shona sub-kings as interpreters. One such sertanejo, António Fernandes, managed to travel through almost all the Shona/Karanga sub kingdoms and provinces, including Mutapa’s metropolitan district, between 1512 and 1516. Antonio Fernandes also witnessed a smaller Zimbabwe being built by the Shona in 1511. The Portuguese finally entered into direct relations with the Mwenemutapa in the 1560s.

The Economy of the Mwene-Mutapa empire

Later in 1648 Antonio Gomes observed that the Karanga produced a surplus that lasted until the following year; further ‘they never see the bottom of their grain bin’. In 1696 Antonio da Conciecao observed that in the Mutapa empire people ‘do their own farms and the king has one cultivated by his cafres which stretches where the eye cannot see and sometimes see personally but in a grave manner. He eventually collects so much food that he lives in plenty and even luxury, not only he but also his women’. We also learn from Jesuit Father Julio Cesar, who visited the Mutapa court in 1620, that this reigning Mutapa paid so much attention to agriculture. Julio Cesar reported that the Mutapa did not despise or hate the title of farmer; on the contrary, this priest says that he was quickly dispatched because the Emperor wanted ‘to go and see to his farming activities because it was time to sow the fields’.

Cloth was a very well-established import in the Zimbabwean plateau by about 1500, and had been imported far earlier. The actual techniques of spinning and weaving were imported along with the cloth. By the 14th century spinning was going on at several sites on and near cities like Great Zimbabwe, Khami, and Nyanga, and by the 16th century the growth of cotton and the weaving of cotton were well established. Moreover, before long the technique of weaving had been applied to the fibers that came from the bark of certain trees like the mupfuti tree. A Portuguese traveler who visited South East Africa in the 16th century described meeting the emperors of Mwenemutapa, the Karanga empire. He reported that; “They were black men who got naked save that they cover themselves with cotton cloth from the waist down. Some clad in the skins of wild beasts, and some, the most noble, wear capes of these skins with tails… as a token of state and dignity. They leap as they go, and sway their bodies so as to make these tails fly from one side to the other. They carry swords thrust into wooden sheaths bound with much gold and other metals… These are warlike men, and some too are great traders.” It is clear that there was an old, and powerful Shona empire in Southern Africa.

According to foreigners who observed, ‘The months are divided into three weeks of ten days each, and have several festivals. The first day of each month is the festival of the new moon (Chisi); and the fourth and fifth day of every week are kept as festivals. On these days all the natives dress in their best apparel, and the king gives public audience to all who present themselves, on which occasion he holds a truncheon about three quarters of a yard long in each hand, to leap upon. On the day of the new moon, the king runs about the palace with two javelins in his hand, as if fighting, all the great men being present at this pastime. When this is ended, a pot full of maize, boiled whole, is brought in, which the king scatters about, desiring the nobles to eat, and every one strives to gather most to please him, and eat it greedily as if it were the most savory dainty. ’The account goes on to say, ‘Their greatest festival is held on the new moon in May, which they call Chuavo. On this day all the great men of the empire, who are very numerous, resort to court, where they run about with javelins in their hand, as in a mock fight. This sport lasts the whole day, at the end of which the king withdraws, and is not seen for eight days afterwards, during all which time drums beat incessantly. He reappears on the ninth day.’

The Mwenemutapa empire was weakened and reduced in size when the Portuguese expanded their influence in the land, forcing the once loyal provincial rulers to disobey the emperor. The Portuguese also supported, and influenced Gatsi Rusere’s converted son, Mavhura Felipe Mhande, to fight against his brother for the throne. They made Mavhura sign a treaty replacing the Tonga Mukomohasha/General with a Portuguese captain. This angered the Tonga population of the empire who then blocked the trading routes to the Indian Ocean, and proceeded to fight against the Portuguese without the Mwene-Mutapa’s permission. Mavhura was said to have died from accidental gunshot wounds. Many of the Shona/Karanga were also not happy with Mavhura and his successors’, decisions, and so they fought for their land. Civil war raged in the empire of Mutapa until a man related to the Mwene-Mutapa named Changamire Dombo appeared and quelled these wars with his fierce army known as the Rozvi. This event is said to be the actual very first Chimurenga, and it resulted with the Rozvi bringing peace to Madzimbahwe, or Southern Africa. Although the dynasty survived, the Mwene-Mutapa empire now had to share its territory with the Rozvi empire.

The rise of Changamire Dombo, and the Rozvi Empire

Due to increased violence, local Shona leaders with cattle developed their own armies. Young men offered several years of military service in exchange for cattle. Beginning as one of these local Shona leaders, Dombo gained the title Changamire (lord) and developed an effective army known as the Rozvi, that, by the 1670s, became a major force in the northeast of the Zimbabwean plateau. During the early 1680s, Dombo led his army to the southwest, where he defeated and conquered the Torwa. He then challenged the Portuguese of the Zambezi valley.

Dombo’s first military encounter with the Portuguese and their African mercenary armies took place just before June 1684 at the Battle of Maungwe. Rozvi bows and arrows vs Portuguese firearms, the engagement lasted an entire day. Although Changamire Dombo managed to rout the Portuguese four or five times, his army took heavy casualties from gunfire. Both armies camped on the battlefield and intended to resume fighting the next day. At 1 am the Portuguese awoke to see that they were surrounded by fires made by Rozvi women on Dombo’s order. Believing they were surrounded, the Portuguese and their African allies ran off into the night, and when the sun came up, Changamire Dombo’s army looted their abandoned camp. Changamire Dombo did not pursue the Portuguese because of the heavy casualties his army had suffered and because he had to content with a Mutapa force, including some Portuguese invading Butua that he eventually defeated, killing 5000.

From around 1685 to 1692, Changamire Dombo consolidated his hold on Butua. In 1693, a new Mwene-Mutapa called Nyakunembire, who wanted to establish his independence, invited Dombo’s Rozvi to assist him against the Portuguese. In November that year, a Rozvi army attacked Portuguese settlements, destroyed everything, and dug up graves to use the remains as war medicine. Many Portuguese fled to Tete. Changamire Dombo’s Rozvi invaded Manyika, where they replaced the ruler and destroyed Portuguese presence. Further Rozvi campaigns to the northeast were delayed by Changamire Dombo’s death in 1696, which allowed the Portuguese to flee the plateau. Changamire Dombo defeated the military superpower of that era which had conquered both India and China.

Records say the Rozvi used the so called “cow horn formation” long before the Zulus. They called this battle formation “Muromo/Mulomo Acumba”. Before going into battle the Rozvi armies of Zimbabwe were always doctored. Traditions abound claiming that the Rozvi used supernatural powers against their enemies. It is said that the Rozvi could change the color of cattle, summon bees to fight for them if need be, and send their enemies to sleep by magic. They could make their warriors brave by supposedly immunizing them against bullets or spears. Even Portuguese sources remark on this reputation of the Rozvi. In 1698 the viceroy of India wrote that the Portuguese soldiers in the Rivers of Sena believed that the then Rozvi Mambo had magic oil with which he could kill anyone simply by touching the person with it. The viceroy implored the Portuguese king to send a new lot of soldiers from metropolitan Portugal who would not believe in such superstition.

The Portuguese in the Rivers of Sena had reason to fear the Rozvi magic because in 1693 after the great Rozvi Mambo, Changamire Dombo 1, had slaughtered all the Portuguese at Dambarare, he had two Dominican priests flayed and their heads cut off and carried in front of his army. On that occasion, it is reported that Dombo also disinterred the bones of some of the Portuguese and had them crushed in order to prepare a powerful medicine for his soldiers. This association of the Rozvi with the supernatural clearly gave their armies a vast psychological advantage over their potential enemies.

The credit for the last stand of the mighty Rozvi goes to emperor Tohwechipi, or ‘Chibhamubhamu’, who took over as Changamire and whose use of firearms allowed him to defeat the Nguni on many occasions until he was subdued in 1866; even then, he continued to win clients in the traditional fashion of parcelling out land. He had the praise name ‘Chibhamu-bhamu’, meaning ‘the gun’, because he used firearms to defeat his enemies.

The list of Mambo-Changamires are:

1 Mambo Changamire Dombo (Dombodzvuku / Domboraikonachingwangu / Chirisamhuru I)

2 Mambo Changamire Negomo

3 Mambo Changamire Rupengo Rupandamanhanga

4 Mambo Changamire Mutanda Ngabate (Empress / Mambokadzi)

5 Mambo Changamire Nechasike

6 Mambo Changamire Gumboremvura

7 Mambo Changamire Chirisamhuru II

8 Mambo Changamire Tohwechipi Chibhamubhamu

The dynasty of Mwene-Mutapa was last based in Chidima, in the Tete province of Mozambique. The Mwene-Mutapas there used the title Mambo a Chidima and ruled independently of Portugal until 1902 when Mambo-Mutapa Chioko Dambamupute, the last king of the dynasty, died in battle against the Portuguese and their Gaza allies in the Barwe Rebellions (Barwe Chimurenga). This happened after Mwenemutapa Chioko Dambamupute had united and led the traditional leaders in Mozambique to rise against and resist colonization. Today there is a town named after him in his honor in Mozambique.

The Mwenemutapas who reigned from the North:

8 Nyatsimba Mutota (c. 1430–c. 1450)

9 Matope Nyanhehwe Nebedza (c. 1450–c. 1480)

10 Mavura Maobwe (1480)

11 Mukombero Nyahuma (1480–c. 1490)

12 Changamire (1490–1494)

13 Kakuyo Komunyaka (Chikuyo Chisamurengu) (1494–c. 1530)

14 Neshangwe Munembire (c. 1530–c. 1550)

15 Chivere Nyasoro (c. 1550–1560)

16 Chirisamhuru Negomo Mupunzagutu (1560–1589)

17 Gatsi Rusere (1589–1623)

18 Nyambo Kapararidze (1623–1629)

19 Mavura Mhande Felipe (1629 – 1652)

20 Siti Kazurukamusapa (1652 – 1663)

21 Kamharapasi Mukombwe (1663 – 1692)

22 Nyakunembire / Nyamubvambire(1692 – 1694)

23 Nyamaende Mhande (1694 – 1707)

24 Nyenyedzi Zenda (1707 – 1711)

25 Baroma Dangwarangwa (1711 – 1712)

26 Samatambira Nyamhandu I (1712 – 1723)

26 Samatambira Nyamhandu I (1723 – 1735)

27 Nyatsusu (1735 – 1740)

28 Dehwe Mapunzagutu (1740 – 1759)

29 Cangara II (1803 – 1804)

30 Mutiwapangome (1804 – 1806)

31 Mutiwaora (1806)

32 Cipfumba (1806 – 1807)

33 Nyasoro (1807 – 1828)

34 Chimininyambo ou Kandeya II (1828 – 1830)

35 Dzeka (1830 – 1849)

36 Kataruza (1849 – 1868)

37 Kandeya III (1868-1870)

38 Dzuda (1870-1887)

39 Chioko Dambamupute (1887-1902)

The 1800s Clashes

In 1835, the Nyai forces of Mutapa defeated the Nguni led by Nxaba and Maseko, who invaded the eastern part of the kingdom near Tete. In the end, the Nyai forces of Mutapa forced the Nguni to retreat. Later, Nxaba’s Ngoni and Mzilikazi’s Ndebele moved close to Zumbo on the Zambezi, but the Mutapa kingdom held off these Nguni offensives into the 1860s. Mutapa survived as a kingdom.

According to Joshua Chidziva, during the Mfecane at that time in the country of Chief Mangwende of vaNhohwe, they were troubled by a group of maZwangendaba who were killing many people. They took women, cattle, sheep and goats. Mangwende was troubled very much and he sent men to Chief Chinamora, of the Vashawasha group, to ask for help to fight against maZwangendaba. Chinamora agreed and he sent men among whom were Chingoma, Samukange, Mazuru, Nyava, Gutu, Gwindi, Mafusire, Madzima and Chikaka. When they arrived at Mangwende’s home Mhotani, he explained to the people of vaShawasha saying, ‘In this country we are in trouble. Many people are being killed by the maZwangendaba and some have been captured. Even my own sons, Katerere and Mukarakate have been captured and other people too have been taken to Nyasaland by maZwangendaba.’ When the vaShawasha heard this story, they asked where the maZwangendaba were.

Once more the vaShawasha leader consulted maGumbatya and the signs were favorable, the smoke pointing to where the maZwangendaba were. Then they mixed some of the medicine with the porridge. The warriors having eaten, went forward and defeated the enemy, killing many of them. For thanks, Mangwende gave them the usual presents. He was sad about the capture of his two sons. On their return to Chinamora they gave him the news and asked him to send a witch doctor (N’anga) to find Mangwende’s sons. He sent two witchdoctors Murerekwa and Gadaga. He told them to go to the villages in Nyasaland and heat the people with their medicine. Eventually they arrived at the village where Mukarakate and Katerere were living and persuaded them to leave with them one dark night. The n’angas were suitably rewarded for their services and settled down in Chinamora’s country. Mukarakate and Katerere presented cattle to Chinamora and later Mukarakate married Hwedza the daughter of Chiyanika, one of the Chinamora family.

Later on Chinamora fought the Matabele at the Mapfeni river near Goromonzi and defeated them. The leaders were Chingoma, Samukange, Mazuru, Mafusire, Madzima, Nyava, Mazarura, Guzha, Chikowore Gutu, Chizema, Gwindi and others. From that time the Matabele did not come near Chishawasha

Final Comments

There was no slavery in the Mwenemutapa, or the Rozvi empire. Slavery was forbidden according to the tradition (Chivanhu/ChiKaranga) of the Shona. They believed that one must be payed or compensated for his/her labor, or “kuripwa”, failure to do so would result in Ngozi, or misfortune for the employer. Their anti-slavery culture is different from the caste systems of their neighbors, such as the Ndebele and the Gaza.

By Mhare

The establishment of Makoni Kingdom

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.

Chieftainship History.

 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 Society.

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)


Chief Tangwena’s legacy

Traditional leaders and community development. A case of Chief Tangwena- Nyanga South.

This study analyses the role of traditional leaders and community development in independent Zimbabwe. It argues, that African leaders provide moral sanctions that help in shaping human societies and communities’ development.  It is through such inculcation of royalty, respect and honor in the young and the grown-up that social order is enhanced and preserved in a society to mold and shape development. In order to achieve this objective, the study classifies community development as achieved by good leadership. Good leaderships through good policy initiative, respect of humankind, confidence and commitment are helping Chief Tangwena and his headman to develop Nyanga South.  Nyanga south community has and is developing both economically, socially and politically. Economic development is being witnessed through sound and efficient irrigation agricultural system, good quality infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. Socially, respect of cultural norms and belief is being apprehended it fostering the preservation of environment, marriages and community continuity. The use of myths and tabooes in Nyanga South covering areas of Nyamaropa, Regina, Tombo 1 and 2, Bumhira and Matema area is beyond doubt that Chief Tangwena enacted and fostered such beliefs to protect his territory. Politically, the Tagwena area is well mature and participate in political life. However, much energy of these people are agriculturalist. A deep analysis of Chief Tagwena society proves that, his area is well developed and it is self-sufficient and sustainable.

Historical background.

Tangwena area is in Nyanga South constituency. It covers areas of Nyamaropa, Matema, Tombo, Bumhira Regina and Trout beck. These areas are under the stewardship of Chief Tagwena. In fact, the Tangwena in Nyamaropa are believed to have migrated from modern day Mozambique. Nyanga had a lot of other dialects that are the Barwe, Wanyama and Wahwesa in Kairezi. Distinguishing, the Tangwena people one could only say these people were the Vabarwe and were subdued to make the Manyika dialect. History says Rekayi Tangwena was born in 1910 in colonial Zimbabwe and was of the Nhewa/Simboti totem (leopard). He became chief of the Tangwena people in 1966.  He survived with two spouse’s Mai Karongo and Mai Elijah. It is believed Mai Karongo was a spirit medium. Therefore, in 1966 to 1984 the Tangwena area was under the stewardship of Chief Rekayi Tangwena. Chief Rekayi Tangwena became a revolutionary and defended land in Nyanga area. Oral tradition collates that, Chief Tangwena refused to be evicted from his ancestral lands. Tangwena refusal to abandon the land, made him been taken to court. Chief Tangwena won the ruling. He maintained the land but unfortunately intimidatory tactics were then employed by the oppressor to force the people off the land. In 1969 September, Chief Tangwena and his people were evicted from the land and some were arbitrary beaten by Rhodesian police. However, Chief Rekayi Tangwena joined others in Mozambique to fight for land. It is believed that, Chief Tangwena helped former President Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere into Mozambique. In 1984 Chief Rekayi Tangwena died and he was laid to rest at National heroes’ acre. It is therefore prudent to ascertain that, the land issue which Chief Tangwena died for is now the source of economic development in Nyanga area and Zimbabwe as a nation. Chieftainship remained in his family till present day and the custodians of this power are doing wonders to uphold the Rekayi Tangwena vision.  

Land and Community Prosperity in Nyanga South.

Land is the mother of economic prosperity in any nation. It is evident historically that Chief Tangwena firstly resisted eviction by the white settlers who then used force to control the rich grounds of Inyanga. This irked Chief Tangwena, who as a result joined the trek into Mozambique to get military training a move to fight the colonial oppressors. It is this land question that has enriched and empowered the Nyanga and Zimbabwe people. Abundant agricultural land in Bende gap, Matema and Tombo 1 and 2 is enabling ordinary people to grow cash crops for survival and improving the gross domestic production of Zimbabwe. Potato and fruit growing has dominated the area. This is aided by the abundant water the area received. It is thus, this water harvested for irrigational purposes. Irrigation is now benefiting low-lying areas of Regina, Bumhira and Crossdale. These areas are benefiting from irrigation system to improve their agriculture in crop cultivation. Crops grown under this scheme include beans, onions, garlic and fruits. These are cash crops and proves beyond doubt that the living standard of these people are above the poverty datum line. Money earned from agriculture is then diverted to other demanding economic pressures such as education and primary and secondly health care. Animal husbandry is also done in Nyanga south. Cattle ranching is aided by the mountainous privileged the area is. Abundant and fertile grazing area are been watered by the high rainfall the area receives. Forestry is also done. It is thus prudent to argue that, land is the source of economic and social prosperity.

Tourism as source of economic development is being implemented by Chief Tangwena people. It is through his passion and desire to see Nyanga South developed. Promotion of tourism in Nyanga is brewing positive fruits. In fact, Troutbeck Resort area in Nyanga is doing positive development in ploughing back to the community. This is witnessed in infrastructural developments such as roads, schools and health centers. It is therefore prudent to argue that, Chief Tangwena is playing a fundamental role in shaping and molding community development is Nyanga district.

Availability of educational facilities in Nyanga south also proves that Chief Tangwena was the fore-father of present day civilization of Nyanga south. It is now the role of the present day Chief and headman to allocate the land to the council to build schools. Abundant learning facilities in Nyanga south answers the land thirsty by Chief Rekayi. Currenty chief Tangwena is doing wonders to promote good quality education which is evidenced by adequate primary and seconday schools. Schools such as Regina Coeli, Bumhira Primary and Seconday, Kute High and Primary, Tombo Primary are accommodating pupils from different areas to acquire basic fundamental education. Practical subjects such as horticulture, agriculture and wood work are being promoted since the area need specialist in areas of the above trade. Provision of good quality health care in Nyanga south is an indicator of community development. Clinics at Tombo, Matema, and Regina Coeli and Bende gap are a true reflection of economic development. Education and Health are among the Sustainable development goals. In order to fully achieve these goals Chief Tangwena is using land reliably and enacting policies that are good for his people hence earning royalty and respect from his people. Hence, Nyanga south community development is being implemented by the present day families to benefit young and future generations.

Cultural norms and values are also being preserved by Chief Tangwena. Every society is bound to respect its norms and values a way to promote unity, peace and harmony. In trying to foster and maintain such cultural defect, Chief Tangwena, also use myths and taboos’. For instance, the cultural values of this place prohibits anyone to steal anyone property. It is then cemented by a taboo that if you steal then the item will follow you up until the owner get control of his or her valuable. These values, myths and taboos are also preserving the environment such as wild animals, deforestation and human existence. It is a taboo to comment any fun thing in Nyanga south mountains. Poaching of animals is also governed by totems in such area. It is therefore prudent to argue that, culture is promoting community development in Chief Tangwena area.

All in all, Chief Tangwena is fostering community development in Nyanga south area. Land has brew positive fruits in providing food and security to the people, provision of good quality education and primary and secondary health care. Preservation of cultural norms and values are also being done to foster community development. Thus, Chief Tangwena is developing Nyanga South.   

By Leon Chigwanda – Researcher with Great Zimbabwe University

Chief Hata – Nyanga South

The role of traditional leaders in economic development in Zimbabwe communities.

Traditional chiefs have an important role in developing communities in independent Zimbabwe. Traditional chiefs in Zimbabwe as a whole are the custodians of our values, norms and tradition. Having this onus, these traditional leaders play a leading role in developing every society economically, politically and socially. They work hand in hand with the government, Non-governmental organisations and private organisations in fostering development in their respective areas. Chiefs preserve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by allocating land, preserving the environment, promoting gender equality, peace and justice, good health and quality education. It is the role of chiefs together with headmen to preserve and promote these development indicators. At this juncture it is prudent to applaud the role played by Chief Hata in Nyanga South area.

Origins/Historical background.

Chief Hata who is ascribed to ‘Mheta’ is believed to have branched from chief Saunyama. The origins of these people are connected to the Saunyama people. The Saunyama people are believed to have migrated from Mozambique and resettled on a hilltop of Mount Muozi in present day Zimbabwe. Historians conclude the Saunyama ancestry to the Barwe of the Sena dialect. Mt Muozi was the territory on which the Unyama people first established themselves upon their arrival from Mozambique.  Unyama territory is regarded as their most sacred shrine and this archaeological site is believed to have been used as a centre for rainmaking and chief installation ceremonies as well as a burial zone for Saunyama chiefs’. Possibly with population growth and resource needs the Unyama people moved to occupy the present day Ziwa Ruins. Within these ruins the Unyama terraced and built marvellous stone structures that are economically benefiting the local people. However, the advent of colonialism and perhaps population growth the Unyama kingdom became big and diluted. Globalisation and resettlement disrupted the continuity of Ziwa Saunyama existence. Structures were left unhindered. It is therefore prudent to reason that, origin of the Unyama got roots in the present day Saunyama, Kadzima, Mapeta, Nyatondo and Magaso Family. Their fore fathers bow this history and thus their son’s family rotates chieftainship. It is however, believed that Chief Saunyama remains the overall head and the others family act as headman. Currently, Chief Hata from Sedze area is preserving the chieftainship. He reports directly to Chief Saunyama. Saunyama and Hata are just one family which only shared different surnames but same totem. Mheta means a python or Shato in shona. In preserving their totem, the Unyama people punish everyone found killing this vicious snake and he or she will be fined for such behaviour. Therefore, this history is important in trying to elucidate where these traditional leaders came from and how are they preserving the environment. They are surely making strides in preserving their territory and being ambassadors of economic, political and social development.

Economically, Chief Hata currently in Mapeta family are monitoring, distributing and evaluating land. Land is the mother of economic development. Communal land is used for residential, crop cultivation and grazing. Agricultural production of cash crops are dominating in Chief Hata area. Cash crops such as onions, potatoes, garlic, peas and fruits are grown in Sedze area. Fair land distribution and other resources by Chief Hata promoted growth and development of Nyanga area. Management and monitoring of water and climate change in Chief Hata area enables efficient irrigation systems. In trying to mitigate water and climate challenges in his area, Chief Hata came up with deterrent punishment, for example deforestation, channelling water illegally from Nyajezi River, unnecessary burning of bushes and wearing of red clothes during the rainy season. Anyone found doing the above acts or commissions is liable to a fine of one beast, one goat and money. Thus, these measures were designed in trying to promote agricultural continuity and promotion of adequate food supply.  Unnecessary burning of bushes and grazing land proves beyond doubt that, the Nyanga area under chief Hata are pastoralist. Animal husbandry in livestock and small stock are preserved in Chief Hata area. It is therefore, prudent to applaud Chief Hata in taking positive steps in distributing, monitoring and evaluating land. These conservation measures have yielded positive results in providing adequate food for the people thereby improving health, education and economic development of the people.

Chief Hata is the man behind quality health and education in Sedze area. Through his customary powers, he distributed abundant land for the construction of local clinic and schools for his people. His vision to seeing continuity of society is backdated to history when their ancestors constructed the Ziwa ruins which up to now are benefiting the local people. Provision of quality education is key in developing a society. In doing so, Chief Hata is promoting the social progress and human development is his area. By improving the local clinic, mortality rate declined within the area. Therefore, economic development is being witnessed in Sedze area.

There is very peaceful core- existence in Chief Hata area. The chief performs his judicial role of dispute resolution. Peace and stability are needed for economic development in any society. With all powers vested in him, Chief Hata designed stiffer penalties for those who cause anarchy, chaos and family fights.   In fact, he is helped by a council of elders in resolving disputes and making decisions. The chief deals with a plethora of cases including murder disputes, marriage disputes and theft cases.

The chief has the mandate of preserving the cultural norms, values and beliefs of Sedze area. The area of Nyanga headed by Chief Hata observes its cultural and traditional believe. For instance, preservation of environment is done by respecting totems. People who are ascribed to monkey (Soko), Mheta (shato) and Buffalo (nyathi) are not permitted to disturb life of these animals. Thus, by respecting totems Chief Hata’s people preserve these different animals and creations. Unwarranted cutting down of trees unnecessarily also attracts stiffer penalties. It is the environment that we benefit from for food, shelter and clothing and thus by preserving this, Chief Hata is an agent of economic prosperity. 

The society headed by Chief Hata is egalitarian and economic development is witnessed. The chief works hand in glove with Non-governmental organisation such as GOAL, CAMFED, FACT and governmental portfolios to cement smooth flow of resources and ideas to weed out poverty and underdevelopment in the area. This stance by the traditional chief proves beyond doubt that chiefs are strong agents for economic development. It is therefore justified that, traditional leaders are fostering economic growth and development in independent Zimbabwe.

Leon Chigwanda is an Economic historian with Great Zimbabwe University.

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The Ndebele state

Historical Background

The Rozvi people were conquered by different groups including the Portuguese’s and the Mtethwa people.  Dominantly, the Ndebele thwarted the already dying Rozvi society. The Ndebele was a run-away group from Zululand in South Africa. Between 1790-1868 Mzilikazi was the right hand man of King Tshaka. He was however perceived to be dishonesty leading to his dismissal by Tshaka in 1823. He fled northwards with his group. Mzilikazi was born in Zululand in South Africa and his father was Matsobana. His following grew through raiding and conquering other tribes and uniting them into one ethnic group. They share diverse economic, social and political differences.  From Zululand, Mzilikazi moved to Mozambique and later extended into Transvaal in 1826 where he lived with his people for almost 10 years.  The arrival of Voortrekkers saw the beginning of Mfecane, the period of mass murders and devastation.  This forced Mzilikazi- Khumalo people in 1838 to move north across the Limpopo. He was compelled to move present day Botswana and northwards towards Zambia. However high temperatures made it difficult for human existence and surviving the Tsetse fly infected area became difficult. In 1840 the Khumalo were forced to migrate and search for a better habitable environment. The group moved south-eastwards to what is now Zimbabwe. Currently the Khumalo people are mainly located in Matabeleland province of Zimbabwe.

Military Dominance

Mzilikazi as a trusted induna by Tshaka learned military tactics. His dismissal saw him proclaiming kingship in his new Ndebele society. He established and constructed a powerful and authoritative army which was called the Mthwakazi. The army was organised into a military system similar to Tshaka’s  the Zulu. Mzilikazi and his son Lobengula were the custodians of the Ndebele society.  His first settlement was in western province of Ndumba which is west of Bembesi River. Military dominance was used to conquer the then weakening states of Shona tribes. Rozvi and Kalanga states were subdued and they were robbed of their cattle, human capital and economic valuables. It is thus prudent to allude to the fact that, settlement on Matabeleland was centred on cattle farming. Military dominance was the focal point where economic and social prosperity was derived from.  Interestingly, the political, religious,   administration and judiciary were in the hands of the king. The king was helped by Indunas in carrying out these duties. The standing army had many roles is sustaining the growth and development of the society.

The Ndebele state under the leadership of King Mlizikazi differed from other pre-colonial states. His final destination was Matabeleland. Crop cultivation was not favourable to the climate and rainfall was inadequate for crops like maize. As a result, cattle ranching became the mainstay of the society. Cattle were a symbol of wealth. As the society was affected by climatic conditions, the army was tasked to undertake raiding as a source of food and living for the growing economy. Thus, unlike other societies the Ndebele state was sustained by raiding other groups. Cattle, grain and women were the proceeds from raiding. In fact, the Ndebele subdued the, Virwa, Tonga, Venda, Kalanga and Nyubi people. Grain was obtained for food which was supplemented by few drought resistant crops they grew such as millet and rapoko. Raiding was done at a commercial level. They raided big herds of cattle which became the mainstay of the society. Region five offered favourable climatic condition for cattle rearing. Oral tradition revealed that, the Ndebele cattle were so big that one could milk them whilst standing. This clearly depicts a picture to show that the society had good quality cattle breeds. The army was drilled and perfected to conquer weaker societies in order to acquire more cattle.  Cattle offered the society meat for relish and thus the Ndebele ate healthy food. Cattle were also a form of paying tribute to the Chief and king. Tribute payment cemented the Ndebele relations. It maintained royalty and respect within the society. For example the Churumhazi people paid tribute to king Lobengula. Women were the target on raiding. This was calculated and aimed at population expansion. As the Ndebele society was migrating from Zululand it lost a number of people along the way. Thus, raiding women was to increase population growth and development. Military dominance cascaded every parts of pre-colonial Zimbabwe to conquer and plunder weaker states.  Other economic activities were done which include trade, hand craft activities and hunting and gathering. Hunting of elephants was done to obtain ivory. Ivory was one of the major traded commodities with the white people.

The King had supreme powers as the Ndebele believed in their god whom the name Umnkulunkulu. As they undertook their raiding expedition, the Ndebele raided the Rozvi and adopted the Rozvi religious system. Similar to the Rozvi the Ndebele could consult their god for deliverance and blessings. Social classes existed in the Ndebele society. These include the Zansi, Enhla and Hole.  However, the state succumbed to pressure from the British Southern African Company and some missionary activities.

Author. Bako Tendai

Bachelor of Arts Hons in African History

The Moyo Chirandu and the first migration

All people of the Moyo Chirandu totem are one and the same people and originate from the same ancestors. The major variants of Moyo Chirandu which comprise the Moyo Chirandu Varozvi, Moyo Chirandu VaDuma, Moyo Chirandu Dhewa etc  are mere descriptions that came about because of the various experiences of these various groupings of the same Moyo Chirandu.

In the beginning

The first three Bantu groups of people to come into Zimbabwe were as follows:

a) The very first Bantu group to cross the Zambezi river coming from the North East i.e. from Nubia and the Kingdom of Kemet which comprises areas around present day Ethiopia/Sudan and Egypt were the Tonga whose totem(mutupo) is the lion (Tau or Dau). This lion mutupo of the Tonga must not be confused with the lion mutupo of the people of Chirimuhanzu near Masvingo ( referred to through their praise poem of Mhazi) or the lion mutupo of most people in Chivi again near Masvingo whose chidawo is Murambwi and other various lion mutupo’s zvidawo’s like Sipambi.

The Tonga lion is completely different from the Mhazi lion of Chirimuhanzu and or Murambwi lion of Chivi and or Sipambi lion also of Chivi as the lions of Chirimuhanzu, Chivi and other lions as they depict totems have their own completely different historical origins which are completely divorced from the origins of the Tonga lion mutupo.

In fact all these other different lion zvidawo’s like Mhazi, Murambwi, Sipambi etc are somehow related but are all of them not related to the Tonga lion.

The Tonga crossed the Zambezi into Zimbabwe around 300 and 400 A.D.

b) The next Bantu group to cross the Zambezi was the Dziva/Hungwe/Kalanga. They arrived around 800 A.D. also coming from the same North East where the Tonga originated.

This group’s mutupo comprised fish and the fish eagle bird, the Hungwe which is today’s national Zimbabwe bird found on various statutory documents and emblems in Zimbabwe. They are also associated with water (dziva) and the east where the sun comes from (Kalanga).

c) The third and last Bantu group to cross the Zambezi into Zimbabwe also from the same North East was the Shoko Mbire group. Their Paramount chief was called Mwene Mbire or simply Nembire.

This group arrived around 1000 A.D. Their totem was Shoko Matarira Chirongo or Mukanya which simply means baboon/monkey essentially meaning their totem/mutupo is the baboon/monkey.

This Shoko Mbire group and all its offshoots is the group responsible for the construction of the vast Great Zimbabwe Empire including the Great Zimbabwe City which became the capital city of Zimbabwe and is in fact the de facto capital city of Zimbabwe even today albeit the de jure capital city of Zimbabwe is Harare.

It is from this third group, The Shoko Mbire group that the Moyo Chirandu people originate from, all of them be it Moyo Chirandu, Duma or Moyo Chirandu Rozvi. The terms Duma, Rozvi, Dhewa etc are mere descriptions of events which resulted in the same Moyo Chirandu people being described as Rozvi and or Duma or Dhewa and or any other variants of the Moyo Chirandu..

So from the onset, it has to be clearly understood that all Moyos are Moyo Chirandu. The question of the variants such as Moyo Chirandu Duma, Moyo Chirandu Rozvi/Dhewa etc are really unimportant and inconsequential although it will be important to show how these variants came about.

In other words, as shall be clearly illustrated, it is correct for any Moyo Chirandu to refer to himself or herself as Murozvi or Muduma or Dhewa as these descriptions are exactly that, mere descriptions that came about because of certain experiences that happened to the Moyo Chirandu people as a whole and are therefore inconsequential to the oneness of the Moyo Chirandu thus making any Moyo Chirandu a Muduma or a Murozvi or a Dhewa or any of the variants of Moyo Chirandu as every Moyo is a Moyo Chirandu no matter what variant they have been erroneously taught to adhere to as that variant is a mere description which is incapable of tearing itself away from the tap root and the origins; i.e. Moyo Chirandu.

The other very important thing to remember is that the Moyo Chirandu must never forget to add the term Vapamoyo when they refer to their female relatives (sisters, daughters, aunts) as they are indeed our VapaMoyo, our very loved ones who are very close to our hearts and it has been like that ab initio and will be like that ad infinitum.

It is imperative for every Moyo Chirandu person to remember that at any event, function or gathering, no protocol is complete until honour and recognition is accorded to the Moyo Chirandu female relatives i.e. the aunts, sisters and daughters; i.e. VapaMoyo. Whether these female relatives are present or not, this honour and recognition must still be given even in abstentia in the event that no female relative is present. Any function that does not honor and recognize Vapa Moyo is considered to be incomplete.

Dr.Claude Maredza is an author and film writer, producer and director.

The Rozvi state (1684-95)

Collapse of the Mutapa state saw the birth of strong military empire called the Rozvi State. Changamire Dombo the Mutapa king defeated the Portugese at the battle of Mangwe. This battle helped Changamire Dombo to elope from the Zambezi area and resurface to his new capital city Tsindi ruins which is present day Marondera and Macheke. Due to his strong military tactics he managed to conquer and raid weaker states. Changamire Dombo expanded his space and later established his capital in Manyanga. Changamire Dombo became stronger and later secured his final capital known as Danangombe (Dhlo-Dhlo) in present day Matabeleland.  The word Rozvi was given to these militant people meaning the plunders.

Oral tradition also helps to construct the Rozvi state. In fact, Dombo is believed to have possessed supernatural powers that made him earn power, respect and he got more followers. Interestingly, Dombo is believed to have had the ability to change white colour cattle to red colour, making rain and turning his soldiers to be brave.  It is therefore prudent to ascertain that Dombo’s strong military tactics earned him a stepping stone in erecting a powerful kingdom. This political leverage enabled him to live peacefully and erecting proper economic and social policies that helped the rise and expansion of his state.  

Rise, growth and expansion of the Rozvi state

The Rozvi state grew due to sound economic, social and political polices. In fact politics was  behind the rise of the Mutapa state. Politically Changamire Dombo managed to defeat the Portuguese in 1684 and 1695 near Butwa. This move led Dombo to acquire more land and expand in Mbire and Guruuswa. Land is the source of wealth. Grabbing of fertile land made it possible for changamire Dombo to grow crops and rear animals. Crop cultivation made it possible for the Rozvi state to grow and expand. Agriculture was subsistence and every family was compelled to feed itself. Crops grown included rice, vegetables and pumpkins. Crop cultivation was made possible through the use of axes and hoes. Food for the chief was made available through the Zunde Ramambo scheme, a community-based program where most, if not all villagers participate in helping the king till his land and weed the crops. These tools made it possible to grow more crops to feed the growing population. Various methods to increase yield were put in place such as nhimbe or hoka. It was a system whereby people could gather and do work collectively. Yields improved and Rozvi became food sufficient to its people. Thus, it was possible for the state to expand with a healthy population. Animal husbandry of cattle, sheep and goat was successful due to the abundant grazing land and water availability. Cattle were a symbol of wealth and were for chiefs and important people in the society. Goats and sheep were normally used for relish. Thus, the Rozvi people ate healthy food and hence were able-bodied. It is also imprtant to note that Changamire Dombo’s powerful  army gave rise to prosperous agricultural development.

Land became the source for erecting sound economic and social activities. The king introduced military tactics to improve its efficiency and execution. The move was aimed at safeguarding the territory and preserving its gains. Military innovations such as the use of semi-circle, military weapons such as bows, arrows, assegais, wooden shields strengthened the Rozvi army. The army managed to grab more land and human resources. Land became available for men to get involved  mining. Mining of precious minerals such as gold and copper was done. All minerals were surrendered to the chiefs and thus became a form of tribute payment. It maintained loyalty, respect and integrity. Harmony excited in the society which saw the continuous mining of such precious minerals. Tribute was then a way of showing respect to the King. Items of tribute payments include, gold, cattle, ivory, axes and hoes. These items proves beyond doubt that the Rozvi land everything was  a self-sustaining community. The availability of land made hunting and gathering possible. Abundant forest provided the Rozvi people with juicy wild fruits that were nutritious and healthy.  The forest also provided relish such as Howa, tsambatsi, madora and mandere. Gathering of these fruits supplemented relish and improved diet. Hunting of wild animals was also done by the Rozvi people. Military tools were converted to hunting tools. Hunting objects included spears, arrows and axes. Hunting methods such as game nets and pits were used and they were environment friendly. Game meat supplemented the diet of the people to be stronger and energetic. Animals hunted included wild pigs, kudu, elephants and pangolins. Hunting promoted internal and external trade and military dominance. Elephant tasks were exchange with guns which were used then to conquer and attack weaker groups. Thus Rozvi chiefs and kings became politically strong due to the vast rich hunting area which produced elephants as a symbol of trade.  It is imperative to argue that, politics shaped and moulded the stability and expansion of Rozvi Empire.  Also elephant hooves were given to the king and chiefs as a form of tribute. Pangolin hunting was a royal game and they were surrendered to the ruling elite. Pangolin meat became a special dish for the king. The meat was believed to be more delicious, soft and tender.  It is therefore, exposed that Rozvi state strong political organisation stabilised the society and paved way for continual existence.

Hand craft activities promoted both political, social and economic development within the Rozvi state. Hand craft activities including iron smelting, weaving, soap making and basketry were done in promoting the rise and expansion of Rozvi Empire. Production of iron axes and spears improved military and hunting competence.  Weaving of cloth such as nhembe provided a brand that distinguished the Rozvi as a super power. Basketry and soap making improved hygiene and people lived healthy thus saw the continuation of society. The society tried hard to keep pace with time and political power maintained peace, law and order. Thus Changamire Dombo’s first achievement of grabbing abundant land and this was a stepping stone towards the rise, growth and expansion of this military state.  The king was the religious leader together with his  political and legal personnel. This proves beyond doubt that, politics dominated Rozvi existence. Unlike other pre-colonial societies, Rozvi stability and pillars were the army. The king communicated with their god through ancestors. Priest of Mwari were worshiped and they were very powerful. They cemented the voices of ancestors by telling people to obey the words and be loyal to the word of god. Vanyai acted as the intelligence as it networked people by spreading the word of Mwari. Thus religion became the opium of the Rozvi people as they believed and respected the ancestors. Ancestors and spirit mediums were behind the protection and installation of chief and kings. Disobeying a chief was a punishable offence by the ancestors.  Hence social structures were politically constructed and they they fairly contributed to rise and expansion of Rozvi empire.

The Rozvi empire collapsed around 1690 and the reasons for the collapse were complex but politically motivated. Rozvi political dominance and superiority gave and taught other states military tactics. Surprisingly, in 1690 Zwangendaba of the Mtethwa kingdom attacked and gained control of some of the Rozvi people. He managed to conquer little space living other parts untouched. The remaining society was on its path of recovery but Mzilikazi and his stronger Ndebele attacked the society and gained control. Furthermore, the Shangaani managed to raid the Rozvi in Chipinge area and the state began to crumble. Importantly, the Rozvi were only left in Mashonaland areas and it made it possible for the British to usurp power and gained control of the remaining Rozvi Empire. In present day Zimbabwe, the Rozvi people are located in Manicaland-Chipinge, Mashonaland-Marondera and parts of Matebeleland..  People were disturbed of their social and economic ways of life hence they were subdued and spread to different parts of Zimbabwe.

Author: Helen Gwatidzo (Master’s degree in African Economic History UZ)

The birth of Gokwe (GK)

At some stage, the area now known as Gokwe was called Sebungu and was established in 15 March 1898. Sebungu and Mapfungautsi were later combined into Sebungwu-Mapfungautsi on the 2nd of August 1901. Sebungu was then condensed to Sebungwe on 21 February 1907, and then Sebungwe was renamed to Gokwe on the 18th January 1957.

This area was mainly populated by the Tonga, Shona and Ndebele tribes of Mkoka who believed in the most high God (Mwari) through the veneration of their ancestors and they built their houses along Kana River.  The present day Gokwe-Kana is still under chief Mkoka. Despite the hot weather, tsetse flies, and wild animals, the area was densely populated. People are believed to have been depending much on hunting and farming like most African societies for their basic needs. Prior to the 1940s, these 3 great tribes had their own beliefs- they subscribed to traditional religion. In fact religion played an important part in their daily lives, including socio- political and economic life.

Traditional ceremonies were performed before commencement of the farming seasons and even in hunting there were some norms and taboos which sought to preserve and conserve the resources for future generations.  Cattle were also “treated”, through a tradition known as Iziko– Ndebele name which simply means “the ensuring of increased fertility and production of cattle through the veneration of ancestors for taking care in their cattle”. It is interesting to learn that in pre-colonial Gokwe- people, like many other tribes, measured their wealth through the number of cattle which one possessed and it was a privilege to have many cattle as they enabled one to marry many wives which led to a large number of children and these children were a force of labor to reckon with especially during the farming seasons. It was a taboo for a woman to enter the kraal as it was believed that women would lead even to mysterious dying of cattle. On the other hand, men were not allowed to partake in cooking but a preserve for women. Whilst one may not see the value behind these restrictions, the research from which this article was extracted took interest from such operations and further goes on to support that such practices worked as they were an appeasement to the dead who in return would reward them with prosperity in their production and good health.

The dead were believed to possess super natural powers and to be in direct contact with God thus having the powers to mediate between the living and the almighty. The importance of ancestors is justified by ceremonies such as umthethelo (Ndebele), kurova guva (Shona) or kuuma bbalu (Tonga) which are ingrained in ancestral beliefs and such performances in Gokwe – Kana have evolved to the present day and in each and every ceremony conducted, the Tonga of Mkoka are invited for entertainment purposes, In fact they have drums (ngoma) and horns (nyeele) which they blow orderly and in a manner that produces a melodious rendition and this is an integral part of their culture. According to Nyambara, the Shangwe people mixed with the Ndebele and Tonga could tell with high degree of accuracy that rain was about to fall in three or four days’ time through the study of the atmosphere. This is a clear indication that the people of Gokwe –Kana were highly acclimatised to their weather patterns and even up to the present day, there are still such elderly people who can foretell such but unfortunately the young generation believes more in modern technology and meteorological weather reports.

The elderly in this area still narrate how people in their times lived long and death was rare and sacred. In fact they claim that people mainly died of old age and children rarely died. This does not mean that there were no diseases in the area but one need to scrutinize the type of medicine used by the people. The Western or European view has consistently and widely used the pejorative and derogatory terms such as witchdoctor and superstition when describing and referring to these African health practitioners. This article was extracted from a research that sought to analyze the role of African traditional medicine to people’s livelihoods in Gokwe-Kana since the pre-colonial times. To a larger extent the study dwelt extensively on the fact that Traditional Medicine has been effective in maintaining the public health care system in Gokwe Kana since the time immemorial.

African traditional medical system defines disease and illness within given contexts, thus diseases and illness are inextricably interwoven in the social status of the group concerned. When one is infected or affected by a disease, he or she cannot perform his or her duties and functions within the social group. The individual’s illness affects the group (family members, neighbors and friends), and through this societal cohesion the elderly would initiate the therapy; consult one another and recommend a specialist healer. Sidinga (1995) posits that natural diseases such as diarrhea, skin rush and rheumatism may be treated by Western medicine or by traditional medicine or both, whilst human-induced illness ( unnatural diseases ) may be a result of sorcery, witchcraft, spirit  disturbances or breaching socio-religious obligations and taboos, especially with regard to the ancestors. Such diseases were referred to traditional healers according to their various specializations. There are herbalists, diviners, seers, spiritualists, traditional surgeons and birth attendants (nyamukuta) which were pejoratively referred as witches or blacksmiths. This study with lesser attention at colonialism, sought to bring a common understanding to the reader that traditional medicine in Gokwe continued to be widely used despite the negative stereotypic views and perceptions. In fact the whites had as they came to Zimbabwe mainly driven by economic interests, deliberately put stringent policies which sought to discredit everything African in favor of European style of living. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1899 dealt a heavy blow to African traditional medicine since its enactment aimed largely at dislodging and discrediting the traditional medicine.  The people of Gokwe believed in high God through the veneration of spirit mediums, amadlozi, vadzimu or bazimo and this saw the ritual practices such as umthethelo, umbuyiso/magadziro being eroded. Therefore this study points out that traditional medicine in Gokwe Kana  indeed did bring mixed feelings towards the use of such and they absolutely failed to take out the faith which the indigenous people had put in their medicine.

The attainment of independence in 1980 in Zimbabwe and the government had a lot of things to address and in their health sector formalization of traditional medicine was part of the core reforms. As such, an organization of traditional healers called Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) was founded. This was government’s deliberate move which aimed at safeguarding the independence of traditional healing from the oppressive and negative perception it had for some time. Thus this saw people in Gokwe-Kana again becoming free and they resumed their traditional style of health management. However whilst a number of people continue to use traditional medicine due to economic challenges and general interest in it, the Medicinal Control Authority of Zimbabwe has raised concerns on its use claiming that it does not take the correct prescriptions to the users thus chances of overdosing the patient is high and likely to pause some serious threats to the patient as they are not scientifically tested thus pseudoscientific. Whereas this study does not say people should use only traditional medicine but rather have an integrated health kind of system where the former is juxtaposed with Western methods for a sound health system.

Overall the study delved on the use of traditional medicine in Gokwe-Kana since the pre-colonial era to the present day. It has shown that the Tonga, Shona and Ndebele people still have faith in African medicine and they use it to cure a number of diseases which include among others; headaches, flue, asthma, cancer, sexual transmitted diseases and some social and spiritual calamities like ngozi/ ingozi which cannot be addressed by conventional medicine. Apparently, colonialism failed to dislodge the use of African medicine even though it had intended to wash it away. After independence, people again got the audacity to use it and it is continuing to gain much ground because of it’s accessibility and reasonable cost.

By Ngwenya Menelisi – Historian and Monitoring & Evaluation Officer with GOAL Zimbabwe