The Zambezi is the fourth longest river in Africa, after the Nile, Congo, and Niger Rivers. It is the longest east flowing river in Africa.
The name Zambezi comes from the Tonga phrase “Kasambabezi”, which means “only those who know can swim or take bath”. This was mainly because you were supposed to be careful when taking bath on the banks of the river as it is infested with crocodiles. The name is made up of two words, “kasamba” – meaning “those who bath”, and “bezi” – for “should know”.
It flows through six countries on its journey from its source in north-western Zambia to the Indian Ocean, an amazing 2 700 km. It is actually from this river where Zambia was named. It flows through the greater part of Southern Zambia and Northern Zimbabwe. The river had been the major economic hub for trade for centuries with the Tonga and Shona tribes being the major beneficiaries and “owners” of the great river for years. The descriptive Tonga and Shona names that were used to describe the “gigantic river” was “Donga” and “Gova”, hence the name of the tribes “Ba Donga or Ba Tonga” and “ma Gova”. Gova falls under Korekore which is northern Shona/ Karanga. These two tribes co-existed and lived in harmony for centuries with the Tonga having been the first to occupy the valley and welcomed other tribes who were fleeing from tribal wars from central and southern Zimbabwe. It is also important to note that Mutapa kingdom’s headquarter was based along the Zambezi river and stretched from Zambia, Zimbabwe through to Mozambique .
This river evokes mystery and excitement with few rivers in the
world remaining as pristine or as little explored.
The source of the mighty Zambezi River lies at about 1 500 m (4
900ft) above sea level in the Mwinilunga District, very close to the border
where Zambia, Angola and the Congo meet.
From there it flows through Zambia, Angola, Namibia and Botswana then
back along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwefinally discharging into the
Indian Ocean at its delta in Mozambique. The area of its catchment basin is 1
390 000 square km which is half that of the Nile.
The Power of the Zambezi River has been harnessed along its
journey at two points, the first being Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe and the
second Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique. Both these dams are sources of
hydroelectric power and supply a large portion of power to Zambia, Zimbabwe and
For years there has also been talk and plans of another Hydroelectric
Dam to be built in the Batoka gorge just below Victoria Falls,
of major concern is that these plans are very much alive again. The
river’s beauty has attracted tourists from all over the world and provides
great opportunities for game viewing and various water sports. Hippopotamus,
crocodiles, elephants and lions are some examples of wildlife you will find
along various parts of the Zambezi River.
The amazing river can be better analyzed in three sections:
From the source the river flows to the south-west out of Zambia
and into Angola for about 240 km (150miles). When it re-enters Zambia it is
approximately 400m (1300ft) wide in the rainy season and is fast flowing at
Cholwezi rapids and the Chavuma Falls.
The river runs south now for a distance of about 800 km (500miles)
and in this distance only drops about 180m (590ft). It is very slow flowing for
most of this section as it enters an area known as the Barotse Floodplain where
the width of the river reaches up to 25 km (16miles) in the rainy season.
The upper part of the Zambezi River is only sparsely populated by
pastoralists, farmers and fishermen. During the rain season when the plain is
in flood a ceremony known as the Ku-omboka Ceremony take place as the local
people move to higher ground to escape the flood waters.
One local folk law is that the Zambezi River has a spirit called
Nyami Nyami – this spirit brings them water to grow their crops and fish
to eat – and so they call the river “the river of life”. The name is believed
to come from “Nyama Nyama” for “meat”.
This Tonga River God is believed to have been moving from the Indian Ocean and
passed through different locations to Victoria Falls area. Nyami Nyami is believed
to be a snake-like creature with the structure of a snake but the flesh was like
fish. It is said that whenever Nyami Nyami reached a place inhabited by people
along the river, it could stop and emerge, showing only the back part of it and
people would rush to cut the meat from its body, they were calling each other “Nyama nyama” has come and that’s how the
name Nyami Nyami came about. After people got the meat it would immediately disappear
and it was believed it would recover immediately and go to the next village.
The river then turns easterly and forms the border between Zambia
and Namibia this is at the Katima Mulilo rapids.
Eventually it meets the Chobe River and briefly forms a
border with Botswana, before becoming the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
It is at this point that the four countries; Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe
meet. The river then flows about another 80 km down towards Victoria Falls.
This section above the falls is where tour operators run lots of
exciting actitivities including kayaking, canoe trips, river cruises and
daily floats on both the Zimbabwe and Zambian sides. This is a spectacular
section of the river with many islands and channels, crystal clear waters and
sandy beaches. It teams with birds and wildlife.
The Zimbabwe side is a national park called the Zambezi
National Park whilst on the Zambian side there are many small lodges which
blend into the banks of the river, plus about 20kms of the river’s shoreline
lies within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
The Victoria Falls are considered the boundary between the
upper and middle Zambezi. For the next 500 km the river serves as the border
between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Below the Falls the river continues to flow due
east for about 200 km (120miles), cutting through gorges of basalt rock between
200 to 250 metres (660 to 820ft) high. It is in these gorges where
the commercial white water rafting now takes place. The Zambezi River is graded
as a grade 5 river. This is the highest grade that a river can be graded for
white water rafting meaning this is as wet and wild as it gets. The Victoria
Falls also serves as a backdrop for many other adventure sports including
the famous bunge jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge.
The river drops 250m over the next 200 km before entering Lake
Kariba. The Kariba Dam which was completed in 1959 is one of the
largest man-made lakes in the world. The hydroelectric power generated at the
dam provides electricity for much of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Lake Kariba is 226 km long and in places up to 40 km wide and
supports a thriving commercial fishing industry and is a fantastic tourist
It is interesting to delve into the major contributors of the the birth of one of the most famous kingdoms in Zimbabwe. Mineral wealth, available grazing land, abundant land for crop cultivation, salt deposits and favourable climate proves beyond doubt the birth of Mutapa state. Socially, religion was the binding factor and it supressed elements of coup and disturbances within the Munhumutapa kingdom, spirit mediums played a pivotal role in solving successions disputes. It is imperative to tackle the role played by politics in shaping the existence of Mutapa state. In fact, Nyatsimba Mutota was the founder of such a strong society who used his strong army to conquer and raid weaker states. Through raiding, Nyatsimba managed to bring in economics value to his state. Strong military maintained law and order. Mutapa state growth and development was economically driven. Thus how it’s social and political base was formidable.
Economic decay, stronger
social pressures, anarchy and lethargic leadership within the Great Zimbabwe
society led the collapse and birth of a stronger Mutapa state. Agriculture both
crop cultivation and animal husbandry were the mainstay of Great Zimbabwe
society. Boom in agricultural development erected a high population, better
living standards, and strong social and political base. It is therefore this economic
boom that overturned the fortunes of Great Zimbabwe society. Population growth led
to competition over resources such as land, mineral wealth, trade centres and
areas for hunting and gathering. These economic pressures weakened the social
life of the Great Zimbabwe people. Living standards were eroded, people were
dragged into abject poverty and misery. When the economy is not performing the
social and political spheres succumbs to the pressure and thus how the marvellous
Great Zimbabwe society collapsed. Economic pressure created pressure within the
militant group which became porous for succession. Also, the state became weak
due to hunger and poverty which gave neighbouring states powers to raid and
destroy the Great Zimbabwe state. All this gave way for the Mutapa state’s rise
under the stewardship of Nyatsimba Mutota. It is interesting to note that
Mutota envied the Dande area which had abundant land for crop cultivation and
grasslands for livestock, salt deposits, low population, and access to
The economic system was
responsible in the rise, expansion and growth of Mutapa state. The growing of
crops such as millet, sorghum and rapoko was necessitated by the fertile soils.
Crop cultivation was done mainly by women and children while man were attached
to other equal demanding chores. Existence of division of labour proves beyond
doubt that surplus was achieved. Available food manage to feed the growing population
within Mutapa state. Animal Husbandry of cattle and small livestock was a
practise in the society. Cattle were a symbol of wealth. With
the abundant pastures the Mutapa people had large herd of cattle and oral
traditions indicate an estimate of 4000 cattle. The Mutapa diet was greatly
enriched by eating small amounts of meat and animal fats. They also kept sheep
and goat. In fact, in so far as the
Mutapa are concerned cattle fulfilled all the criteria of general purpose in
that they were stores of value, standard of value and media of exchange. Cattle
formed a form of social security in a society. Pastoralism led to the growth
and development of the Mutapa state. Mining of gold, iron, silver, and cooper
was done in the society. The abundant minerals brought economic gains through
internal and external trade. Thus external trade links with the Portuguese were
created. People exchanged goods and services. Hunting and gathering were chores
done by everyone one in the society. Women and children were encouraged to join
in the hunting activity through the ‘mambure’ system because very much noise
was needed to panic the game towards the nets. This approach was adopted by the
Shona people at Mutapa as their hunting method. Hunting was an important
economic activity that supplied relish. Gathering of wild fruits and insects
was an economic practise by the Mutapa people. Gathering of wild fruits was an
important economic branch of pre-colonial Shona economies. Gathering was an
activity of both children and woman and it was pursued even years of plenty.
Mutapa land had abundant wild fruits consisting matamba, nhembetembe, hubva, maroro, nhengeni, nzambara and tsombori
that were juicy and nutricious. Raiding as an economic activity strengthens the
Mutapa state. Mutota and Matope his son managed to raid and conquer the Tonga,
Tavara Kore-kore, Barwe, Guruuswa, Manyika and Uteve people. Women were mainly targeted
since they were of economic value. They wanted women for more human production.
Children were a source of labour. They
managed to raid grains, cattle and armoury. Thus, raiding other groups lead the
growth and development of Mutapa Kingdom.
social structure of the state was strong and formidable. The people enjoyed
better living standards. The people were hunger and poverty free. Religion
played an important role within the state. It gave authority to the Munhumutapa
king. The king was allied to the religious leaders in the land. The king was
also a religious leader and he led national ceremonies. Thus religion
suppressed succession disputes and curbing anarchy within the society. It was the role of spirit mediums and
religious leaders to choose kings. Religion bonded the society. Internal
marriages also united the people. Marriages were unifiers and symbol of wealth.
Man married so that they will have children as sources of labour. Girl child
were regarded as wealth as one could calculate his number of cattle with the
number of girl child he has. Thus, social base of Mutapa state was the pillar
in economic growth and development.
the army was headed by king as its chief commander of all soldiers. It was
believed that, the commander was helped by an appointed commander of the
soldiers. He was the second most powerful official in the state and he was
called Nengomasha. Mutapa state witnessed change of leadership. These leaders
include, Mutota, Matope, Gatsi Rusere, Changamire Dombo,Kapararidze and
Mavhuramhande. These leaders uphold the ideologies of the founding father Mutota.
These Munhumutapa kings were head of state, chief Judge, distributer of land,
custodian of state property, religious leader, signing treaties, punish rebels
and protecting the state. They also
followed economic techniques to strengthen the society. Economic prosperity was
behind this strong army. In fact able bodied Mutapa people who ate healthily
managed to dominate and raid weak states. Raiding manage to award the Mutapa
kingdom the name Munhumutapa. This alone proves that Mutapa had a vicious army
which was ruthless and that aimed on the expansionist agenda. Tribute payment
by the subordinates supressed the ideologies of anarchy and succession. This
form of political technique created wealth for the King. Economic gains bonded the army to be loyal
and respectful to the king. The political landscape became the hub of security
of everyone in the society. It is therefore that this strong political
structure protected the people hence promoting economic and social cohesion
with the Mutapa state.
The state collapsed due to economic factors. Sound and viable economic structures created a big state that became unmanageable. Competition over resources such as land dealt the society a blow that it never recovered. Agriculture being the mainstay collapsed thus the death of the Munhumutapa kingdom. Mineral deposits depleted, some mines became death traps and were abandoned. Competition on hunting and gathering resources worsened. Drought was also to be blamed. These economic pressures begun to create social and political problems. These pressures saw the birth of civil wars, succession disputes, migration, in subornation and anarchy with the state. It is therefore prudent to ascertain that, ill managed economic based created social and political errors. External hand was involved in the demise of Mutapa state. The economic, socio-political activities weakened the great Mutapa kingdom. The Portuguese mingled into the economic, social and political branches of Mutapa thereby distorting its progress and performance. By damaging these strong structures, Mutapa state collapsed.
Leon Chigwanda is an Economic historian and Researcher with Great Zimbabwe University.
Totems are unifiers and promote oneness and unity among members of the same clan. In this article, we look at Humba (Makombe) totem. Humba is a wild pig which is very strong and determined to always win and this is possibly what prompted the fore-bearers to identify themselves by this animal as it inspired them to work hard. Traditionally, elders used to praise, eulogize or extol a family member who did well using detailed and structured words of compliments and below is how the Humba (Makombe) family members praise each other by their totem:
that are inspiring agricultural economic development are, Maita Chirimanemuromo,
Mapadza aripo, Asi muchiapa veranda, Gwindingwi guru and Chitambanamatope.
It is rare to see a family member loitering around the house as they will be in
the field farming there by borrowing the idea of (Chitambanamatope) always in
the field form the totem. The able bodied (Chirimanemuromo) people erect large
pieces of land thus the growth and development of cash cropping in the area.
Iron smelting and pottery making are part of the economic activities done by the Humba people and the activities should be understood in the context of specialisation. Hoes are a good examples of handcraft produces that were used to till the land (Mapadza aripo). Also, Livestock production is an important economic activity practised by this clan, including cattle, sheep and goats as part of the domestic animals.
The famous Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe, a few kilometers from Masvingo town. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. Construction on the city is believed to have begun in the 11th century and continued until it was abandoned in the 15th century. The marvellous stone structures were erected by the ancestral Shona. It spans an area of 7.22 square kilometres (1,780 acres) which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. It is recognised as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
This massive stone structure is believed to have served as a royal palace for the local monarch of the Shona people. As such, it would have been used as the seat of political power. Among the edifice’s most prominent features were its walls, some of which were over five metres high. They were constructed without mortar dry stone.
Historically, it is interesting to note that, the earliest known written work mention of the Great Zimbabwe ruins was in 1531 by Vicente Pegado, captain of the Portuguese garrison of Sofala, on the coast of modern-day Mozambique, who recorded it as Symbaoe. The first confirmed visits by Europeans were in the late 19th century, with investigations of the site starting in 1871. Later, studies of the monument were controversial in the archaeological world, with political pressure being put upon archaeologists by the government of Rhodesia to deny its construction by native African people. Great Zimbabwe has since been adopted as a national monument by the Zimbabwean government, and the modern independent state was named after it. The word great distinguishes the site from the many hundreds of small ruins, now known as “zimbabwes”, spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld. It is therefore prudent to note that the Great Zimbabwe ruins were constructed by the shona people.
The reasons for the decline of the Great Zimbabwe ruins were closely similar to the reasons for the abandonment of other stone structures in historical Zimbabwe. Economic reasons dominated the abandonment of the site complex. These include ecological factors: the shift of trade from the Limpopo-Sofala area to the Zambezi-Shrine Lake Tanganyika triangle, drought, and decline in population, shift and competition for trade. Political factors played a limited role in the abandonment of the great ruins by the inhabitants. These include succession disputes, incompetent leadership and political oppression. Therefore, it is prudent to consider economic reasons for the abandonment of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.
The congregation of about thirty thousand
inhabitants in such a small valley must have taxed the immediate environment
heavily. In the course of time, firewood
for fuel, timber for hut construction and other resources must have become
increasingly difficult to obtain. It is important to note that, the Great
Zimbabwe economy was supported by agriculture that is crop cultivation and animal
husbandry. Grazing land for the large numbers of cattle owned by the
inhabitants must have become gradually short. Great Zimbabwe state was a
subsistence economy based on pastoralism and crop cultivation, it is probable
that by the middle of the 15th century AD soil fertility and other
natural resources in the vicinity of the site complex become depleted. In
particular the establishment of several out posts or Madzimbabwe encouraged
further exploration and settlement, which showed that the other part of the
plateau were equally attractive. Economic historians, reasoned that in view of
the deteriorating environmental factors, the rulers and the people became
anxious to look for alternative grazing land in the north and east and also to
control the gold producing area around the Mazowe valley and trading routes
along the Zambezi valley. Thus had the effect of shifting the centre of gravity
to these newly discovered areas resulting in the ultimate decline of the
The shift and competition for trade led to the abandonment of the Great Zimbabwe ruins. Not only was agriculture made difficult because of the environmental degradation, but the lucrative trade would have been threatened by competition from such rivals as the people of Ingombe Ilede who might have become envious of the display of power and prosperity of the Great Zimbabwe people. The competition in trade led to the scarcity of valuable commodities such as salt, gold, ivory and copper resulting in the reduction of the kingdom’s sources of revenues. Exhaustion of gold deposits within Great Zimbabwe ruins economic area weakened the access of the ruling group to the wealthy that was very important to the survival of the kingdom. Beach recorded that, the shift of trade from the Mutirikwe-Save-Limpopo-Sofala area to the Zambezi-Shrine-Lake Tanganyika triangle worsened the situation particularly in view of the greater interest shown by Swahili and later Portuguese traders in the slave trade also known as the black gold. Thus the economic landscape at Great Zimbabwe led, not to the total collapse of the society and the economy but to a new adaptation.
Natural disasters dealt the Great Zimbabwe
ruins a blow it never recovered. The decline of the kingdom was probably
hastened by the devastating drought, which occurred between the 15429 and 1430,
followed by a locust plaque which further destroyed the remaining crops the
people had grown. There were ten
consecutive droughts between 1465 and 1493, all blamed on the king. The
inadequate food supply clearly demonstrated that the society was ravaged by
chronic poverty. Food was essential in
the growth, expansion and development of the Great Zimbabwe society. People
were forced into abject poverty and the only solution was migration to fetch
areas of greener pastures were food was available. Migration in search of food
to feed the growing population subsequently led to the abandonment of the
ruins. Furthermore, to the chronic droughts there were cattle disease which
destroyed cattle, locusts and epidemic outbreaks of human diseases due to the
inappropriate disposal of human waste. Importantly to note is the fact that,
livestock was the mainstay of the Great Zimbabwe economy. Cattle were the
property of the Great Zimbabwe ruling oligarchy. Cattle were greatly valued as
they produced food in form of meat and milk and skins for clothing. The death
of livestock in the society contributed or brought devastating economic impact
affecting the socio-economic and political landscape in the dynasty. The Great
Zimbabwe population was decimated by the in flakes of epidemics and encouraged
the abandonment of the site complex. The population was responsible for the
running of the day to day economic activities that shaped the socio-political
structures of the society. The decline of the population threatened agriculture
that integrated crop cultivation and animal husbandry the mainstay of the Great
Zimbabwe economy. Thus the small population found it inappropriate to carry the
day to day running of the society thereby encouraged the abandonment of the
Political forces shaped the decline of the Great Zimbabwe ruins. Incompetent leadership and factionalism hit the society and the shifted the centre of gravity from Great Zimbabwe to the Mazowe valley. By the 1480s the pride and glory of Great Zimbabwe had disappeared, hastened by the rebellious and secessions of Torwa and Changa to be replaced by the Mutapa kingdom. In fact during the reign of King Munembiri Mudadi several ethnic groups like the Venda crossed Limpopo in an attempt to distance themselves from Mudadi’s oppressive and autocracy rule. The death of Munembiri Mudadi saw the Great Zimbabwe state plunged into a succession dispute which was difficult to handle and resolve. The society was affected by the sprawling nature of the kingdom and by the beginning of the 15th century AD and in absence of good means of communication and able leadership, the power of the central authority had become too thinly spread to prevent the decline of the kingdom. Thus a political perspective explains well how the Great Zimbabwe state disintegrated and the final abandonment of the site complex.
Leon Chigwanda is an Economic Historian and Researcher with Great Zimbabwe University.
This week we look at the Ziwa Ruins in Nyanga’s chief Saunyama area in Manicaland province. Ziwa Ruins lie on the Ziwa farm formerly called the Van Niekerk Ruins which was previously owned by Fredrick Bernard and his family. Fortunately Fredrick and his family developed an avid interest in the pre-history of the area and in particular the remains of the ancient settlement on their farm. In May 1946 Fredrick generously donated 3337 hectares of land which included the Nyahokwe Ruins and Ziwa Ruins and many surrounding agricultural terraces to the National Museum and Monuments of Rhodesia.
The inhabitants of the Ziwa Ruin area are believed to have pursued a sound economy which was vibrant, self-sustaining and efficient based on agriculture. Agricultural production was largely based on mixed farming involving both crop production and animal husbandry. Crop cultivation mainly involved growing of millet, sorghum and rapoko. Animal husbandry concentrated on the rearing of a rare breed of small cattle, sheep, goats and other small livestock were also reared and must have roamed the pasturelands, valleys and the plains of the Ziwa. Ziwa people were also involved in hand craft manufacturing and remains of such artefacts are abundant from archaeological excavations. Iron smelting; pottery making, weaving, hunting, gathering and fishing among others were other the sectors of economic organization and development at Ziwa.
The Nyanga complex was shaped by the high rainfalls, geology,
topography, climate, vegetation and the good soils. These factors prove beyond
doubt that the growth and development of the Ziwa ruins complex rested on a
favourable climatic environment. Agriculture was thus the backbone of the
economy of the Saunyama people and this was supplemented by hunting and
gathering, manufacturing, fishing and trading. Ziwa people were prosperous and
self-reliant subsistent farmers as well as manufacturers and traders. Thus, the
whole complex of the Ziwa ruins represents an agricultural society of
industrious farmers and stock raisers whose culture developed about 1500 AD to
sometimes in the late 18th century
It is intriguing to
identify WHO built the
terraces and WHEN the
ruins were constructed and WHY
such enormous labour was expended on terracing the stony slopes and escarpments
when there was plenty of land on the plateaux and in the lowlands which could
be far more easily exploited by the inhabitants during the period of 1500-
1800AD. Terraces were defensive forts and were constructed around the 900 AD
-1100AD. Radio carbon dating postulated the AD1200-AD1300. Thus the paper will adopt radio carbon dating
as the correct dates for occupation by the Saunyama dynasty at the Ziwa
Oral traditions and archaeological
evidence exposed that there are no indications of any major migrations or
population replacement, so we must attribute the complex to relatively recent
ancestors, even though little direct memory of the archaeological remains seems
to be preserved. The core area of the complex north of Nyanga town falls within
the territory of the Unyama people under Chief Saunyama. There appears to have
been little basic change in the distribution of these political units for
several centuries and the genealogies of their ruling dynasties extend at least
well back into the 18th century in the case of the Saunyama and
considerably further for others”.
Fertile environment and position of the slopes prompted the
reasons for terrace construction.
However, some scholars speculated that, the Saunyama people were forced
into an unfavourable environment of a defensive reaction to stronger
antagonistic neighbours. This line of argument might be understandable for the
highlands and the escarpments but it hardly applies to the low hills in the
plains, which in no sense could provide a secure refugee. Hence it is quite
plausible convincing that the Unyama people knew the technique of conservation
the environment so they opted terracing to so as to arrest erosion.
Terraces were also a means of maintaining water percolation hence
promoting agricultural prosperity. This hypothesis supports the reasons why
Saunyama people spent their enormous labour and energies on exploiting the
The socio-political developments at Ziwa site complex was shaped
by the growth, expansion and development of sound and efficient economic
activities. Mainly the socio-political structures were governed and determined
by the use of pottery by Saunyama people. Important to note is the population
distribution at the site complex in a way to deduce the socio-political
organisation of the Saunyama people. The Saunyama society constituted about
5000 Saunyama in the late 19th century.
The point depicts a picture testifying that the community was relatively small.
Thus the small population density was responsible for executing duties oriented
towards development and expansion. Oral source exposed it that, social
stratification existed at Ziwa ruins. Evidence of burial practise at Ziwa site
complex testified that the Ziwa people buried their deceased counterparts.
Excavations at the ruins exposed that the dead were buried within the
homesteads which was then abandoned. Thus, the people were civilised as they
knew the concept of burring the dead. Pottery making played central role in the
socio-political life of the Saunyama people. The type and style of pottery
excavated at the Ziwa ruins helped to explain who the inhabitants of the Ziwa
ruins were. Pottery making ensured practise of rain making ceremony and the
installation of Saunyama chiefs. Pottery making ensured rainfall. Rains were needed annually for the people and
their livestock to survive as they largely depended on agricultural produces,
willingly or unwillingly proper-rainmaking ceremonies characterised by use of
traditional rain making utensils that include pottery have to be carried out
each and every year as a survival strategy otherwise failure to do so results
in drought. This mean that, rainfall was adequate in the region to sustain the
livelihood of the Unyama since their society was agricultural based.
Politically, the installation of the Saunyama chiefs was governed by the use of
ritualistic vessels. Basically the vessel ‘hari
youbaba’ amongst all vessels produced in the society was regarded as the
most significant and thus shaping the politics of the Saunyama people.
Therefore, the Saunyama culture and politics were governed by the use of
pottery by the indigenous people.
In fact, the society of the Saunyama flourished and survived in a
modest way over a period of 600 years by successive adaptions to varied
environment. Interestingly to note is the drought factor that affected both
structures although in different years and context emanating from different
angles resulting in the decline of both complexes. The decrease in annual
rainfall greatly affected the Nyanga agricultural economy that integrated crop
cultivation and animal husbandry and other viable and lucrative economic
activities that in the long run determines the smooth flow of the
socio-political landscape. The struggle to and factionalism destroyed the
Saunyama community resulting in the murder of chief Muozi. Also secessionist
tendencies rocked the Unyama people complex which had the negative impact of
draining the human resources that were the potential builders of economic
growth. External factors also played a role in bringing the Ziwa ruins complex
in a wage of turmoil and total collapse by the end of the 18th century.
By Leon Chigwanda- Leon is a Researcher at Great Zimbabwe University.
Mangwende dynasty was started by the patriarchy of the Nhowe
people, Sakubvunza in 1606 who established the Shona tradition state of Nhowe.
Mukarate is a place in the northern eastern Murewa district of Zimbabwe. It is
situated in Mashonaland East province and is almost entirely inhabited by Shona-speaking
people of the Zezuru dialect. The traditional leaders/rulers of the area are the
Nhowe people whose chieftainship is called Mangwende. Many of the Nhowe people
use Mukarakate as a surname because it is the name of the great – great
ancestor of the tribe. Their totem is ” Moyo Mukuni” which uses the bull
as its symbolic animal, the heart is sacred not the whole body. In 2013 the
then chief Jonathan Tafirenyika Chibanda passed on in South Africa. He was the
President of the Chiefs Council. He was the son of Chataika Chibanda Mangwende.
He became chief Mangwende in 1926 and died in 1936. He only ruled for 10 years.
Their chieftainship employs a system of collateral
succession which alternates between houses of the dynasty. Mhotani (Bokoto)and Chitopi
(Hundungu) houses ruled between (1833-1878). Hundungu is the first person to
assume the ruling title Mangwende with proper infrastructure from the Rozvi.
There was no common name in the reference to the chieftainship and previous
chiefs used family names in respect to the clan , Nhowe.
Sakubvunza 1606- 1631
Mhotani (Bokoto) and Hundungu ( Chitopi) are the highest
ranking names in the modern day history of Nhowe politics and they represent
both chieftainships. In the case of Mungate 1 (Mushawatu) and Gatsi 1(Bukuto) houses
are purely for administrative purposes and lineages lived in close proximity
for over 3 centuries at Mahopo Chitopi Nyakambiri river near Marondera.
The Mangwende clan dominated the geographical area between
Makoni and Mutoko in Mashonaland east in Zimbabwe and existed in the political format
of traditional states. Mangwende had a fighting force that fought rival clans
and was often called to defend allies in battle. Within their territory the
Mangwende chieftainship had several chiefs
of surrounding clans under their protectorate who would pledge allegiance to
chief Mangwende in return for military support if attacked by other rival chiefs.
Mangwende administered over welfare , security and all order
of small chieftainships clans and presided in ceremonial duties.
The house of Hundungu who was chief from 1859-1878 and was
the first to assume the title of chief Mangwende with proper Rozvi structure. Prior
to this period all chiefs (mambo) were called or known by their family names. It
was at this time that there was a bit of animosity between the two chieftainship
lineages as it was alleged that the other lineage had attacked the other with a
flock of bees from a charm (Gona).
Katerere father to Chirodza and Chibanda ruled for one year
and died 1878-79 and was replaced by Mungate son of Hundungu who ruled from
1880-1924. He was the chief by that time when the white settlers arrived in Zimbabwe,
then Rhodesia. Most of the late Mangwende chiefs are buried at the Mangwende
shrine in Mahopo Masekwa. The Bukuto house decided to bury their chiefs at Bokoto
in Mukaravate. Only 3 chiefs were not buried at Mangwende shrine, Musekwa Mahopo
being Katerere, Enoch and Chibanda 11.
White colonialists arrived around the period 1890 and disguised
as hunters and missionaries and settled in the territory controlled by chief Mungate
Mangwende. In about 1896, chief Mangwende fought white settlers who tried to
impose on his territory in the famous battle known as the 1896 Rebellion. It
led to his forces to defend chief Makoni who had also been involved in the
resisting of white settlement rule.
Chief Mangate’s oldest son Muchemwa was given orders by his
father to fight the colonialists white settlers in the 1896 with the uprising
in conjunction with Mbuya Nehanda and Kaguvi. Mungate made peace with the white
settlers in 1896 his son Muchemwa and other members of Nhowe continued to wedge a guerilla type of war.
This continued upto 1903 and ended in the fierce battle in Bokoto hills which
lasted several weeks.
Muchemwa brokered a deal with the white settlers that he
could only lay down his arms together with his lieutenants on condition that he
did not face prosecution.They agreed on one condition that he resided next to Murewa
District Headquarters where he will be monitored. After the rebellion the white
settlers took over the fertile land in Mahopo Musekwa and chief Mungate was
moved to a place called Rota; Chamachinda. The village around Murehwa district
centre is known as the Mangwende village at the time of Muchemwa’s death in
1909 (murdered his father while still on throne) but he left three sons Mbumbira,
Munhuwepayi and Maiziveyi.
Munhuwepayi became a chief of Mangwende village and the entire
Murehwa area from 1937- 1960.
He was disposed from chieftainship for continually
disagreeing and criticising white settlers administration decisions which
deemed to be gross insubordination. Another contributing reason ; he participated
in politics 1950-50s up to independence 1980. Once dethroned he was sent to
detention at Gonakudzingwa restriction camp (where they banish and sleep) in
the Southern Rhodesia near Mozambique border. He was not permitted to enter the
near Salisbury (25 km radius) or visiting his relatives and children. He died
in 1988 and buried at Mangwende shrine. It was his brother’s sons who performed
the rights for the chief Munhuwepayi to be buried at the shrine.
The sheep totem (gwai, hwai, imbelele) is commonly called chuma or machuma referring to women beads. The clan is normally composed of quiet people from both sexes. The females are smart intellectuals, beautiful and heavily built. The males are tall, slender and average competitors. They do not eat mutton like any other clans who do not eat the flesh of their totem. They normally use chuma, mukuruwambwa or zambu as their chidawo.They praise themselves as follows:
Maita Gwai, Maita mukuruwambwa, Maita zambu, Vane chuma chisingaverengwi Vakatorerwa umambo naMabvakure, Maita hwai yangu iyi, Ikachema kunofa dangwe, Ukaidya unopera mazino, Maita vana vaMbarure, Maita vana vaChigondo, Vanemumba makazvarwa murungu, Zvaitwa mhuri yaNyamhunga, Zvaitwa mhuri yaGora, Maita zvenyu vari Goromonzi, Vari Mharamasimbe, Kuziva zvenyu vari Manyewe, Vari Baramhanya, Tatenda vari Mburwi, Zvaitwa, Zvaitwa Gono, Zvaitwa Gumbi, Zvaitwa Gwai, Maita vari Mhondoro, Maita Sembe, Chuma-Chitunge, Tinotenda vari kwaMashayamombe, Tinotenda Chinhove changu chichi, Zvaonekwa vari Doworo, Maita mwana waGora, Zvaonekwa Gwai rangu iri, Zvaonekwa Mukuruwambwa. Zvaonekwa Mushambadzi. Zvaonekwa Kota. Zvaonekwa Muzanarwo Zvaonekwa chibaba chavose MHIRIZHONGA
The elephant totem, nzou/zhou/ndlovu has a number of classes (zvidawo). Affectionately known as Mhukahuru, meaning the big animal. The elephant clans are scattered across the country some in the north along the Zambezi valley. These are the Tonga, Tavara, Korekore, Karanga, Ndebele and Remba. The totem represents mighty people who are well built, big in stature and destructive. They are also great hunters mostly the Karangas, Remba and Tonga, whereas the Ndebele produce great fighters. The elephant clan produce people with great skill in arts, sports and academics, exmples being; the Ndlovu brothers in football (Peter, Madinda and Adam), Oliver Mutukudzi in music. They are composed with athleticism and intelligent although they are few in population. Their dialectical classes comprises of Samanyanga, Suwani, Mushavi.
Are you interested in knowing your family history, where your great grandparents came from, what their tribe or race was, what their professions were and much more? Family history seems elusive these days as parents and elders no longer relay this important information to their children and grandchildren. This has also been exacerbated by a surge in urbanisation and gradual decay of the extended family concept. Few families document family history and a sizable number of the young generation do not know beyond their grandfathers.
It is therefore important to record this information in a way that will make it easier and convenient for future and current generations to access . This is the main focus of Zimtribes.com, a website that helps Zimbabweans to document and preserve their family history for centuries to come. Registered members can easily construct their family trees and send links to relatives and friends. The platform also provides an opportunity for prolific history writers to showcase their talents and write about history of places, names, great people, country etc.
To construct your family tree, simply follow the steps below:
Open www.zimtribes.com and click on register or login if you already have an account- try to complete all or the most important details.
After registering, log in and click on “Lineage” tab and click on the node (box) with your name (the border will turn blue).
Add family members from your parents up to the last known grand father and down to your children using the “Add Parent,Sibling,Child” buttons.
Click on “Save” button after adding the family members.
Go to homepage and search your surname, totem, chief, town or village.