History behind the great Zambezi River

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 South Africa.

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:

Upper Zambezi

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 Middle Zambezi

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 attraction.

More on the Lower Zambezi  in the next article…

By Misheck Samanyanga

The rise of the famous Mutapa kingdom

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 trade.   

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.

The 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.

Politically, 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.

The Humba clan

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:              

Humba Nyanguru, Maita Chiunga, 
Maita Humba, 
Mwana waMakombe, Chomera, 
Maita Nguruve, Mutakurwa, 
Zvaitwa tateguru wangu Makombe, 
Maita waDukudza, ari Jekacheka. 
Maita Chirema, 
Mapadza aripo, 
Asi muchiapa veranda, 
Maita vari Barwe, Gwindingwi guru, 
Vanodzira imba namatope, 
Muno muromo unenge gombe rokucheresa mvura. 
Zvaitwa Nyanguru, 
Makapedza rudzi rwavamwe nenyuchi, 
Maita VaKarota, 
Zvaonekwa Rima, 
Tatenda VaChevakaranga naChibonoyo. 
Zvaitwa waGosa, 
Mwana waZunzangara. 
Maita vari Karomokapuwe. 
Tinotenda vari Matitima. 
Kuna Nyadekese, kuna Zambezi. 
Aiwa zvaitwa mwana waMatope. 
Zvaonekwa Nyanguru. 
Zvaonekwa Humba. 
Nguruve, Chitambanamatope

Words 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. 

By Leon Chigwanda

Great Zimbabwe legacy

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 once-famous kingdom.

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 site complex.

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.

Nyanga’s Ziwa ruins

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 ruins.  

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 stony environment.

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.[1] 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.

Chief Mangwende (Nhowe people) history

Mangwende dynasty was started by the patriarchy of the Nhowe people, Sakubvunza in 1606 who established the Shona tradition state of Nhowe. Mukarakate 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 Muzukuru” 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.

Chieftainships and dates

Sakubvunza 1606- 1631

Gatsi  1633-1656

Mushawatu 1657-1681

Dembetembe 1681-1706

Mhonyera 1707-1731

Hwita 1732-1756

Zemura 1757-1781

Rota 1783-1831

Mhotani 1833-1857

Hundungu 1859-1878

Katerere 1878-1879

Mungate 1880-1924

Chibanda 1926-1936

Munhuwepayi 1937-1960

Enock 1960-1968

Chibanda 1969-2013

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.

Gwai/Chuma totem history and Eulogy

Devera is one of the Gwai dynasties though little known when compared to Gora. The Gora, gwai/mukuruvambwa was another gwai dynasty. There were links between Gora and a group  that accompanied Nyamhunga, a dynasty that reached Zambezi-Sanyati confluence area, who were displaced in 1957 and relocated to Hurungwe (partly Kariba). However, the Nyamhunga people’s gwai chidawo is commonly referred to as Zambu. We do not know if this Zambu is associated with Zambu, one of Derere, chief of vaShawasha people, who led them from Mahungwi to Wedza, these were expert iron smiths who made knives, spears, axes etc, but they are definitely an offshoot/descendents of the Gora dynasty. This makes the writer somehow think that Devera mentioned above may actually be Derere. However Derere’s totem was Soko and possibly the splinter group could have changed their totem to Gwai. Both Devera and Gora had come from the territory between the Mubvinzi and Nyaguwe where a ruler named Kanyoka had a daughter who married the ancestor of the Chikwaka mbano/matemayi dynastry. Conflict between the mbano and gwai groups, with Rozvi involvement, led to the former dynasty coming to rule the disputed area, while Kanyoka’s grandson moved to Chivero’s country. There he was given land in the Matanha area, east of Nyundo tributary, and founded the Gora dynasty. This would have been before 1800, and the exact circumstances under which  the Gora dynasty established itself are not clear. This was because Gora was put under Nherera shortly after colonial rule began, and by the 1960s it was claimed that Nherera usurped Gora’s rights when the latter fled in fear from the guns and foreworks at Edward V11’s coronation celebrations in Salisbury. Thus it was claimed that the Rozvi gave Gora land and he in turn allowed Nherera to settle. The more prosaic truth is that in the late 1890s, the NC Hartley found several different groups in Matanha and put Nherera over them for convenience sake.

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

Nzou-Samanyanga Totem

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.

Maita nzou, maita nzou mhukahuru

Mutsika panotinhira

Vakaita hasha vanodzura miti

Maita mhukahuru

Dzese mbwende dzinopatiza masvika

Vasina hanganwa

Vana mutyora sango

Vakakubata iyewe wedzoro huru

Unotochiona chete


Maita nzou

Machengeta sango

Ivo zhou

Vanadzo dzisingabhende

Dzinoti dzikabaya dzinosvika kuhongonya
Maita madyemhihwa
Magutsa vana 
Vakuru vomusha
Mhuka isina mushishi

Building Family Tree made easy

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:

  1. 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.
  2. After registering, log in and click on “Lineage” tab and click on the node (box) with your name (the border will turn blue).
  3. 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.
  4. Click on “Save” button after adding the family members.
  5. After saving, click on “Details” and you will see suggested relatives who you share surname or totem with.
  6. Go to homepage and search your surname, totem, chief, town or village.

Example of a Family tree extracted from www.zimtribes.com

Why Family History Research matters?

First of all, finding about more about your family can be a truly eye-opening experience!

Discover personal history

Your family’s personal history can be simply fascinating! Maybe you’ll find out that your great-grandmother was studying to be a pharmacist or that your grandfather had a number of patented inventions. You can not only learn where your ancestors came from, the languages they spoke and the religion they practiced, but also personal stories, like how your great-grandparents met and fell in love.Family involvement in the community. By researching your family history, you may learn things about your home town that you never knew before. It’s even possible that your ancestors helped found the town where much of your family still resides. To build your family tree refer to this link https://www.blog.zimtribes.com/building-family-tree-made-easy/

Sharing life advice

It’s well known that we can learn from the mistakes made by others before us. Many of our aging loved ones can offer words of wisdom about a variety of topics, which we can share with future generations. Some people also carry surnames/names whose meanings they don’t know, why not define your surname for the benefit of future generations https://www.blog.zimtribes.com/do-you-know-what-your-name-means/

Medical history

Knowing the health issues your ancestors dealt with will allow you to be aware of the risks you have of developing the same problems, and you can talk to your doctor about better preventing them. This is one of the single most important reasons to do family history research.

As you do your family history research, be sure to share what you’ve found with other family members. Learning and sharing the stories, customs, and even how ancestors may have overcome tragedy can help preserve your current family circle, keeping the history alive for generations to come. To see some of your possible relatives who you share common surname or totems with, kindly refer to https://www.blog.zimtribes.com/check-who-you-are-related-to/