The Njanja people of Buhera

The Njanja people are a significant group among the Shona.  They are one of the first ancient societies to industrialise in pre-colonial Zimbabwe circa 1900. The society was egalitarian and the discovery of iron promoted economic growth that improved and modernised the social and political landscape of such an intelligent group of people.  This article aims to explain the historical background of these people, specifically pin pointing WHO really are the people, WHO were their fore-fathers and WHAT was their cultural life like. In this regard, we also explore HOW they got their chieftainship and expansion ending up to the Hera dynasty – present day Buhera district. Some of the villages in Buhera include Muchererwa, Mutara, Marume, Makuvise, Tsotdzo, Magunda, Mutsindikwa, Chibongodze, Mukucha, Magaya, Mutizwa, Mupungu, Matsinde, and Makanda.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Njanja people are believed to have been the victims of the Bantu migration and the MFECANE. In fact, Mfecane disrupted a number of Central and Southern African societies around the 1822-1838. They landed in the Rozvi grounds.  Oral tradition reveals that, the Njanja people bore a Portuguese origin in genealogy and expansion. The researcher used oral evidence as the major source of construction such a history of the Njanja dynasty. Being the victims of the Bantu migration, around 1830 the Njanja people settled in Wedza Mountain mainly attracted by iron deposits. Arriving in Wedza Mountain the Njanja people were under the stewardship of Muroro who is believed to be a Portuguese. Oral tradition reveals that Muroro copied the Rozvi totem of Moyo Chirandu and he assimilated the praise name of Sinyoro derived from Portuguese word ‘senhor’ meaning “Sir”. This group of people accrued overwhelming wealth from the rich iron deposits the Wedza Mountain offered. Iron smelting developed tremendously an d they became experts in making of hoes, axes, iron spears and iron bows and arrows. These tools were used economically, socially and politically.  Iron deposits mainly hoes promoted intermarriage that saw the amalgamation of cultural values and norms of the Muroro, Chirwa and Mbiru families.

NJANJA CHIEFTAINSHIP ROOTS

Kuveya-Muroro, a half-baked Portuguese is believed to be the forefather of the Njanja people of present day Buhera district. His genealogy is traced back from 1822 where he migrated and settled in the rich iron deposit area. In fact, history reveals that, there was a brave and courageous man by the name Nemato of the Shiri totem who migrated from Basutoland and got a welcoming home at Bvumbura Hill. Nemato brave son Chirwa became famous and therefore established chieftainship in Bvumbura area and covering the areas of Nyazvidzi River, Magangara and Nharira. It is believed that, a group of people arrived in Chirwa’s dynasty under the custodianship of Mbiru. Mbiru and Chirwa people were connected through inter-marriages hence the group was assimilated and became one clan. Chief Chirwa married Mungu, a beautiful daughter of chief Mbiru. However, Portuguese traders under Kuveya landed in the area under Chief Chirwa. Unfortunately, Kuveya nicknamed Muroro fell sick to the extent that he was no longer able to do trading from point to point exchanging his products. Blessed with a loving and caring heart, Chief Chirwa instructed her daughter Mashawashe to take good care of Kuveya- Muroro. Aroused with Mashawashe beauty, Muroro impregnated the princess of Chief Chirwa. Fearing for her death Mashawashe decided to kill Kuveya-Muroro but fortunately Chief Chirwa got the news and demanded bride price from Muroro. Muroro took his trading goods and paid lobola to Chief Chirwa. This is how intermarriages integrated the Chirwa, Mbiru and kuveya- Muroro families.

Muroro and Mashawashe were blessed with a son called Neshangwe. It is imperative to note that, iron exploitation gave the Njanja people power to create a formidable territory. Their society was self-sufficient and sustaining.  As it has been highlighted before, Muroro landed in the Rozvi ground and thus his son became famous to the extent of being recognised a chief by the Rozvi chief. It’s important to note that the relationship of Chief Chirwa and his nephew Neshangwe was close. Chief Chirwa is believed to have been taking his nephew, Neshangwe with him to the Rozvi courts, thereby making Neshangwe more popular at the courts than the real sons of Chief Chirwa. Upon Chief Chirwa’s death, Neshangwe was quick to be recognised as the new chief. Neshangwe was also popular as he was multi-skilled in iron smelting and hence had a lot of wealth. This culminated in him being installed the Njanja Chief. This is where a shift in chieftainship was recorded from Chirwa family to his nephew, Neshangwe family.

The installation of Chief Neshangwe created leadership wrangle from the sons of the late chief Chirwa. Neshangwe had the support of the Rozvi rulers, thereby leading to the detention of chief Chirwa sons and Neshangwe was given magic to use against possible attacks from the Chirwa people. The mission was accomplished and thus the majority of Chirwa people displaced leaving Chief Neshangwe being the custodian of the land. Chief Neshangwe retained the Rozvi totem as Moyo Chirandu but later changed his name to Chief Gambiza. Oral tradition reveals that, Chief Neshangwe-Gambiza married nine wives and his roots scattered within the area.  Presumably, succession was managed well as it was from first family going down. Chief Neshangwe-Gambiza died leaving the legacy in the hands of his sons Makumbe and Chivese. Makumbe became chief and he dominated the area occupying the northern side whilst Chivese became chief occupying the southern side. Both are believed to have embarked on an expansionist policy beyond their spheres of influence. Chivese died leaving Chitsunge as the heir to the throne. Suffice to note that these Chiefs were polygamous and hence left many children in the society. Thus this prompted divisions within the Njanja people. Divisions rocked exposing Chief Makumbe and Chief Chitsunge. However, Chief Makumbe rose to become an independent leader with his group of people leaving Njanja to the south-east of Buhera district. On arrival, Chief Makumbe defeated the Dziva people under chief Nerutanga. Makumbe people as a result occupied the Hera dynasty and settled at Gombe Mountain. Chief Makumbe was also a polygamist with had fourteen wives and from those houses his children expanded forming their own villages.

Chief Makumbe and Chief Chivese became stronger and together conquered the Hera capital – present day Buhera. However, chieftainship wrangles were inevitable due to the polygamous nature of their family as the four sons of the pillar Muroro became more vicious and demanded to occupy the vast land of their ancestors. To date, the family of Makumbe is actively involved in the selection of chiefs, of course with the aid of spirit mediums and council of elders.

By Leon Chigwanda

59 Replies to “The Njanja people of Buhera”

  1. Great article Sir. Its a good piece of Njanja history. In fact can you construct another piece of Hera people who migrated to Masvingo currently staying at Ngomahuru under Chief Mapanzure.

    1. Yes great history however a point of correction is that Neshangwe had 5 wives. 2. Chief Chitsunge is the son from the last wife and was assisted by his father to get part of Buher bordering Murambinda, Chikomba Makoni/ Rusper,3. The first born from the first wife now Makumbe was again assisted to conquer part of the Uhera area and thus the first and last born were given their own Chieftainship. The two families no longer participate in the Neshangwe Dynasty. Notable names are, Padzingamuke, Svinurai, Matorera, Nzuwah, Makumbe, Zhakata, Tsidzo, Ranga, Mafukidze,Zinyemba, Chitsunge, Dhenya, Matangira, Chigumba,

      1. May you research more on Mafukidze, link to Chief Nyashanu. Mafukidze ‘s wives and sons and why they ended up in Mhondoro. Misheck Goto , his sons and daughters. Gambiza why ending up in Sanyati. I’m Mafukidze so the interest

      2. Neshangwe had 9 wives Sinyoro but children from the first 5 wives could sit on the Neshangwe throne.

      3. In fact there are three families who no longer participate in Neshangwe chieftainship because they attained their own chieftainships. These are Chitsunge of the Dondi house, Makumbe and Chivese of the Chikono house. Makumbe and Chivese were sons of the first wife Chikono. They established their own chieftainships, independent of their father’s chieftainship. Now we have Chief Makumbe, Chief Chivese and Chief Chitsunge whose chieftainships are now independent from that of Chief Neshangwe. The sons of Chivese or Makumbe cannot be inaugurated as Chief Neshangwe. They are now out of the Neshangwe Chieftainship. Sons of Neshangwe who can contest for Neshangwe chieftainship are from Charwe, Marudya and Dondi houses. Those from Chinhanga and Chikono house no longer contest. Descendants of Neshangwe include Tambaoga, Svinurai, Padzingamuke, Zhakata, Mutengwa, Nzuwa, Mafukidze, Moyounotsva, Munyimi, Ranga, Kwenda, Nhemachena, Mukoroverwa, Mutoredzanwa, Gonyora, Tawonezvi, Munengwa, Dowani and many more

        1. Nhemachena fall under Chirwa bloodline currently we have Sithole ‘s daughter who got married to Nhemachena n Sithole was son of Neshangwe a nephew of Chief Chirwa. We have Maxwell Moya/Gunguwo who also got married to a granddaughter of the Nhemachenas/Chrwa

  2. Good account of the njanja people specifically the family of Makumbe .Can you narrow down to the smaller houses of chief Makumbe’s wives

  3. Thank you so much for your comments fellow readers. It actually gives us insights and grey areas that need to be researched. We will look into the above issues raised.

    Tatenda/Siyabonga/Thank you.

    1. Leon, are you just a researcher or you are a Sinyoro yourself. My Whatsapp chat +264 812030534

  4. I loved the post. I have personal interest in this post as you can see from my name and surname. Let us communicate more. Thank you.

  5. The narrative is not accurate. It leaves a lot of gaps. Kuvheya -Muroro and Mushawshe gave birth to two Sons: Mesama and Gotoriberi.
    Mesama give birth to two sons. Chidembu and Masoka.
    Masoka gave birth to three sons: NESHANGWE, ZINYEMBA and MUGARI.
    Neshangwe, The Eldest son of Masoka had 35 wives, but only 5 were eligible to the succession of the chieftainship. the Names of the Wives were: Chinanga, Chikono, Charwe, Dondi and marudya.

    The first wife, Chinanga family , was barred from Chieftainship.

    Wife Chikono sons: CHIVESE, MAKUMBE and MUAVANHU
    Wife Charwe sons : MUNYIMI and NZUWA
    Wife Dondi sons: ZHAKATA, TAMBAOGA, CHIGONDO, MUREVANEMWI, MUTENGWA and CHITSUNGE
    Wife Marudya sons: MUREVANEMWI

    1. Thanks so much sir for the research. However, there are questions on the article specifically on the following:
      – how Neshangwe really translate the Chirwa’s chieftainship into Gambiza
      -it is believed that the Gambiza Chieftainship had been occupied by 9 chiefs Makumbe being the last one
      -there is need of classification on how the houses according to the wives of Muroro inherited the chieftainship.ie.according to the seniority of the wives of Muroro,Chiranga,Chikono,Charwe ,Donde etc etc where we saw Chivese and Makumbe being sons of Chikono,Chitsunge being the son of Donde
      -also note that some of the blacksmiths and iron specialists aligned to Neshangwe like Kwenda believed to been awarded some leadership positions in the VaNjanja area

      1. Chinanga was first wife, and mother of Gwekwerere. Who was disinherited.

        There were 10 chief Gambizas, the last one was Mugwenhi son of Makumbe but he was not called chief Makumbe.

        The first chief Makumbe was Nguwaya Ngundu in 1902.

    2. The Mesama/ Gotoriberi narrative seems to be far fetched
      I believe Guvheya aka Muroro was Neshangwe’s father
      My reason is from Neshangwe everything becomes clear#and the narrative that neshangwe was a favoured and clever mzukuru zvinoita

    3. Excellent on this comment I am not Sinyoro but muzuku wekumba yava Dondi More research is still needed particularly about Kuveya

      Thank you

    4. Thank you ever so much good Sir. I am a direct descendant of Mbuya DONDI. I am a Mutengwa and I’m hearing her name for the very 1st time today, 23/05/2021. Ever greatful

    5. This is the correct version, Silas Chikunguwo.
      MUDAVANHU is the correct speling.

      Neshangwe was indeed the great-grandson of Muroro. Another mistake is that Nemato originated from Basutoland, which is a British colony that started in 1883. If you read the history of the Shiri Hungwe, you will see that Nemato came from the Zambezi valley, he was the son of Chief Mukuni.

      But thank you for doing your best Zim Tribes

      1. Being a Sinyoro under the Chitsunge chieftaincy, l wish to collect a lot of information about the sons of Chitsunge. If there is anyone with the information please lets share, 0772308449

    6. Hi thank you for this further insight. I am interested in the line raChidembu, I had known him to be Chidembo, could you shed more light please .

    7. I am greatful to know that there are people like you, who still have the knowledge about the wives of Chief Neshangwe. Actually our chieftaincy circles around those five wives. The late Dzvova once gave a clear narrative about our Sinyoro totem. Maybe the information can be retrieved from the ZBC TV archives. I will be very happy if someone retrieves it for our benefit. Am a Sinyoro of the Chitsunge chieftainship.

  6. This narrative does not resemble our roots as the njanja people, almost a humiliation of our own diginity.The narrative left out so many sons therefore it not accurate. Compliments for the light research but it requires so many reviews and revisions.Thank you

    1. Quite accurate. Hence was closer to Chief Chirwa . A lot of info is missing. We have other members prominent n out of records namely Sithole, Gunguwo, Makhoni

  7. Thank you for the light narrative , a starting point for discussion on the house of Sinyoro.
    Issues of concern –
    •••Topic /Title Is this covering VaNjanja in Buhera area only ?
    •••There is need for some context yak clarity in terms of time or era coverage with reference to boundaries of the area occupied by the Njanja . Njanja is not Buhera but is Chivhu /Chikomba. Buhera is the area occupied by the VaHera .
    •••• Period covering the rise of the Njanja seems to be misleading in this article.
    •••••• there are a lot of gaps in this narrative
    #####You are all invited to join the VaNjanja , Vazungu , Varoro Page on Facebook for further in-house discussion and enrichment .

    1. Very correct . A cross limpopo in Azania we have Xitsunge , we have the khamas in Botswana who couldn’t be traced or linked . We have the others in Venda as black Jews

  8. There are different ways of looking at Buhera, and what other contributors said is all true. The different ways of looking at it, in my view are:

    Pre-colonial – in the precolonial period, Uhera was larger than it is today, and boundaries with nearby Chieftainships were often not clear. the Gutu side was clear because of Nyazvidzi River.

    Colonial period – in this period it was under Charter (now has Chivhu / Chikomba) but the complexity is that Sabi was included Charter. Sabi later became Buhera as you shall see

    Post colonial period Charter was divided into Chikomba (Chivhu as its town) and Buhera (Murambinda as its town/growth point)

    Buhera has Njanja (Sinyoro) people like Makumbe and Hera people under Nyashanu

  9. I have heard of the Chirozva mountains/caves.I believe that this is where my surname Marozva is coming from. Some names that my Sekuru told me were Taramanja,Chivese Mugoni,Murwisi,Chako,Mandizvidza.
    Marozva,Chako and Mugoni are the same since they were all born by one Ambuya vakagarwa nhaka ne mabrothers mumhuri .And most of them migrated to Mhondoro around the Gavhunga area.

  10. The narrative leaves out a lot of Njanja people scattered all over the country. How did they end up in areas like Chivi in Masvingo and many others. how can these people trace their roots and linage to those being mentioned in the article

    1. The Njanja in Masvingo descended from the first son in the second 🏠 of VaChikono – Mudavanhu. He was the eldest in the same house as Chivese and Makumbe. The Njanja, “ZviNjanja” as derogatorily referred to as totemless people of mixed origins. The first house of VaChinangz bore Gwekwerere

  11. Well done thank you with this article. This narration is similar to that of Prof D. N. BEACH on his book Zimbabwean dynasties, Delineation report S2929 the book at the National Archives of Zimbabwe also brought to us chieftainship of the Njanja people. When I was working on my project titled., chiefs and contestations over power and territory. The case of njanja chieftainship of buhera district 1950s to 2017, my researches shows similarity to that at the zenith.

    1. You had a great research Sinyoro Tavonga Zhanje, It is the most extensive on the subject. But as you admitted in your research there were gaps.

      Tracey Hugh while research on Mbira instrument called Njari dzavanjanja in 1932 before professor David Norman Beach was born established from chief Chapwanya the grandson of Makumbe who was 75 years then that Neshangwe was not a Son of Muroro. You agreed with D.N. Beach but ealier scholars disputes some of your conclusions.

      However, I havent seen anyone who has done better research on the topic than you. Thank you.

  12. Thank you for this piece. I got so much insights into my lineage. I am a Mutengwa. Mr Silas Chikunguwo thank you for telling me of my great grandmother was Mbuya Dondi or is it Donde. My uncle is currently the Sabhuku kwedu kwa Mutengwa.

  13. The reason for teaching vana Mutupo neChidao was to ensure they retain their line of origin . I am wondering why someone would baselessly dismiss the names Mesama and Gotoriberi from the genealogy of VaNjanja. I am also disturbed by the omission of some names in the narrative and a leaning more towards one house of the VaNjanja. While this could be a matter of preference for a particular house because of association, I am wondering if it’s not a deliberate decision to ensure that other houses are pushed into oblivion over time . This I’m my view would help in issues of succession . Perhaps there is need to indicate that it’s a compilation with special reference to specific houses than to give emphasis to all encompassing VaNjanja without covering them in the discussion.🤔

    1. Chinhanga’s house were barred from becoming chiefs of an offence that one of Chinhanga’s sons committed. A son called Gwekwerere slept with one of his father’s wives. Zinyemba is one of Neshangwe’s sons, he is not a brother of Neshangwe. Charwe had three sons not two. The other son was Moyounotsva.

    2. True Sister. All houses must be given the same preference. We must not know much about one house and others are ignored. Parikundivhiringidza ndepaya pekuti Neshangwe aive muzukuru aidiwa zvikuru nasekuru bake mambo Chirwa. Tikatarisa magenerations tinoona kuti Neshangwe aive mudikisa zvekuti haana kurarama panguva yavana mambo Chirwa. If we follow one of the narratives yanyorwa nemumwe, anoti Muroro akazvara Mesama, Mesama akazvara Masoka, Masoka akazvara Neshangwe. Zvichireva kuti Neshangwe muzukuru wechipiri kubva Kuna Muroro. Muroro ndiye akararama nana Chief Chirwa. Saka chief Chirwa aizoenda nemuzukuru Neshangwe sei kumacourts kuri kutaurwa nekuti havana kurarama panguva imwechete

  14. good piece would love to hear more on the Neshangwe chieftaincy to present day…. im also a Sinyoro from Njanja

    1. I am interested in knowing which family group produced the Kudzedzereka family? Its just my prrsonal interest. I mean how do you trace yourselves ftom the Neshangwe houses

  15. Hie!! to every one. I am Sinyoro from kwaShumba just after Sadza in Chivhu. Which son of Neshangwe settled on that area. Thank you.

  16. Actually the focal point of the Sinyoros is Njanja area in Chivhu. That’s where every true Njanja should claim origination. Our forefathers then migrated from this area to various parts of Zimbabwe in search of greener pastures. Finding yourself in Masvingo, Mt Darwin, Mhondoro or Lupane does not alienate you as long as you are a Sinyoro. Recently, i met some Nhliziyos who call themselves, eMoyo eSinyoro and i said to myself, this is the blood of my blood, bone of my bone. They have a village in Jotsholo deep in Matabeleland North.

  17. Am interested in the house of Mugwenhi, the last born of Chief Makumbe.
    Ndiri mzukuru waMgwenhi settled in Mambo (St Michael) Buhera.
    Am also doing researches on origins of different tribes

    1. My neighbour was Mugwenhi kuBuhera paGombe township. I don’t know much about the sons of Makumbe but this guy Mugwenhi was closely related to Zenda, Takwanhira, Mauswa, Manyame, Muchiriri and Mukamba. These are also believed to be the sons of Makumbe

  18. Chinhanga’s house were barred from becoming chiefs of an offence that one of Chinhanga’s sons committed. A son called Gwekwerere slept with one of his father’s wives. Zinyemba is one of Neshangwe’s sons, he is not a brother of Neshangwe. Charwe had three sons not two. The other son was Moyounotsva.

  19. In essence we have a claim to the queen of UK for the dispossesion of our land, our industrial hubby caused by Rhodes n lobengula aftr the Anglo Boer war.

  20. More research on my dissertation, chiefs and contestations over power and territory, the case of njanja chieftainship of buhera district 1950s-2016. Historical background.

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