The Njanja people of Buhera

African societies are best traced from their roots and genealogy. The Njanja people are a forgotten group among the Shona.  They became one of the first societies to industrialise in pre-colonial Zimbabwe around 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 mainly aims to explain the historical background of these people, specifically pin pointing WHO really are the people, WHO was their fore-fathers what was their cultural life. Importantly, we also expose HOW they got their chieftainship and expansion ending up to the Hera dynasty in present day Buhera district. Some of the villages in Buhera include Muchererwa village, Mutara village, Marume village, Makuvise village, Tsotdzo village, Magunda village, Mutsindikwa village, Chibongodze village, Mukucha village, Magaya village, Mutizwa village, Mupungu village, Matsinde village, Makanda village.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Njanja people are believed to have been the victims of the Bantu migration and the MFECANE. In fact, Mfecane was a violent wars situation that disrupted in 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 adopts oral evidence as 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 in the area. 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’. This group of people accrued overwhelming wealth from the rich iron deposits the Wedza Mountain offered. Iron smelting developed tremendously in hoe, 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 Muromo, Chirwa and Mbiru families.

NJANJA CHIEFTAINSHIP ROOTS

Plants have roots the same way as the African people. 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 anxious thereby 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. For instance 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. Implanted with a loving and caring heart, Chief Chirwa instructed her daughter Mashawashe to take good care of Kuveya- Muromo. Aroused with Mashawashe beauty, Muroro impregnated the princess of Chief Chirwa. Fearing for her death Mashawashe decided to kill Kuveya-Muroro but unfortunately Chief Chirwa got the news. He demanded bride price from Muroro. Muroro took his trade goods items and paid as lobola to Chief Chirwa. Thus intermarriage inter-grated and amalgamated the Chirwa, Mbiru and kuveya- Muroro families.

Furthermore, Muromo 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 exposed before, Muromo landed in the Rozvi ground and thus his son became famous to be recognised a chief by the Rozvi chief. Importantly to note is that the relationship of Chief Chirwa and his nephew Neshangwe was close. Chief Chirwa is believed to take his nephew Neshangwe to the Rozvi courts, thereby Neshangwe became popularly known 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. Secondly, Neshangwe was multi-skilled in iron smelting and he earned a lot of wealth. Thus, this culminated in being installed the Njanja Chief. Thus, therefore there was a shift in chieftainship from Chirwa family to his nephew Neshangwe family.

In addition, installation of Chief Neshangwe created leadership wrangle from the sons of the late chief Chirwa. Having the support of the Rozvi rulers, chief Chirwa sons were detained and Neshangwe was given magical medicines to use against possible attack from the Chirwa people. The mission was accomplished and thus the Chirwa people displaced leaving Chief Neshangwe 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 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 embark on their expansionist policy wayward their spheres of influence. Chivese died leaving Chitsunge the legacy. Importantly to note that these Chiefs were polygamist and they left many children in the society. Thus this prompted divisions within the Njanja people. Division 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 thus occupied the Hera dynasty and settled at Gombe Mountain. Chief Makumbe became polygamist and he had fourteen wives and from those houses his children expanded forming their villages.

Chief Makumbe and Chief Chivese became bigger and together they conquered the Hera capital present day Buhera. However, chieftainship wrangle were created by polygamist ideology as the four sons of the pillar Muromo became more vicious and have desires and thirsty to occupy the vast land of their ancestors. Thus, the family of Makumbe present day is the family to consider who to become the chief with the aid of spirit mediums and council of elders.

By Leon Chigwanda

10 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.

  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.

  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

  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

  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 .

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