Should Gonarezhou Be Given Back To The Hlengwe/Shangaan People?


When I posted the first picture of Chilojo Cliffs, I was pained by how ignorant we are of Zimbabwe and mainly its history. So I decided to give a short history lesson that you will probably never get in the school textbooks.

This place here is the banks of Runde river between Matibi Number 2 , Gonakudzingwa, Malipati, Sengwe, Malilangwe and Chicualacuala (Gaza) on the other side of the border in Mozambique. This is present-day Gonarezhou National park.

The early Tsonga people settled around St Lucia Bay in Mozambique around 1250 from East Africa and were known as a peaceful people. These were Vatsonga-va-Xiviri (The originals).

I don’t know when the Tsonga people settled on the Save Valley but it should have been in the 1600s after the death of Changamire. They started assimilating other tribes like the Kalangas whom they called Valoyi (Valozwi, VaRozvi) hence present day Baloyi amongst the Shangaan people. Other BaTsonga-Ba-Riririmi (language) were Hlengwe, Ndau, Ronga, Chopi and Tshwa.

These people lived in harmony with nature. Soshangane was the commander of the Ndwandwe forces that were defeated by Shaka Zulu. The Gaza were a junior section (inKohlo branch) of the Ndwandwe. Soshangane (Manukuza) fled with about 300 followers and settled at Lebombo where he formed an alliance with Zwangendaba Hlatswayo of the Jele who had previously been a Ndwandwe subsidiary chief. They later had disagreements, and Zwangendaba left for Venda along Limpopo before crossing into present day Bulawayo where he ransacked the remnants of the BaKalanga Va Dlembeu who had been vanguinshed by BaKalanga VaChangamire (VaRozvi).
The area was dry and had little to sustain his kingdom, so Zwangendaba treked back towards present day Manyikaland around 1831. He was defeated again by Soshangane and he fled towards Zambia, into Tanzania leaving a trail of blood and destruction.

Soshangane then lived in present day Chipinge around the place called Gaza where he set up his headquarters around 1838. For a period he united the Tsonga in Gaza, Manica, Sofala, etc. Soshangane’s influence stretched into present day Zaka through his chiefs Tshovani and Magatse.

Some of the Chiefs under Soshangane were Chilonga, Sengwe, Mupapa, Mahenya, Xitanga.

Now back to my picture, this area here was a place where the Hlengwe people reverred. Oral tradition says no war was fought here amongst the Hlengwe subgroups. Their talks for peace were usually done around this place at Chilojo.

With the coming of the white people and the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 things started to change. In a bid to justify land use change, south-eastern Zimbabwe was given all kinds of labels. It was arid, uninteresting, waterless, disease-ridden, useless for cropping and unfit for human habitation.
P. Forestall, the first native commissioner of Chivi roundly condemned the entire Lowveld landscape as unsuitable for human occupation and suggested that it be turned into a game reserve hence Gonarezhou.

By 1957 over 7000 families were forcibly moved from Gonarezhou and Nuanetsi to Matibi 2. The Chisa, Ngwenyeni and Xilotlela people tried to resist but to no avail.

Today the Shangaan people are living at the peripheries of our historical narative that has seen them being left out. The Rautenbachs were given all the land they need in Nuanetsi ranch while these people are still crammed in the tired lands of Xitanga and Matibi.

These things happened a few decades ago. The question is, should Gonarezhou be given back to the people who were moved from it or shouldn’t it be common sense that those who should benefit more from the tourism revenue are the victims of this yesteryear injustice?

Think about it and remember we make Africa great!

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