travelling & touring:with Burzil Dube
Sinamatella National Park near Hwange town is mostly known to local residents as home to Bumbusi Ruins, the last remaining traditional citadel of the Nambya kingdom. The national park is also an ideal place for fishing enthusiasts due to various types of fish inhabiting the adjacent Mandavhu Dam.
The fortress (Bumbusi) is of significant cultural importance to the Nambya (also known as M’Nanzwas) people as every year they gather at this place where traditional rites are performed to appease their ancestors. The stonework at the shrine is similar to that found at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins situated on the outskirts of Masvingo city and are reported to have been built by the Rozvi tribe. The Nambya are an offshoot of the Rozvi tribe whose cultural norms and beliefs are more or less similar.
Talking of cultural norms and beliefs, thanks to the recent national lockdown, I bumped into a Nambya elder and historian who expressed his willingness to impart his knowledge on how his tribe migrated from Great Zimbabwe to present-day Hwange.
I sat down (socially spaced, of course!) with Lawrence Chinyati, whom I personally classify to be in the same mould as historians such as Phathisa Nyathi and the late Gordon Chavunduka, among other prominent cultural researchers of note.
The 74-year-old Chinyati sits on the board of the Nambya Cultural Museum situated in the coal mining town of Hwange.
During our discussion on how his ancestors came and settled in the then Wankie, Chinyati mentioned how a section of the Nambya messengers at one time wanted to literally “carry” a certain hill to Zambia! This happened around the 18th century following the Nambya tribe’s migration from Great Zimbabwe.
This reminded me of the ingenuity of the Rozvi who we are told as part of some folklore that they tried to bring down the moon as a form of a gift to their king.
This was said to have happened during the era of our great-great-grandfathers, and however, the exercise came to futility as they could not compete with the powers of nature.
The name of the hill that was supposed to carried and moved is in present-day Katunhu KabaLozwi. Most residents of Hwange are aware of the hill’s existence and how that name came about.
It is situated about 15km from Makomo Coal Mine as one heads towards Sinamatella game reserve. Actually the hill is within the Sinamatella concession area and the amount of handiwork done at Katunhu KabaLozwi is clear testimony that yours truly physically toured the place. I wanted to authenticate for the benefit of this column’s followers.
Back to the narration by Chinyati on the motive behind the hill’s purported move to Zambia
It was around 1730 when the Nambya tribe migrated from modern-day Masvingo and journeyed north-westwards where they finally settled at Shangano in the outskirts of Sinamatella.
This particular tribe was under the leadership of two brothers, namely Shakwa Dembetembe and the younger one known as Sibuthulu.
After a few years of staying together, Sibuthulu decided to move northwards with thousands of his followers where he crossed the Zambezi River through the Caprivi Strip in Namibia.
He later settled in what is now known as Barotseland in Zambia and in the process conquering local tribes and subsequently became known as King Chawanika and later King Lewanika.
To cut the short story rather short, King Lewanika sent a large number of messengers to his elder brother in Shangano with a variety of gifts and also pleading with Dembetembe to come and join him in Barotseland.
However, he (Dembetembe) declined to leave his place due to old age and also advised the messengers that he was well settled at Shangano. He also stated that his various subjects were at peace with him and everything was under control. He told his younger brother not to be bothered as everything was under control in terms of his wellbeing.
Due to Sibuthulu’s ruthlessness, the messengers were scared to return to Barotseland without any form of evidence indicating that they had been at Shangano.
As they were discussing among themselves, one of them pointed to a nearby hill where King Sibuthulu passed through on his way to Zambia. The hill at that time had some “familiar” and easily recognisable features.
So the messengers decided to somehow dig the upper part of the hill so that they would carry and offer it to the king as proof that they indeed went and saw the king’s elder brother.
The messengers also reckoned that the same upper part of the hill might also be handy for use as a royal seat for the king during his ceremonial duties.
However, in the process of digging, boulders fell on them and some lost their lives while others were injured while some emerged unscathed.
The survivors were discovered by a lonely hunter who in turn rushed to alert King Dembetembe and a rescue mission was promptly despatched to the hill. That is why this particular feature became known as Katunhu ka BaLozwi up to this present day and it will remain symbolic to the Nambya tribe.
The hill will always remain etched in the history of the Nambya people before their exodus from Shangano to the larger and more spacious Bumbusi fort (now ruins).
To all doubting Thomases, yours truly as earlier alluded later on visited the hill and saw the amazing workmanship, which might leave some modern-day so- called risk-takers gaping in awe.
While the hill is of significant importance in terms of Nambya history, it can also be accorded space in the country’s history books as well as the tourism industry.
If a century-old baobab tree (no pun intended) at some place is considered to be of interest in the tourism sector, what can stop Katunhu ka BaLozwi from getting the same recognition?
Part of proceeds from such a venture can be channelled towards the promotion of Nambya history as well as its culture. There is utmost need for that hill to have some fence to preserve as well as to maintain its originality.
I was saddened when Chinyati narrated to me that most schools with the exception of Thomas Coulter School in Hwange have not toured both Shangano and Bumbusi Ruins let alone the famed Katunhu ka BaLozwi.
There are more than 10 schools in Hwange urban and your guess is good as mine to which places these institutions regularly visit in the form of educational tours.
Charity begins at home.
As earlier stated during this inaugural column, yours truly takes no prisoners in the quest to promote the tourism industry.
Before signing off, let us all join hands (not physically) on combating the coronavirus scourge, also known as Covid-19, by following instructions providde by qualified health personnel.
Kudos to one of the leading funeral service providers for shelving any premium increases in these Covid-19 trying times.
Let’s meet again in the next column.
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