HomeStandard PeopleWhich was the first tribe to permanently settle in Hwange?

Which was the first tribe to permanently settle in Hwange?

travelling & touring:with Burzil Dube

LAST week’s piece where the Tonga tribe claimed to have offered permanent sanctuary to the Nambya within Hwange district drew brickbats and consternation as I was accused of being economical with the truth.

The previous article largely dwelt on assertions by the Tonga that a permanent safe haven was offered to the Nambya tribe following their migration from the Great Zimbabwe ruins.

All this is said to have happened around the 1730s when the Nambya are reported to have arrived in the then Wankie (now Hwange) district from what is today known as Masvingo.

The Tonga are also reported to have arrived earlier in Wankie between 300AD-400AD on their way from Zambia.

Documentary evidence was promised to be availed for substantiating that nothing was offered in terms of the so-called permanent settlement.

At the time of writing this piece, yours truly was rather “patiently” waiting for the pledged evidence so that this topical issue can be put to rest.

And will continue waiting.

During one of my escapades over this interesting subject, I came across a Tonga research document written by Nelson Munzabwa whose main focus was on how the Tonga settled in Hwange during the early centuries.

This document is a well-researched masterpiece which plugged most loopholes in an effort to meet the needs of some biblical doubting Thomases.

The Dombe tribe, an offshoot dialect of Tonga, are believed to have migrated from Zambia in the Kalomo area and temporarily settled in Chief Makuni’s kingdom before crossing the Zambezi River near Livingstone.

The Tonga language primarily consists of four dialects and these are Cinamweemba, Ciwe, Cimamalundu and Dombe.

The Dombe language is mainly spoken in Hwange while the other three are prevalent in Kariba, Gokwe North and Binga districts.

The Makuni chiefdom straddles the Livingstone and surrounding areas and have close ancestral relationships with the Dombe, hence they annually pay each other cultural visits as an endeavour to keep their symbiotic relationships intact.

The Dombe are documented to have been astute hunters of wild animals such as elephants whose tusks were sold to early Portuguese traders at Ingombe Ilede in Zambia.

Most of these hunting expeditions were done by the youthful Tonga who were by then settled in Zambia’s southern province from where regular hunting incursions into the Hwange area were carried out.

These daring and skilled young hunters were called MaDombe which meant “brave young man”. During their several hunting expeditions, these young men were to later discover fertile land which was ideal for resettlement purposes.

The rest is now history on how they finally settled in Hwange district before the advent of other tribes.

During that time, the Tonga of Chief Mulomwatolwa were also called MaDombe. Even to this day they always use Tonga as their form of language.

However, yours truly is yet to ascertain if the hunting artistry is still embedded in the youthful Dombe of today.

The Dombe of the Leya ancestry who were under Chiefs Ng’onzi and Chikuta (Nelukoba) reached Hwange and it is their future generations that later offered the Nambya some form of a permanent settlement.

As they were professional hunters, the Dombe settled in the wildlife-infested area at some place called Kapala Vlei in what is known today as Hwange National Park.

Others remained behind at a place they used to call “Kabwe kasiya” or Malasa literally meaning area of the black stones.

It is said Malasa or KuMalasha was the original name of Hwange town before the advent of colonialists who were to later change the Dombe name to suit their needs.

They are currently three distinct tribal groups that are presently occupying this coal-mining district and these are namely, Tonga-Dombe, Tonga-Leya and Nambya.

The Leya-Dombe are believed to have come from the Chisikili area south of Choma town in Zambia where they later crossed the Zambezi River near Chobe before heading for Hwange.

The Tonga-Dombe came from the Kabanga area in Zambia’s southern province and later crossed the Zambezi River near Livingstone and also later proceeded to the Gwayi area.

Most of the places they settled along Gwayi River were given specific Tonga names which are still in use even to this present day.

Some of places found in the the Gwayi area include Chaata, Chigudu, Chimvuli, and Kapanga among others.

Along Lukosi River some of the places with Tonga names include Nkandebwe, Chibbala, Chemboma and Chibondo.

They also settled along Nangandwe or Deka River where they came up with settlements whose names are Simangani, Kasase, Mwemba, Masale or Mashala, Makuyu, Igani Lyentunda (Gachitunda), Madumabisa, Nakabandama and Kasibo, among others.

Settlements along the Kasamabezi or Zambezi River were also given Tonga names and this is an indication that this tribe was all over Hwange district.

Some of the settlement names are Kanjeza, Ndabile, Musuna, Sibankwazi, Makwa, Katayi-tayi, Bbimbi, Chezya, and Mapeta Island.

The Tonga incursion into modern-day Zimbabwe did not start and end in Hwange, as they also settled in places such as Kariba, Binga, and parts of Gokwe among others.

However, they all crossed the Zambezi from Zambia, but yours truly is yet to establish if there were no prior inhabitants in all these places where they later permanently settled.

As they say in their Tonga lingo: “BuTonga mbubati tabulaamwi”, which means: “The Tonga people are not confined to one place.”

So, which tribe was the first to settle in Hwange?

Till we meet again as yours truly tries to unravel how some Tonga names such as Kamativi, Simangani and Jambezi, among others, came into being.

l Comments always welcome on: or Twitter: @DubeBurzil

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading