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4— Missionaries, Migrants and the Manyika: The Invention of Ethnicity in Zimbabwe
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Ethnicity, History and the Early Colonial Administration

Before I can turn to the task of tracing the growth of an extended Manyika identity in the twentieth century, however, I must deal with at least three other uses of the concept 'Manyika'. The first three of these I derive from Dr H.H.K. Bhila's Trade and Politics in a Shona Kingdom: The Manyika and their Portuguese and African Neighbours, 1575–1902 .[10] For Bhila the essential historical meaning of 'Manyika' is the territory and people of chief, or king, Mutasa. 'My research was focused on the area where the Mutasa dynasty has settled since the late seventeenth century', Bhila writes, and he shows this area on a map as a relatively small zone, north and northwest of modern Mutare, comparable in size to one of the later Rhodesian administrative districts and bounded by other African 'kingdoms' which were not in any sense parts of 'Manyika' so defined. Bordering Mutasa's kingdom to the west lay the kingdom of Maungwe under Makoni, which in the nineteenth century was Mutasa's main enemy and competitor for land, cattle, women and slaves. As Bhila explains, 'the boundaries of these kingdoms were often shifted following the vicissitudes of wars'; hence the best definition of traditional Manyika was political, rather than geographical. Manyika comprehended all those who at any one time ackowledged the authority of Mutasa—and nobody else.

A second use of the concept 'Manyika', however, was developed by the Portuguese and propagated by them especially in the later nineteenth century. Claiming that the then reigning Mutasa had made a 'voluntary submission' to them in 1876, they expanded the area of 'Manyika' on their maps to cover an enormous territory to which they laid claim. As Bhila writes:

On a Portuguese map of 1887 . . . its boundaries extended along the Zambezi from Shupanga to near Tete, then south-west along the Mazoe and south by the Sabi river valley to its junction with the Odzi river, then east along the Musapa and Buzi rivers to the mouth of the Pungwe. This enormous size of Manyika was evidently fixed by political and commercial considerations. The Mazoe river valley was included because of rumours of abundant alluvial gold. The Kingdom of Manyika over which the Manyika rulers . . . exercised authority . . . was a much smaller area.[11]

This greatly inflated Portuguese Manyika did include, among much else, the territory of Maungwe but, as a merely notional and paper definition, it did nothing to affect sense of identity. In other moments, moreover, the Portuguese treated the Makoni chiefs of Maungwe as independent sovereigns and made treaties with them.


A third use of the concept 'Manyika' was that made by the British as a counter to these Portuguese claims. In their attempt to gain control of 'the Pungwe River route, which was the main water way to and from Beira', the British South Africa Company imposed 'a treaty on Mutasa on 14 September 1890'. This treaty 'provided that no one could possess land in Manyika except with the consent of the BSA Company', and once it was signed, the Company invented its own 'Greater Manyika', the western boundaries of which lay deep inside Portuguese territory, though areas like Mazoe and Maungwe, to which the Company made quite differently based claims, were excluded.[12]

Once the Company's frontiers had been fixed by means of war and arbitration, there was no longer any need to inflate the power and territory of Mutasa; rather the reverse. The old kingdom of Manyika was broken up between the two administrative districts of Umtali and Inyanga; much of its land was alienated to white farmers; and the administration was very concerned to advance a minimalist definition of Manyika-hood. 'Umtassa's country and people are called Manyika', wrote the Native Commissioner, Umtali, in January 1904. "They do not speak the same dialect as the other Mashonas.'[13] The same desire to separate Mutasa off from neighbouring peoples can be seen in the early district reports from Umtali in which Native Commissioner Hulley spelt out that the three chiefs in the district, Mutasa, Maranke and Zimunya, were of quite distinct origins, even if there was a popular tendency to refer to his district as 'Manicaland'.

So far as the administrative district of Makoni was concerned, the Native Department was concerned to emphasize the distinction between its people and the Manyika. In 1910 there was a boundary dispute between the Native Commissioners of Makoni and Inyanga districts. The Native Commissioner, Inyanga, wrote to the Superintendent of Natives, Umtali, to explain why he was collecting tax from Africans on farms which lay just within the western border of Makoni district:

There are no Makoni (Shonga) natives on any of these farms. I have always acted on your suggestion—that is I have dealt with Manyikas only . . . [Let] the Native Commissioner Rusapi deal with Makoni natives and I with Manyika. . . . No dispute should arise.[14]

The matter was so decided and the Chief Native Commissioner determined that 'the N.C., Inyanga deal with all Manyika natives and the N.C., Rusapi with all the Makoni'.[15]

It is clear from this that the Native Department firmly separated the Ungwe of Makoni from the Manyika in a political sense. The separation was also insisted upon in the cultural sphere. Thus, in 1915 a debate arose within the Native Department about the significance of the term mayiaini in relation to Manyika marriage customs. Llewellyn Meredith, who had been Native Commissioner in both Melsetter and Makoni districts which today are held to fall within 'Manicaland' and whose inhabitants are included in the percentage of the population allocated to the 'Manyika', ventured to advance his opinion about 'Manica customs and language'. He was crushed by the scorn of the Manyika specialists. The Superintendent of Natives, Umtali, mocked Meredith's ' 18 years experience of Manyika customs gathered in other districts', and invoked the authority of Archdeacon Etheridge, the leading missionary expert on Mutasa's chiefdom. 'I do not of course know,' wrote Etheridge, 'what word may be used in Chindau, or Chirungwe, the dialects spoken in Melsetter and Rusape [Makoni] districts, but as regards Chimanyika there is no question at all.'[16]

In short, nothing in the pre-colonial history of eastern Zimbabwe had


predisposed the people of Makoni to think of themselves as 'Manyika', and the colonial administration—by means of its decisions on district boundaries and by its issuance of registration certificates which included an official allocation of 'tribal' status—actively told them that they were definitely not Manyika. Posselt's Survey of the Native Tribes of Southern Rhodesia, which was issued by the Government Printer, showed the Ungwe of Makoni as one of the sixteen 'separate tribes' of Southern Rhodesia, although his map of the 'Approximate Distribution of Tribes and Languages' showed them as part of the Zezuru language zone. Posselt's classifications were confused, but the one thing of which he was certain was that the people of Makoni were tribally, culturally and linguistically distinct from the people Mutasa's Manyika.[17]

At the beginning of the colonial period the people of Makoni themselves certainly also believed that they were distinct from the Manyika. The unity of the pre-colonial Ungwe had been, in fact, a unity of political allegiance rather than a unity of a shared ethnicity. Within the Ungwe area there lived not only the related chiefly dynasties of Makoni and Chipunza, but also headmen and their followers who were the acknowledged descendants of the original occupants of the land. During the nineteenth century, and no doubt long before, small groups from the north, east, and west entered the Ungwe area as hunters, specialists, refugees and adventurers and were allowed to settle there in return for their services as smiths, elephant-hunters, diviners, rain-callers or fighters. Many of these incomers were used by the Makoni chiefs in their wars with the Mutasas of Manyika and in hostility to Manyika they forged their new political identity.

Maurice Nyagumbo's unpublished account of the arrival in Maungwe of his grandfather, Nyagumbo from 'the Nyashanu country', who had fled with his two brothers as a political refugee, is very revealing of this process:

When the three brothers and their sister arrived in Makoni's country they settled in a cave. . . . Here they were found by Makoni soldiers who suspected them of being spies. They were taken to the chief, where they were kindly received . . . Chief Makoni had become a terror to all those who surrounded his chiefdom, especially the Wamanyika of chief Mutasa. . . . It was at this time that the Nyashanu brothers and their sister arrived in Makoni's country. The sister later became Makoni's wife; the brothers joined one of the regiments of the chief. After a few raids, Nyagumbo, the youngest of the Nyashanu brothers, proved to be an excellent fighter, and he was later promoted to lead his own regiment.

Nyagumbo's regiment had a special task to perform. This was to scout and waylay enemy soldiers. After a few years as a soldier, Nyagumbo became one of the main councillors of the chief and as a reward for his outstanding achievements in the raids, he was given a slave girl of the Wamanyika tribe as his wife. . . . At that time Mutasa of the Wamanyika prepared to attack Makoni with a large army. . . . Makoni had been informed of these preparations and since he had only a limited number of soldiers he decided to move his army to a fortified hill at Mhanda. Makoni had large stores of food for his army on the hill. . . . When Mutasa arrived with his unwieldy army he found the villages deserted. . . . Then very early in the morning, as the war-drum beat and the women ululated thunderously, Makoni's army descended to meet Mutasa's army. This historic battle started early in the morning and was fought throughout the day. . . . Makoni's army, although suffering heavy losses, inflicted even greater losses on the enemy. Mutasa fled with his few remaining soldiers. . . . This was known as Pakafa dende remukaka by the Wawunge people—the calabash containing milk was smashed—because both Mutasa


and Makoni lost their most important warriors. The two Nyashanu brothers who fought in the battle were both wounded but they survived.[18]

Memories of these wars remained vivid in the early twentieth century, reminding the people of Makoni of their distinction from the Manyika. In December 1902, Archdeacon Upcher, itinerating around kraal schools in Makoni, 'passed a wooded kopje, the scene of a massacre as horrible as that of Glencoe. M'tasa surrounded the village and set fire to the houses. . . . People do not like to pass that way by night as they hear, so they say, people talking'.[19] Ungwe women, captured by the Manyika during the wars, took the opportunity of the colonial 'pacification' to escape from their masters and to return home. When, in October 1898, the Anglican missionaries, Douglas and Vera Pelly, travelled to the farm of their Zulu catechist in Makoni, they tried to persuade Mutwa, widow of the martyred Bernard Mkezi, to come back with them to Umtali so that her little son could 'be brought up as a Christian for Bernard's sake'. Mutwa's response revealed all the local dislike of and sense of distance from the territory of the recent enemy—'She said that she did not want to come and live with us as she did not like the Manyika country.'[20] And yet, by the 1930s, very many people in Makoni were defining themselves as 'Manyika'. It is precisely in the context of the missions that we must begin to search for an explanation.

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4— Missionaries, Migrants and the Manyika: The Invention of Ethnicity in Zimbabwe
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