Njelele: Our shrine together

Updated: September 11, 2012

By Julius Sai Mutyambizi-Dewa (posted on different sites — original source unclear)

I am a direct descendant of Emperor Netjasike, the last King of the Lozwi/Rozvi/BaNyai[Kalanga]. My greater grandfather Ntinima/Mutinhima was his first son. I have taken interest in the continuing debate about Njelele, a shrine that we are traditionally linked with but that have unfortunately become the centre of immature tribal bickering. Essentially it was and is a Kalanga shrine, we have always been the custodians but it was and is always a shrine for everyone. Religious shrines do not serve the priests and their families; they serve the religion and its followers as one whole. I must rush to say I am not oblivious of the sensitivities surrounding the issues here but seek to correct misconceptions for the good of the nation of Zimbabwe.

Is Njelele a holy Shrine and according to whom?

The question that needs to be asked first is whether Njelele is a Holy Shrine. The answer to that seems a resounding “Yes”. Njelele is the holiest of the shrines of the Mwali Religion. However it is not the only such shrine. Other Shrines are to be found at at Mahwemanyolo, Domboshaba in Botswana, Mapungubwe in South Africa, Domboshava in Mashonaland East in Zimbabwe, at Khami, at Nzhelele among the Venda in South Africa, etc. The next question is “Whose shrine is it?” The answer is it is clearly a shrine for people who were at one time part of the Lozwi Empire and these include parts of South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and the whole of what is now Zimbabwe. It has never been personalised or tribalised. It is our Njelele together, as a people. When Mzilikazi settled in what is now Matabeleland he found the shrine there and also worshipped and respected everything he found there. I am in no doubt that his respect for Njelele extended to its inclusiveness and this is why Mashonaland based prophets such as Chaminuka continued to have access to Njelele even under Mzilikazi and Lobengula’s rule. He never closed Njelele to anyone and this is why at no point did Njelele become an issue surrounding Ndebele-Shona relations.But yes Njelele like any other holy shrines, has rules that must be observed. Njelele has its own custodians and traditionally it is the Moyo, Ncube, Mpofu and Dube people that have leadership and prestine roles at Njelele. The question to ask at this point is “has this been observed”?

Chiefs Nematombo, Chivero, Nyajena and Marange

I have picked the above for a reason. Does their entrance into Njelele breach anything? Do they have the locus standi to be in Njelele? The answer is “Yes”. In fact all the four chiefs are originally from Matabeleland which is popularly referred to as “Guruuswa” or “Butwa” in pre-colonial Zimbabwe. The founding ancestor of Chief Nematombo is Ntinima/Mutinhima, my ancestor and Emperor Netjasike’s first son. History has it that he left Matabeleland after a quarrel with his father, passed through places such as Buhera and ended up in Mhondoro in Mashonaland West. Apart from the name Ntinima/Mutinhima he was also known by the code names “Nyakuvambwa” and “Nevanji” which simply meant first born. He had another shine at Nharira. His brothers were Basvi, Luzani (also known as Ruzane/Rozani) and Rovanyika [who settled in Wedza], Lukuluba[ also known as Huruva, Mukuruva and Washayanyika], Dlembeu [also known as Mashonganyika], Tohwetjipi [also known as Sibumbamu]. They had several sons among them Mhepo [also known Mawachini [what have you heard], Mutyambizi [also known as Kaseke/Kasekete], Chigavazira [also known by the names Tumbale and Chitomborwizi], Dzumbunu, Tandi, Chimombe, Matibenga, Gumunyu, Malisa, Mangena, Bidi etc. Some of their sons were Kadungure, Mapondera, Kunaka, Chitate, Chikumbirike, my grandfather Munemo etc.

But as a King he never moved alone. The Lozwi had spies, known as “gwanangwa” and their chief spies where the Mpofu, who were known by the titles Tjibelu and Mundambeli, meaning those who were the advance party in military terms. Chief Chivero [Shonalised version of Tjibelu] was tasked with this. Up to now the praise lines of Chief Chivero’s people are: “Shava[Mhofu], Chivero [Tjibelu], Mwendamberi[Mundambeli]; gwenzi rakaviga Mambo[the one who hid the King] and this meaning the one who was with Mutinhima/Ntinima as he escaped from his father Netjasike. Nyajena and Marange are also of the same line as Chivero. Mutinhima had many sons with different women and this led to so many chiefdoms in Mashonaland that are directly descended from him and through him, Netjasike. These are Negomo, Nematombo, Nyamweda, Samuriwo, Kasekete, Chimombe, Tandi, Chiduku etc. Chivero has other related chiefdoms such as Chirau.

I haven’t mentioned Makumbe, Goronga, Makoni as I am not so sure what roles they were playing but I believe Makoni’s presence may have been due to his relationship with Chiduku, another of chiefdoms that have a direct links with Mutinhima[Ntinima] and through him, Netjasike. Nyajena neighbours Samuriwo and Marange neighbours Tandi and both Njajena and Marange may have played the same role that Chivero played on Mutinhima to Samuriwo and Tandi, being his advance party as both are Mhofu. One thing is clear, all these chiefs have their recent roots in present day Matabeleland. Everyone in present day Mashonaland whose isithemo/chidawu/praise title is Vakabva Guruuswa [those who came from Guruuswa] has his or her origins in present day Matabeleland and they left that area in the late 19th century. All of them are clearly permitted as a matter of their bloodline to take part in rituals in Njelele.

If Chief Nswazi could return to Botswana I do not see how the above chiefs could be blocked from entering Matabeleland and taking part in holy rituals there. Their attendance at Njelele has clearly been blown out of proportion to gain political mileage which is unfortunate. Matabeleland is their homeland, and Njelele is their shrine. We cannot hide behind political correctness in these matters. These chiefs are Kalanga by all accounts, and going back simply is retracing their roots. We can’t be more direct than that. Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo was given his treasured emblem by a Mashonaland Chief, Chinamhora following rituals that had started at Domboshava which is in Chinamhora’s area. The Longwe people of Malawi still have connections to this day with their Swazi cousins and they conduct joint rituals even to this day. As Ndebeles discuss the possibility of restoring their Monarchy some point at Nkulumane’s family, and they are based in South Africa and have never been in Matabeleland. Obvious if the Lozwi[Kalanga] start discussing about the possibilities of restoring their own Monarchy they may also have to discuss the possibilities of someone based in present day Mashonaland or even Botswana or Malawi as they trace Netjasike’s family.

Consulting other traditional leaders

Respect is always important and has always been the cornerstone of healthy relationships. Chiefs of the area should have been contacted. This do it alone mentality is really defeatist and it is what should be criticised. But the Chief’s must be able to discuss these issues in the Chief’s council. I am sure Chiefs Bango and Tshtshi can bring the issue forward. I don’t see how politics should then become seized of a matter that can easily blow out of hand if in the hands of politicians. We have systems that can be used and this is why we have a Chiefs’ Council. This is a sensitive area which demands responsible approach as at the centre of it are historical issues that politics has been unwilling to discuss. Had issues of accountability and the powers of traditional leaders including the return of monarchs been addressed without the influence of political correctness we wouldn’t be where we are. Uganda has several kingdoms, any people that ask for it and can justify it have been given the go ahead. The UDI-era atrocities and Gukurahundi are long overdue we should have done with them already and moved the country forward.

History, geography and genotype, not contemporary demography that is largely a design of colonialism and irresponsible politics means Zimbabwe was, is and ought to be a united country. Anyone thinking otherwise unnecessarily plays into a very sensitive matter and risks being judged harshly by the future. What happened in Rwanda is not a play, not even a real life drama. We lost people there. What happened during Gukurahundi is not a campaign matter; we lost people then. Maturity is very important and this is why I condemn in equal measure those who are attempting to block people from Mashonaland from accessing Njelele as if it’s in Europe and also those who went to Njelele without the clearance of the local traditional leadership. Inventing no go areas that never happened in our country is cheap. So is the defeatism portrayed by the traditional leaders from Mashonaland. Real leaders would have sat down together and mapped the way as all the traditional leaders of Zimbabwe and done the cleansing rituals for everyone who took part in the liberation struggle and that includes both ZANLA and ZIPRA. Without any doubt and judging with the behaviour of some of the war veterans, a cleansing ceremony is long overdue. But doing it alone will not benefit anyone.

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