13 Jun 2007

The Rozvi Empire

Posted by K Chikuse

The Rozvi empire was established on the Zimbabwean Plateau in the 1600s.

In 1693 the Portuguese were defeated by the Rozwi. Modern scholars think they were led by Changamire Dombo, whose power was based in Butua in the southwest.
The Rozwi were formed from several Shona states that dominated the plateau of present-day Zimbabwe at the time. The Portuguese were driven off the central plateau and only retained a nominal presence at one of the fairs in the eastern highlands. The whole of present-day Zimbabwe was brought under the control of Changamire and became known as the Rozwi Empire. This fierce tribe of warriors was to be known as the Rozvi people and after driving the Portuguese out of the area, went on to establish the Rozvi Empire.

The Rozvi were not a recovering segment of the Mutapa people as other historical sources point out, but were in fact a people emerging from under the wing of the Mutapa after the administrative power of the Mutapa was failing to control the whole empire. A leader of the people of Guruuswa, known as Dombo and who was given the title Changamire, became independent from the Mutapa and when the Portuguese took over, led rebellions against the European rule. The area of the Rozwi empire fluctuated. Its influence extended over much of present-day Zimbabwe and westward into Botswana and southward into northeastern South Africa.

Note: Dombo, contrary to tales, was not born Chikura Wadyambeu, the latter being a different leader from a different people.

Great Zimbabwe ruins in MasvingoTechnology, Economy and Culture
The Rozwi chiefs revived the tradition of building in stone and constructed impressive cities throughout the southwest. Polychrome pottery was also emblematic of its culture. The economic power of the Rozwi Empire was based on cattle wealth and farming with significant gold mining continued. Trade was established with Arab traders where metals such as gold and copper and ivory were exchanged for luxury goods. Records from the Portuguese account have shown that the Rozvi were expert military strategists and that they had used the cow-horn formation years before the great Zulu leader Shaka had. Without the use of guns and cannons, but spears and bows and arrows, the aggressive Rozvi took over the plateau.

Politics and Decline
The Rozvi, unlike the Mutapa, did not much rely on the intervention of spirit mediums to decide the monarch, but rather wealth and acclaim or, in many cases, succession. This system caused problems, as some people disagreed with the successors and after nearly two hundred years of total rule over the region, the empire was starting to decline. In the 1790s the whole southern African region began to experience a prolonged series of droughts. They weakened the Rozwi Empire, which allowed local chiefs and spirit mediums to begin seizing power. The gold fairs functioned only intermittently. Internal feuding also weakened the empire. In the early 19th century, the period of regional warfare and forced migrations known as the mfecane began. Following victories by the Zulu king Shaka in what is now eastern South Africa, the Ndwandwe, a Nguni-speaking people, were forcibly dispersed, and armed bands led by Ndebele chiefs migrated northward, invading the Rozwi Empire. The empire was devastated by the Ndwandwe armies of Nxaba and Zwangendaba. In the early 1830s the last Rozwi ruler was killed in his capital of Khame. Zimbabwe came under control of Ndebele chief Lobengula in 1834.

Today, the Rozvi descendants are those of the family Moyondizvo. Among the Moyondizvo family there are families like Mutendi, Chiminya and Gumunyu now stationed in Gokwe. Chiminya could have been derived from Chimininyambo (or Kandeya II), who ruled between 1828 and 1830.

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37 Responses to “The Rozvi Empire”

  1. Some of these people claiming to be historians are not to blame, they were taught, they don’t know but they were made to believe they now know. The real story cannot be traced properly now because a lot of distortion has taken toll due to the western influence designed to mislead and confuse, all leading to continued argument and civil war. In the Zimbabwe of today, many claim to have been rulers because of the abundance of these distortions.

    When the Whites came into this country (I’m was informed by my grandfather) they didn’t start by waging wars against all.They sweet-talked all and made friends out of many, after which they gathered information, learned the differences that existed between and among the rulers and the ruled, and all other small tribes that had long been absorbed by larger and powerful tribes. They then played intermediary role listening to both fabricated and actual claims and facts from all sides. They then used those differences to create civil wars supporting both sides weakening them at the same time. Soon they after they took over with very little resistance. Thus, they then widened the gape naming the two strong holds as Matebeleland and Mashonaland respectively. They recruited Police Officers from Mashonaland and deployed them in Matebeleland with an instruction to ill-treat the Ndebele-speaking natives while those recruited from Matebeleland were deployed in Mashonaland with the same instruction. This went on to further deepen hatred between the two.

    From their fabricated stories they crafted what we call history today which suffers from propaganda and hate stuff. All tribes were made to believe they were once rulers, the hated tribes were direct descendants of the Rozvi rulers and up to this date,I don’t know where exactly my great sekuru “Bhasvi” was buried. All they say is his grave is in Bulawayo at Mathonjeni, their capital city was at Khami and that they went to Church (Njelele) to praise Musikavanhu.


    Canisios Chibaya

  2. I’m Bhasvi (Chibaya) from Wedza. Comparison of what I’m reading here to what I gathered from some elders that I happened to share time with only shows a very interesting link but, undocumented history is always subjected to a number of changes as well as distortion meant to twist some areas of interest for a purpose. However, I would want point out that Moyo, being one totem as it is, our ancestors created two different Totems originating from our original Moyondizvo and these are “MOYO SINYORO” and “MOYO MUTURIKWA”. These are sons of our daughters who had no totems and had to use Moyo though after they were granted authority.

    About the Bulawayo history, my elders told me that one Ndebele descendant is Khumalo while the rest are people who used to stay under the Rozvi and they gave examples of Mpofu being Mhofu, Ncube-Soko, Ngulube-Humba, Nyoni-Shiri, Dube being Samaita Tembo and so on. By this they were actually telling me that all people out there are Zimbabweans who were under Lozi before these invasions.

    Bhasvi, Nhenga, Mutinhima and Jiri should have been brothers if my memory serves me right, though I’m not very certain. We can further research on that and update. I’m also of the opinion that we have our history stitched together from what is left of us so that our children will at least have somewhere to start from given that days are numbered and soon we will history.


    Canisios Chibaya

  3. Jonathan Moyondizvo, there was no interim Ndebele ruler called Dingiswayo. The only Dingiswayo Zulu/ Nguni history tells us of is of the Mthethwa clan, the same one who mentored a young Shaka Zulu. Secondly, your argument that “Dingiswayo” and later Lobengula subdued the Karanga, in your words, the Shona living in Matebeleland is heavily flawed and a gross injustice.
    When Mzilikazi came to Zimbabwe and settled in his capital, Entumbane, he made peace with the Rozvi, abakaMambo and in fact Ndebele historians say he actually asked for a place to stay and he was referred to western Zimbabwe. This argument is supported by the fact that the Ndebele later went to pray at the Rozvi shrine together with their “hosts” at Njelele/Nzhelele. The word “UMlimu” in reference to God, is a corruption of the “mudimu/modimo by the Ndebele.


    Bheki Moyo

  4. […] Rozvi, like many other groups, say that they came from a land called Guruuswa and from a place called […]


    Nhaka yevaShona » The Moyo people

  5. The Rozvi Empire really has a vast history. And by the way Mutendi is the adopted name of the Makuwa family.


    Ross Talor

  6. The Rozvi Empire really has a very huge history. And by the way Mutendi is the adopted name of the Makuwa family.


    Ross Talor

  7. my realization of your story being fictional in some parts is your mention of Mutendi family being decendants of the Rozvi rulers. if u knew any better u would have known that Mutendi is the adopted name of the Makuwa family!


    flixx mukaranga




  9. Moyo Mtyambizi ! Sahayi derives from the little earthenware pot in which delicacies like ” gwatakwata ” were cooked. The Rozvi man would pride himself that only he would be the recepient of the pot from the ” mvana ” hence their praise song ” mune mvana ndopinda runa !” Basvi is a predecessor Mambo to Dhlembeu the renowned chief. He in turn got his nickname from the fact that he is reputed to have eaten the seed which should have been given to the Mamoyos for a blessing pre planting time! Zvakawoma Basvi ! ” Bula gango tibone kalino minya ! “


    Tangenhamo eka Nyahuma

  10. Could someone help me with the Moyo praise poem(Detembo remutupo wevarozvi).My late father used to prise the totem as Moyo,sayi,Dewa, vhumaranda, vakadzi vechiza vamene, vanokope chirimo chikave ndove, murambwa nehama vatorwa vachindida…………………………….. something like this.Could someone help me with a proper one or something related to this.Its quite interesting to note we are too many of our clan.Please email me on chivimbison@gmail.com


    Chivimbiso Njovo Moyo Msweli







    manyears mdutshwa chuchu

  12. Enerst Maruta is a shona lier who doesn’t know his history. At Ntabazinduna Mzilikazi was killing his chiefs(èr is no sunrise b4 sunset) Mzilikazi singed a peacetreaty with ‘our’ kingMAMBO thats why u can c even 2day no prob btwn è Kalanga,Venda,karanga,Tswana,Ndebele,Sotho and Jawunda.but when comes yesh


    Mathumo Tapela Moyo

  13. Shona name came with Ndebeles, there was nothing called shona b4 mzilikazi arrive but Kalanga/karanga,Lobedu. Venda are a mixture kalanga and Pedi. Most pedi are origional Zims.kalanga are è 1 built G Zim and another one in Bosti but small as a temple. Ask Kalangas/Venda most of them knows their Zim history. NOT A shona written lie


    Mathumo Tapela Moyo

  14. This is very interesting. I had heard that the Moyo clan were very accommodating, but all the other info about not accepting lobola, being one, Rozvi Kingdom and stuff like that, I had not really paid attention to. I think I’m going to spend more time now looking into this whole moyo business.


    kenny moyo

  15. The word Murozvi and my grandfather taught me comes from the warlike nature that the people who came to be know by that name had. Kurozva means to be made disappear. During the wars caused by the Rozvi, people would say “Akarozva nehondo”, meaning he perished in the war.VaRozvi as they are know today was not their name, their actual name I do not know. Rozvi is just a word in the shona langauge that the portuguese ended up using to call these people that had defeated them as a sign of respect.



  16. can someone tell me who were the brothers of Jiri, my oldman claims his great grand father was Jiri,s older brother. Is dewa, sai Moyondizvo one and the same thing?


    welly dhewa

  17. moyo is shona



  18. this is stuff I have been looking for! thank you guys for the exchanges. My case is I am Moyo living in Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe, Oral history about us is that the clan is here due to someone who came from the east refered to as Mzungu, so we call ourselves AbeZungu, It is said that this ancestor came with his brothers who left him ill as they returned to the east as they were traders. He was to get well and work for the people who looked after him. They were impressed by his skill and gave him a wife. When his brothers came looking for him after the father had accused them of having murdered their brother, he refused to return because he could not leave his wife and children as their people refused to go with him to an unknown land. It is only known from oral history of the clan here that the great ancestor of this man was called “Machendeka”.possibly corrupted. Prise names of our clan are in Kalanga. This amazes me as five generations of this clan has been living east of the Kalanga speaking people that is before or the time when the Ndebele came to Present day Matabeleland. One of the intrigues in our praise names says”banhu bampumbu vakadzwale hova kuMaseka.”If there is anyone with a similar story to tell can we communicate. If there is anyone with clues to unravel the mystry of my origin can they help me. My email is abezungu3@yahoo.com I eagerly await something from someone who can come up with a clue.


    herbert moyo

  19. Please help! is moyo dewa a shona, venda, ndebele surname, can someone tell the origin?, my email is: rnadoo1@webmail.co.za



  20. I wonder what information the history department at the university of Zimbabwe would have on all these things. Its a pity we never documented stuff, even today how far back can we go with our on history. If your kids were to ask you to go back 4 generations, how many of us can do that. I think we need to start documenting things, there is a starting point for everything. I am a Rozvi myself(Basvi), i come from Wedza. We used to fall under Chief Ruzane before independence (lozani).


    Claude Chibaya

  21. Jonathan can you help me with the praise poem (detembo) of the Moyondizvo tribe . my email is tappsmoyo@gmail.com


    Tapiwa Moyo

  22. Can someone help me with the the praise poem (detembo) of the Moyo Dewa yeVarozvi . You can email it to tappsmoyo@gmail.com .


    Tapiwa Moyo

  23. I like the way you people are analysing our history. all i know is that i am moyondizvo sai dhewa. Your analysis has revealed certain areas of interest for me and i now starting to research more about my History.


    Edson Bhasvi

  24. i think i am also a rozvi since my surname is valoyi- or valozvi or originally varozvi. i am also a karanga and my chieftainship at nwamitwa. valoyi and the lobedus are the surving rozvis in south africa. let us claim our kingdom of south africa, botswana and zimbabwe where the capital is at mapungubwe which is a national heritage site.


    khazamula baloyi

  25. True that. You can see the statue of the Zimbabwean bird in Ancient Egypt



  26. Like most of you, I have tried to find as much as I could. It was when I read a book published in Rhodesia that stated that the Zimbabwe ruins could as old as 3000 years. My first reaction was, “There has to be a link with Ancient Egypt.”The prevalence of gold in modern-day Zimbabwe and use of gold by pharoahs had to be a clue. Prior to all this, I had started to read books on ancient Egypt I looked for the subtle things that others would normally miss. Everythinhg crystallized upon readingg Cheikh Anta Diop’s seminal book. Right off the cuff, he stated that the facial features of the Sphinx as drawn by Napoleon’s artist had unmistakeble Bantu features.Diop mentioned the fact that one cultural feature of ancient Egypt was the use of totems for identities. I then bought a book by Adolf Erman who wrote about the use of animal names as names of provinces (nomes). Among the animals considered sacred are (i) the crocodile, (ii) the baboon, (iii) falcon/eagle, (iv) dog, (v) cow, (iv) snake etc. These are our Ngwenya/Gushungo, Soko, Hungwe, Nkomo, Mheta.My point is that this part of our culture goes way way back. It is older that 1500 years. I think there is more that we do not know right now but by asking and talking to each other to share our knowledge, we could actually unravel our own history.Then this year the BBC had a special documentation on Africa’s lost Kingdoms


    Moyo Rusike

  27. OUr Dinasty is like MY father Simbarashe, to Mafoti, Shumbanhete, Maruta, Mutinhima, Chirisamhuru (Who was the last Rozvi king skinned alive by the ndebele, based at the Matopos (Ntabayezinduna), Thats as far as i know my family tree.but my father sometimes call me Madzivanyika but I don’t how we are linked to madzivanyika.we are based in Bikita, Zimbabwe.


    Ernest Maruta

  28. True history in fact show that Kalanga was the official langauge of Zimbabwe as it was the language of the Rozvi. We can therefore say modern Shona came from Kalanga not the other way. The line of history that says that the Kalanga were cut from the Shona by the Ndebele is secondary school history that can never be repeated where serious thought is being entertained. It derives from Beach the same person who says Great Zimbabwe was constructed by Phoenicians not Africans. Most people now know his motive, he wanted to paint blacks as backward, the Shona as “docile” and as having yearned for white protection against “savage” Ndebeles. To suggest that Kalanga is Shona corrupted by Ndebele is michievous and does not attempt to follow linguistic patterns. A prominent linguist and historian George Fortune has been able to track the rozvi of Bhasvi and Lozani’s lines in Wedza. They speak a language they call Rozvi but which in fact is a variant of Kalanga according to him. There is further agreement that there are 6 languages that are associated with the Rozvi; Kalanga, Lobedu/Lotzwi, Venda, Karanga, Shankwe and Nambya. These are also known as the Lobedu group of languages as it seems they were spoken at the court of Queen Motjatji the only known surviving Lotzwi regent. I think this may partly answer my brothers of the Venda side.Coming to Tjanga’s military genius again this is well documented and predates Tshaka. The rozvi actually got their name from their military might and they were called “varozvi” as a nickname. If we agree the term Rozvi is but a nickname, it means we have an original name just as the Khumalo ended up being known as the “Matebele”. My main puzzle has not been our South African/Limpopo roots which seem to be very clear but my question to all of us is the meanings of Sai and Dewa. A search on the internet will show that Sai Dewa is a respected Deity in Asia and there are so many people who also have the names Sai Dewa especially in Indonesia. I have further investigated this and it seems in ancient Egypt Shai was a Deity as well and it is a praise name that is given to Persian and Jewish boys [however the last point was from wikipedia]. No-one has monopoly of knowledge and I challenge all of us, because we belong, to passionately question our identity as a people because it is only us who can correct this fascinating history.


    Oswell Dhlembeu

  29. I am of the Moyo totem and I want to know more about where I came from. I got something written down by my father that goes as far as Zhungunde/Zungunde and he said his brother (Zungunde’s brother) was Zinyakavambe who was a chief and was staying at Mabweadziva. I just want to find out how we get to Changamire and/or Mutapa. I also have the family tree with about 8 generations i.e from Zhungunde to me. There are names along the way that gave rise to some areas in the Nyajen area like Ngundu, Musvovi, Madzivanyika. If anyone knows anything I would appreciate it if I could learn more. Maybe that way I would get to know my relatives.



  30. Remember we have the karanga (vhitori)from Masvingo and the kalan’ga from ntababaezinduna stretching to Botswana andSA these are two different tribes


    Chamunorwa Gatawa

  31. But my friend history shows that the kalanga were cut off from the Shona people by the ndebele in the 18 century.


    Susan Gayi

  32. There is no confusion about Zimbabwean history particulary the Rozvi. Your theory of some South African origin growing into Zimbabwe is false. It’s not suprising that the historians arguing for such a case are in Botswana nad South African and no Zimbabweans.The Rozvi are a Shona people derived from the Mutapa Empire and here is why; -The present day Rozvi descendents are shona speaking, these are the “Vayera Moyo’s” those who share the Moyo totem. Indeed this is the distinguishing feature of all the Rozvi people, they all share the same totem, namely, the Moyo totem. All the people with the Moyo totem are one, the Shona saying is “Moyo imwe chete” which literally means that all the people with the Moyo totem are one. Now, it is true that there are people with the Moyo totem who are Kalangas.The honest truth is that the Moyo totem that can be linked to the Kalanga only comprises a minor fraction of the totality of the people with the Moyo totem who are not Kalangas. -The kalanga are just a mixture of Shona (Karanga clan) ang the Ndebele.When the Ndebele under the leadership of Dingiswayo (a general in Mzilikazi’s army who tempralily took over leadership when Mzilikazi died,) came to the area where the Karangas lived and then under the leadership of Lobengula theson and successor of Mzilikazi the great leader of the Ndebeles, managed to subdue most of the shona living in the now Matebeleland area of present day Zimbabwe. The conquered peoples were foced to assume new names and a new culture as part of their assimilation into the ndebele nation. The Karangas, became the Kalangas, which is mainly karanga with ndebele overtures, for example, in the ndebele alphabet “r” is replaced by “l” so Karanga became Kalanga. -History tells us that The Kalangas emerged as a mixture of mainly Karanga groups being incooparated into the Ndebele culture as recently as the early 1800s, on the other hand history tells us that the Rozvis have been around since the early sixteenth century. -A school of thought has emerged that suggests that the Rozvi could actually have been an earlier alien invasion from the south of the Limpompo. Three reasons for that are that in fact it was Tombolaikonachimwango [Changamire Dombo] and not Shaka who first used both the assegai and the “cowhorn formation” known as “mulomo akumba/the mouth has visited” in Rozvi. It was this that defeated the Portuguese several times and therefore the military genius that is accredited to Shaka was started by Changamire Dombo. The above argument is flawed as it seems to credit the Rozvi military genius to an association to a South African origin. The only problem with this point of view is that the Rozvi’s were in present day Zimbabwe as early as the mid 15th Century and the military genius associated with Chaka was only seen in the early 19th Century. The time line does not support this argument. Secondly, one would then have to explain why these people were moving north, whereas the general trend in those days was to move further south, were there was less pressure and competition for grazing pastures, and land for hunting, farming and virgin lands for new settlements. Thirdly, oral history does not seem to support this view either. There is no record in Zimbabwean oral history that seems to support this argument in part or in its totality. This would probably explain why no single Zimbabwean historian has ever come up with this view and why even to this day it remains a theory alien to the peoples of Zimbabwe. If such an insurgence had occurred with the ferrocity and scale that is being suggested here it would be very difficult to explain why it is totally absent in any oral history of the Zimbabwean people to this day. At best then, this theory does not seem to hold water, and seems to raise more questions than answers.-


    Jonathan Moyondizvo

  33. if the shonas and vendas want to talk about their history,they should never ever forget Kalanga and tjikalanga…



  34. Well done baba…



  35. We should agree that our history is very confused. However thorough research in South Africa and Botswana has concluded that in fact the Rozvi might have been an earlier invasion into Zimbabwe from South Africa. There are 4 things that I want to point out. First the name of our founder was Tjanga[Changa].The Portuguese added the title “mire” for it to read “Changamire”. English translation of “mire” is: champion or boss so they called him Changa “the boss/champion” after his victory over them. Second the name rozvi itself is Portuguese. I have tried to find its meaning but could not. Third we all agree that for 5 centuries the Rozvi were the overlords in Zimbabwe and parts of Botswana and SA. We also agree that their language was TjiKalanga. It their follows that modern day Shona is derived from Kalanga not the other way as being the Kings, the Rozvi could not have spoken the language of their subjects. It seems Kalanga and Venda were the official languages of Zimbabwe, Botswana, parts of Mozambique and South Africa. Even now in Mashonaland, Wedza as an example the Rozvi of Lozani’s line are praised as: Bhasvi, Gumborevura, mutengeni wazvozvovenga, chipwanya mateteni…vana meso iri patiko!” which are associated with tjiKalanga rather than modern day Shona as we know it.Fourth the Rozvi are the only tribe in Southern Africa that prayed directly to their God. Their main shrine is at Njelele and the word njelele means eagle in tjiKalanga. In Shona an eagle is chipungu, gondo etc. What has shocked me more in my research are the words Sai Dewa. I have not found any definition of them except that they are praises. Yet the same words are there in China. Dewa means a person to be revered, a great religious figure and Sai is a great, ancient Chinese weapon. Could Sai Dewa mean “My weapon, you the Revered One!” If that’s the case, where are we from?


    Julius Sai Mutyambizi-Dewa

  36. i came across the article in search of anything relating to my roots. I have found in my clan names Dombo and Shai, my elders indicated that shai came from zimbabwe-i am south african venda speaking. Also in my clan name we a praised as mukalanga-mulozwi. I want to know more about my lineage


    mpho netsianda

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