31 May 2007

The Rozvi Empire

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 in fact a people emerging 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 who was given the title Changamire, who was known as Dombo 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 Wadyembeu, the latter being a different leader from a different people.

Technology, 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.