Manyika

A valiant Shona tribe with their own dialect, ‘Manyika.’ The Manyika predominantly emanate from the eastern region of Zimbabwe. The language is widely spoken in Manicaland Province and in certain areas of Manica Province in neighbouring Mozambique. The Manica dialect somewhat varies from region to region in Manicaland. Those from Nyanga, Nyamaropa, Nyatate and surrounding regions have a different tone and shaping of words compared to those from Buhera, Bocha areas. There are inherent endemic cultural norms in each of the sub-regions that constitute the Manyika people.



The Manyika language is a broad dialect of the Shona language. Largely spoken by the ‘SaManyika’, it encompasses ChiBocha, ChiUngwe and ChiManyika from which the broad Manyika Language gets its name from. This ChiManyika spoken by people in the northern parts of Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe, (Nyanga, Honde Valley and Mutasa area) whilst ChiBocha is spoken by people in the southern part of Manicaland.



In 1695 Emperor Changamire Dombo overran the rich gold-producing kingdom of Manyika, and even descended to the lowlands on the eastern edge of the country to destroy the Portuguese fair-town at Masikwesi. Dombo now controlled the whole arc of gold-producing territory from Butwa in the south-west to Manyika in the north-east. 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 seen on a Portuguese map of 1887, 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 rumors of abundant alluvial gold. The Kingdom of Manyika over which the Manyika rulers exercised authority was a much smaller area. 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 and the SaManyika people themselves. 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. 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.' 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, Marange 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.” The matter was so decided and the Chief Native Commissioner determined that 'the Native Commissioner, Inyanga deal with all Manyika natives and the Native Commissioner, Rusapi with all the Makoni'.



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 ‘mayinini’ 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 Rusape (Makoni) districts, but as regards Chimanyika there is no question at all.





RELATED SECTIONS:

RELATED GLOSSARY WORDS: