THREE traditional leaders here are reportedly feuding over the control and ownership of the Great Zimbabwe monument. The stone monument, 30km outside Masvingo town, is where the name Zimbabwe is derived.
The chiefs all claim that the imposing and historic monument falls within their boundaries. The monument was built in the 12th Century during the reign and dominance of the Mutapa Empire.
However, chiefs Nemamwa, Mugabe and Murinye are engaged in a bitter row over ownership of the World Heritage site. The Mugabe and Murinye chieftainships belong to the Duma people while Nemamwa is linked to people of the Shumba totem.
Some historians however, claim that they belong to the Bonga totem. Masvingo district administrator Mr James Mazvidza yesterday said the chiefs had reached a deadlock over who has jurisdiction over the ruins.
He said efforts to break the impasse failed dismally, forcing authorities to stop the process.
“There is indeed a deadlock amongst the three chiefs claiming that the monuments fall under their jurisdictions and we had started efforts to deal with the deadlock so as to allow the Masvingo Rural District Council to gazette a resolution determining under whose area the monument falls. We stopped that because new issues emerged and they need to be sorted out first before the exact boundaries of chieftainships in Masvingo district were designated.
“We are however, going to continue with efforts to break the deadlock once the issues have been resolved and no chief can legally claim to be the rightful leader controlling the monument,” said Mr Mazvidza.
National Museums and Monuments director Dr Godfrey Mahachi said the Government was working with all communities around Great Zimbabwe.
The Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe are the custodians of heritage sites. Dr Mahachi said Government was not qualified to determine whose area the monuments fell under.
Communities surrounding the ruins belong to all the feuding chiefdoms. He said they had formed a local management committee with representatives of all the communities around the ruins for harmonious co-operation.
“We know there are contestations over the control of the Great Zimbabwe monuments, but we really do not know the origins of those contestations.
“We are merely there to look after the country’s national heritage resources hence at the Great Zimbabwe monument we are working with the entire immediate communities and we regularly hold meetings where all the three chiefs or their representatives attend.”
He said the committee meets once every month. “Our objective is just to have a harmonious relationship with the immediate communities around the monument. The responsibility to determine which chief should control the monuments lies with other offices, not ours,” he said.
However, historian Cde Aeneas Chigwedere yesterday said there was none among the three chieftainships who should claim control over the monument.
He said Chief Nemamwa was the first to arrive in the area around the Great Zimbabwe monument which had already been built by people of the Mutapa Empire.
Chigwedere, who is also Mashonaland East Provincial Governor, said the Mugabe clan only arrived at Great Zimbabwe in 1840 and fought the Nemamwa clan to get control of the monument.
“It was the great ancestor of the Nemamwa people called Goronga who by the 13th Century was already at the Great Zimbabwe monument.He started performing rituals for members of the Mutapa Empire around that time so we can say before the coming of the white men, Great Zimbabwe was in an area under control of people of the Nemamwa clan that is a fact.
“However, by the time the white men arrived right up to colonisation, the area around Great Zimbabwe was now under Mugabe who had fought and defeated Nemamwa.None of the three chieftainships can lay claim to the Great Zimbabwe monuments in terms of ownership because the monuments were built by the Mutapa Empire” he said.
Chigwedere said the Duma people (Murinye and Mugabe) came from Uteve (now Mozambique) around the 1700 and settled further south of the monuments. He said the Nemamwa clan was already settled around the monuments.
Chigwedere said the Mugabe clan broke away from the Murinye clan and only arrived at Great Zimbabwe in 1840. The Mugabe clan, he said, fought off the Nemamwa clan from the monument.
“The Mugabe clan arrived at Great Zimbabwe in 1840 and fought the Nemamwa clan whose real totem is Bonga (wild cat). Nemamwa joined forces with the Charumbira clan to defeat the Mugabe clan that occupied the area,” he said.
Great Zimbabwe is a World Heritage site and its massive curving walls, built from hundreds of thousands of granite blocks fitted together without mortar, remain the largest ancient stone structure in sub-Saharan Africa. herald