A Social and Political History of Chishanga: South-Central Zimbabwe c.1750-2000
Mazarire, Gerald Chikozho
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This thesis is about a ‘place’ that effectively no longer exists-in the sense of being a recognisable unit of territory. ‘Chishanga’ has always been a term of contestation, referring more or less tenuously to a stretch of ground across which struggles for authority power and identity have taken place. In tracking and examining these struggles using various oral as well as archival sources, this thesis documents the process through which Chishanga was transformed from being a satellite province of the Rozvi state in the 18th century to become a part of a Karanga polity under the vaHera dynasty of Mapanzure that subsequently disintegrated due to colonial administrative and land use policies. Central to the discussion is also the reclamation of ‘Chishanga’ in the late 1990s through a process initiated by its people in the 1960s. The thesis employs centre-periphery models and various concepts of ethnogenesis to argue that the idea of Chishanga as a collective metaphor of belonging was sustained by the fact that the Chishanga territorial centre has always remained at one place although its periphery shifted constantly throughout the period under study. This centre or gadzingo became the point over which all contestations to Chishanga were articulated by various groups who laid claim to this territory. The gadzingo thus gained universal appeal and became the rallying point accommodating all the different identities shaping Chishanga and those shaped by it. It naturally became the basis over which a reclamation process was launched in the late colonial period. This study challenges the notion that African societies were made up of neatly bound and delineated political units waiting for colonial rule. It uses the territorial fluidity of the Chishanga periphery to explore other variables shaping this society while at the same time interrogating some of the stereotypes inherent in the sources generated on Africa especially in the colonial period.