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Matimu, Tinxaka ta Vutsonga

The Rozwi/Lozwi discourse from a Valoyi (Baloyi) Perspective

Whenever issues relating to identity and ethnicity are discussed or researched, there is a tendency in the South African context of “Bantustanising” history. Bantustan names are all colonial creations in nature, but they are used as point of reference to articulate historical facts and events that are pre-colonial. In the Tsonga context, there is school of thought that “Mozambicanise” all Vatsonga, as if “Mozambique” is a pre-colonial Tsonga political entity. Interestingly, there is another school of thought that “Vendalise” and “Zimbabweanise” all Vatsonga of Karanga origins. The same school of thought either “Vendalises” all Vakaranga, or “Zimbabweanises” all Vatsonga of Karanga origin. It is a fact that Vakaranga had a couple of political entities which were not necessarily located in the land mass of present day Zimbabwe.

The name “Valoyi” (spelled as Baloyi in some cases), has been said to be from the verb Ku Loya (To Bewitch), but evidence points to the contrary. Valoyi is a continuum of Valowi, which comes from Valozwi or Varozwi.

Varozwi is a term that classifies many people who are spread across various linguistic and ethnic groups in Southern Africa – from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana. Originally, Rozwi was neither a Tribal nor Ethnical classification. However, they were of Karanga origin. They were a Warrior class, who gained political power and formed an Empire through force, which defeated the Torwa Dynasty that ruled the Butua Kingdom from early 1400s to late 1600s. Changameri Dombo led a popular rebellion where he organised the “Commoners” against the Torwa Dynasty. It is to note that the Torwa Dynasty was also Karanga.

Varozwi means The Destroyers.

The Rozwi Empire existed from around 1660 to around 1866; one of its leaders is Changameri Dombo. The Rozwi Empire was also affected by the raiding Mfecane political havoc.

The name Changameri is a mixture of Cikaranga and Arabic. It comes from Emir of Changa or Changa Emir; the word Emir means ruler in Arabic.

The Rozwi Empire was established from the current location of the Zimbabwean Plateau, and its influenced stretched towards the sea, in areas that cover central Mozambique for access and control of trade routes. Like all older Empires, the area and borders of the Rozwi Empire fluctuated – the Empire’s influence extended;

  • Over much of or within present-day Zimbabwe,
  • Westwards into present-day Botswana,
  • Southwards into present-day northeastern South Africa,
  • And eastwards towards the present-day central Mozambican coast.

South of Save River in the present-day Mozambique existed an earlier Dynasty which settled in a city state called Manyikeni, which is the precursor of various Lenge and N’wanati Dynasties like the Khambani. The Manyikeni Dynasty existed from around 1200 AD lasting until 1700 AD, though it was located more south of the Rozwi Empire influence, it had trade links with the interior Rozwi Empire. Manyikeni also had links in various stages of its existence with Great Zimbabwe, which was further west in the interior, and Chibuweni which was exactly in the coast in present-day Nyembani (Inhambane in other spelling).

Another similar people like Varowzi are the Bakunda (Akunda in other spellings), who were also a class of warriors that migrated north of Vukaranga instead of southwards like Varozwi. Another group of Vakaranga who were emissaries or spies, were known as Vanyayi. Vanyayi as a social class were Emissaries, Ambassadors or Spies of the Varozwi.

Varozwi are not people who descend from one ancestor. Varozwi are descendants of Changameri and descendants of Changameri’s followers, officials and troops, the same applies to Vanyayi. All Varozwi and Vanyayi recognise Changameri Dombo as their Patriarch. This Changameri Dombo is not to be confused with the other Changameri who had ruled Mutapa, as the 4th Mwenemutapa in the late 1400s.

Varozwi, Vanyayi and Vakunda as social classes were composed by people of various clans, who today are found in many countries and among various ethnic and linguistic groups – one of them being the Rixaka ra Vatsonga (Tsonga Ethnic Group).

Image source: evision.co.zw

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