Understanding the name Munhumutapa and why Chief Murinye was wrong

by | Dec 23, 2021 | Local News, Politics | 0 comments



Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa


Chapter 15 of the 2013 Zimbabwe Constitution clearly spells out who appoints, suspends, removes, creates and resuscitates chieftaincy.



It also stipulates who resolves disputes involving chiefs and chieftaincy on top of fixing their remuneration and benefits.

The recent National Chiefs Council meeting that took place between Government led by the President ED Mnangagwa has been raging and topical for two things; the open and public censure of Chief Murinye by the Vice President (Rtd) General Constantino Chiwenga and VP Chiwenga referring to President Mnangagwa as Munhumutapa.

In this treatise, I shall delve into both issues, the first as a by the way and the second in a bit of depth, going into first the historical context and then the National Constitution trying to unpack whether there was an breach and any commission of sacrilege.




Section 281 subsection 1a) of the Zimbabwean Constitution states that Traditional leaders must act in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of Zimbabwe.

Chief Murinye, in his role as Traditional Leader and mourner in chief addressed a funeral gathering in his chiefdom and made certain remarks that went against the Zimbabwean Constitution.

There are people who for their mischief want to cloud what it is that really that Chief Murinye said that got the attention of and drew the ire of VP Chiwenga to issue such a public censure of the chief.



Chief Murinye addressed the issue of corruption.

This is an issue President Mnangagwa and VP Chiwenga himself have both extensively addressed.

It isdisingenuous to suggest that he is angry with Chief Murinye for addressing an issue he himself clearly supports.

Chief Murinye in his rant against corruption, which is a justified call went on to make statements which were were inciteful and a threat to national security.

He called for a coup, using treasonous language.V

VP Chiwenga is a retired military man, and if truth be said actually the most senior man militarily in Zimbabwe by virtue of being a Retired General and the fact that in the military one is bumped a rank up on retirement and can and will be called back to service should need rise.

He has every reason to not only worried but to be riled by utterances that go beyond chief’s duties but that threaten the security of the nation.

Chief Murinye’s act of calling for a coup threatened the safety of the nation, attacked the integrity of the security forces especially the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

It was contrary to the Constitution, not part of his duties and certainly unethical from a chief.

Over and above this, VP Chiwenga is part of Government and the Presidency.

He has as much reason to call the chief to order as anyone else in Government.

The other point to note is Chief Murinye is President Mnangagwa’s maternal uncle.

As an uncle, had he issues of concern that he felt needed to be brought to his nephew’s attention, he could have easily done so without breaking protocol and threatening the safety and security of the nation.

So his ignoring the channels open to him and going the route he went, demands only a suitable chastisement from one of the securocrats who is the immediate past commander of the ZDF!

Now to the more interesting part where Jena VP Chiwenga, called Murambwi President Mnangagwa with the title Munhumutapa.

This has raiser the ire of many an individual and I do not know what their anger is about really.


But I will try and air out here a few issues from the traditional viewpoint.

There will be no need for delving into the history of who is Munhumutapa for we all know these are the titles of the many rulers of the land between the two rivers and some argue and beyond.

This is not the debate for today but three titles stand out in the history of the nation now called Zimbabwe.

The three are Munhumutapa, Mambo and Changamire.

The titles all meant emperors, rulers, leaders or overlords of the nation.

They presided over vassal chiefs, headman and had governors, council of ministers and advisors. They also had military and spiritual leaders.


It is paramount to note that the vassal chiefs and all the others in government like machinda, makurukota, Mukomohasha( Captain General), nengomasha, (captains of the military units), nyakwava, muzvariri and even nehanda( the ritual sister wife of the king) were all either chosen or appointed by the Emperor or Munhumutapa.

The Munhumutapa had power to create a chieftaincy, anoint a chieftaincy, receive tribute from one, decide on their remuneration, solve disputes involving chiefs, remove one and recreate one.

The Munhumutapa was thus empowered by the power vested in him as the principal ruler, the first among equals in his nation to decide how the nation is run, who helps him run it, assign roles to his people.


The Munhumutapa was the overall keeper of the rites of the nation. He was also the embodiment and the supposed reincarnation of the former Munhumutapa and and thus considered the living mhondoro.

Now much like the Munhumutapa, the President of Zimbabwe is empowered by the power vested in him by being also the First among equals and by Chapter 15 of the Zimbabwean Constitution to act as much as the Munhumutapa acted.

He can create, appoint, suspend, remove, restore and decide on the remuneration of chiefs. Like the Munhumutapa, he expects the chiefs to be custodians of the local area customs, solve traditional disputes and represent the national ethos at a local level. Like the Munhumutapa he is overlord over all chieftaincy and it is up to him to make the final decisions concerning it despite the fact that he gets advice from his ministers and other traditional leaders.

Like the Munhumutapa, the President appoints the Military Commanders, the Constitutional, Supreme and High Court Justices and Judges. He appoints Ministers and removes Ministers.

So was Soko Chiwenga wrong in addressing Shumba Mnangagwa as Munhumutapa especially considering that they were in a Council of Chiefs meeting? Absolutely not!

His point will be and was always going to be missed by many simply because of our personal prejudices and our mental slavery.

Referring to the President as Munhumutapa sounds like such apostasy merely because we prefer to use the title President which is foreign to us and mean nothing much in our language.

Jena was addressing chiefs and the title Munhumutapa represents a leader or ruler of the people which is much like what the President is.

Above the chiefs( madzishe) ministers( makurukota), General( mukomohasha), Commanders( nengomasha) and all the ranks is the President( Overlord)/Mwenemutapa

Jena Chiwenga referred to President Mnangagwa as Munhumutapa in that context.

Overall ruler of the land between the two rivers was called Munhumutapa, Mambo or Changamire.

Of course Presidency is not chieftaincy. Neither was the title Mutapa or Changamire a chieftaincy title, it spoke of and meant an overlord, the one above all.

So, while most of those speaking may merely dislike that the President Mnangagwa was referred to as Munhumutapa, there is actually no wrong in it except our personal prejudices of which none but ourselves can free ourselves.

Munhumutapas, Mambos and Changamires where Heads of State and Government and Commanders in Chiefs of the Military.

They Mutapas appointed and removed chiefs, raised and lowered them.

Check if Presidents do not have such power and then we may see that it’s just ourselves who have mentally enslaved ourselves to think that there is anything wrong with calling our leaders by indigenous titles.

For the record, one is not born into the rank of chief but is elected/selected from equally deserving members of the same House to become a first among equals similar with the Presidency.

So the only wrong there is emanates from our personal prejudices and you cannot hold that over Jena Chiwenga who merely used an indigenous term to refer to the rightful person who wears the role of the Munhumutapa right now.

Traditionally, chiefs do not raise their voices in public at their Mambos or Munhumutapas, they neither urge their Mukomohashas to mutiny or rise against them, that is treason and for that Chief Murinye got a slap on the wrist n a public rebuke.

As the late great Jamaican singer Robert Nester Marley sang, “Emanchipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can set us free, redemption songs, the songs of freedom!”….none but ourselves can set us free.