Hungry in the land of plenty Part 1 of 4 – The story of Mahenye

Tonje Sifelani

Kungahava vako xikolwe, kuhava vutomi (Absence of schools means absence of life opportunities).

It is nerve-wreaking and heart rending to see an ECD child trudging the 10km stretch to Maparadze to go to school in the rain and wild animal inhabited terrain! Indeed, cry the beloved children of Chipote.

One not familiar with the geography and peoples of the Chipinge would think that only the Ndau speaking people are found in the area. This will be far from the truth since Mahenye area consists of the Tsonga/Xangani people who are both similar and different to the Ndaus in several ways.

Mahenye is found about 54 km east of Jack Quinton Bridge (on Save River) and is a gateway to Mozambique via Zambaredja. Its southern borders are demarcated by Save River on its way to Indian Ocean as it separates Chipinge and Chiredzi districts.

The northern border separates Mahenye and the territories of chiefs Garahwa and Mpungu.

Mahenye is a relatively small community with around 1 400 homesteads and family members numbering six to ten. The area boasts of a primary school, a secondary school, a clinic, a community hall, a cultural village, safari camp and three safari lodges among other vital infrastructure.

Chief Mahenye is a Hlengwe in the same royal linage with the likes of Chief Sengwe of Chiredzi South and Chief Tshovani of Chiredzi North. The chief, Thomas Chauke resides in Mzamana village, quite close to Mahenye Business Centre. So Mahenye is part of Hlengweni (Hlengwe territory.)

Chief Mahenye (left) with Chief Mpungu (right)

In the past, Mahenye was accessed using the Chisuma–Garahwa route but of late, the recommended route is the generally impassable Mutandahwe-Maparadze route that currently needs repair and maintenance work.

The world’s renowned safari facility, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge is built on a place overlooking and on a precipice of the Save River is found in the area, barely two kilometers from Mahenye village.

Mahenye was well planned in terms of conservation, becoming the template of programme named Communal Areas Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE).

The language spoken by most people is Xangani/Hlengwe right into Mozambique. The current Chief (Hosi) is Thomas Chauke and he has two headmen; Ukhethi of Lusungwe and Mahohoma of Chipote.

Historically, where most of Mahenye residents are domiciled in what used to be Garahwa territory, a fact given credence by the fact that only members of the Kumbuya (Garahwa) family can perform rainmaking ceremonies (kuphahla).

Both chiefs Mpungu and Mahenye are on soil that is believed to have been part of the Garahwa area of jurisdiction, a situation that changed when the chiefs got registered at the District Development Coordinator’s office.

Whilst most present day Mahenye residents are not very sure about their exact origins, it is however agreed that when the Mahenye family arrived in the area, they were mesmerised by the rich soils such that they felt, “kuhanyeliwa” or “rohanya” having a place to stay, rich and that could make them rich and eke a living.

The eldest amongst them was Mzamana who drifted to South Africa. Upon registration of chiefs by Mahohoma, Hakamela became chief after Natala. They practice the nafa yatswala kind of succession where the eldest son would become the heir to the throne.

Mahenye was the first person to have an iron corrugated house at a place now called Chizenge. The second wave arrived in 1968 when the folk were relocated from the land of their ancestors, Marhumbini to pave way for Gonarezhou National Park.

They were finally settled in Puzi village of the Ngwenyama family. Some villages that were created include Chingile, Pakamani, Hlamalani, Ukethi, Ndhlondhlo, Mathakutheya, Chigumete, N’wanan’wi, Gouvella and Mzamana.

There are basically two main houses of the Chaukes; those who are called Chauke Mlilo and those called Chauke Matswane.

The Mlilos are the ruling family. They are addressed as “Uyatshisa” and the hosi answers by saying “Mlilo.” The Mlilos revere the small round knob-shaped back part of a snail called xinyori xahumba.

The Matsuvane’s name signifies anger, probably of not being recognised in the royal affairs.

The Chaukes are not the only names found in Mahenye. There are other names such as Hlongwane, Chihlangu, Chinyangani, Sithole and Simango.

To be continued

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