Mashona  and  Matebele  resistance ( Chimurenga  war)  refers  to  the  resistances  which  took  place  in  the  present  day  Zimbabwe  against  the  establishment  of  Colonial  rule.

It was  a  reaction  organized  by  the  Mashona  and Matebele  people  against  British  Colonial  rule   in  Zimbabwe ( Southern  Rhodesia) which was  represented by  B.S.A.CO

The  origin  of  Chimurenga  uprising  can be  traced  back  in  1890, where  at  first  the  Whites ( British) who were  under  B.S.A.CO  arrived  in  Mashona    land.

The  Shona  people  decided  to  collaborate  with  the  British  as  they  hoped  that, the  British  would  protect  them  against  their  traditional  rivals, the  Ndebele.

But  the  matter  was  not  so. The  Shona  later  on  in  1893  came  to  realize  that  their  interests  were  in  jeopardy  because  the  B.S.A.CO  started  to  monopolize  trade  and  land  in  Masholand.

Therefore, in the  same  year  1893, the Shona  decide  to  react  militarily  against  the  British. But  this  was  fruitless  as  the  Shona  were  very  weak  militarily  compared  to  the whites.

Three  years  later, In  April  1896, the  Shona  decided  to join  with  their  traditional  rivals, the  Ndebele  to  make a  joint  uprising  which  came  to  be known   as  Chimurenga  uprising.


Land alienation (Expropriation)

The B.S.A.CO expropriated the Shona  land  without  consulting  the  local  chiefs. Nearly all the fertile  land  in  Mashona  was  taken  away  and  given  to  the  whites.

In other  hand  the  Ndebele  were  turned  to be  squatters  on  European  farms. They  were  required  to  pay  rent  of  labor  for the  use  of  land. This as a result led to  the  outbreak  of  Chimurenga  uprising.

Forced labor

The B.S.A.CO established policies  which forced/ compelled  Africans  in both  Matebele land  and  Mashonaland  to  supply  labor  in  whites  and  mining. Labor  was recruited  by  armed  forces  or  by  police  forces  something  which  provoked  anger  to  Africans  hence  Chimurenga  Uprising.

Trade monopoly

The Chimurenga Uprising was also due to the British South African Company (B.S.A.CO) which interfered and  monopolized  the  trade  patterns  of  the  Shona  and  Ndebele. The  Shona for long  time  had  established  a  mutual  trade  relationship  with the  Portuguese  in  which  they  obtained  arms  and  a  variety  of  goods  at  low  price.

The  B.S.A.CO  attempted  to  stop  that  trade  something  which  angered  the  Africans. Also  the  Ndebele  were forced  by  the  Company  to  dispossess  the  gold  mining  and  buying  and  selling  from  South  Africa. This  also  added  to  the  inevitability of  the  Chimurenga  Uprising.

Cattle confiscation

The  Mashona  and  Matebele  depended  much  en – cattle  rearing. The  B.S.A.CO  interfered  with  the  native  Germany  as  they  started  to confiscate  the  cattle and  give  to  the whites. Meanwhile, the  Ndebele  were  only  permitted  to  keep  at least  40,00  cattle.

Therefore, for  those  with  above  the  permitted  number, their  cattle  were  offered  to  the  volunteers  or  to the  B.S.A.CO. Other  exceeding  cattle  were  dispatched to the  South  Africa. This  as  a  result  led  to  the  Chimurenga  Uprising  because  Africans  were  discontent  with  Cattle  confiscation.

The outbreak of rinderpest diseases

In  1895, there  was  outbreak  of  rinderpest  disease  which  killed  many  cattle  in  both  Matebele  and  Mashona  land. The  outbreak  of  this  epidemics  was  associated  with  the  presence  of  Europeans ( White men)  in  the  region.

Traditional leaders  said  that  the Rinderpest  occurred  due to  the  presence  of  the white  men, and  therefore  it was  a  punishment  or  curse  from  the  ancestral  spirits. In  other hand, the B.S.A.CO  in  the  process  of  combating  the  epidemics, ordered the  people  to kill  their  cattle. The  decision  of  the  British  provoked  the  Africans  who  started organizing  the  war  against  the British  hence  Chimurenga  war.

Harsh treatment

Chimurenga uprising also  was  influenced  by  harsh  treatment  which  was  practiced  by  the British  officials, the B.S.A.CO  administrators  and  also  the  Native  commissioners.

Frequent  brutal  and  corporal  punishment  were  exercised by  the  B.S.A.CO  administrators  and  the  native  commissioners  who  used  the  “ Sjambok” a  kind  of whip  to  punish  the  Africans. The  elderly  people were flagged and  killed  in  public, and the  conditions  in  the  mines  were  deplorable.

Transportation policies

The  British  introduced  different  taxes in  Matebele  and  Mashona  land  and  the  collection  of  tax  usually  took  the  form  of  cash  payment  or  grabbing  cattle, goats  and  grains from  the  people  who  could  manage  to  pay  taxes. In  1894, Hut  tax  was  introduced. The  Shona  and  Ndebele  Chiefs  regarded  this  measure  as  a  threat  as  the  British  government did  not  consult  them  hence  Chimurenga  war.

Payment of low wages

Chimurenga  uprising  was  also  resulted  from  payment  of low  wages  to  the  Africans  by  the  British  in  both  Matebele  and  Mashona  land.Africans  were  lowly  paid  in  the  mines  and  farms  compared  to  the  work  they  were  performing. Also  the  environment  of  works  and  working  hours  were  exploitative  and  harmful  hence  Ndebele  and  Shona  Resistance.

Abolition of the Indunas

The  British  abolished  the  Indunas  age  regiments  among the  Matebele. Military  towns  were  outlawed  and  the  Ndunas  were  deprived  their  power, importance  and  position

Above  all  it  was  embarrassing  for  the  British  to  nominate  the  Shona  policemen  to  enforce  laws  and  order  in  Matebele  land. This  angered  much  the  Ndebele  hence  they  joined  with  Shona  to  resist  the  British.

Cultural interference

The British Missionaries disregarded the traditions and customs of the Shona and Ndebele people. The Missionaries wanted Africans to abandon their culture, especially ignoring their traditional religion which was based on Mwari cult. This eventually resulted into the outbreak of Chimurenga Uprising.

The desire to restore the lost independence

The British interference and colonialism in Matebele land and Mashona land created hostility and Africans day to day were discontent with the situation.


By 1897, the whites with their new and modern weapons and tactics defeated the Ndebele and finally the Shona. There was a cup of effects of the Chimurenga war as follows:

Death of people. The Chimurenga  warriors  were  taught  a  bitter lesson and  many  of  them  died  during  the  Many  people died  and  many  other  were  put  on  trial  for murder  and  hanged.

The Indunas ( retired  soldiers) in  Matebele  were  recognized  and  given  some  leadership  in  the  new  system  and  paid

The Ndebele  were    redistributed  new  lands  in  the  lowlands  where  they  lived  happily  without being

The S.A.CO  administration  incorporated  and  expropriated  more  fertile  land  and  cattle  as  war  compensation. This  made  many  Africans  to  lose  fertile  land  and  their  cattle.

The Ndebele  received  favors  from  the  whites  because  they  ceased  the  fighting against  the  But  the  Shona  in  other  hand  did  not  cease  fire  during  the  uprising  and  continued  the  war. That  is  why they  were  not  favored  by  the  B.S.A.CO  administration.

Many Africans  adopted  Christianity  due  to the  inability  of  Mwari  cult  and  Mhimo  cult  to  defeat  the white men. This  eventually  resulted  into  stagnation  of  African

The company  administration  was  blamed  for  brutal  administration  and

The defeat  of  Chimurenga  war  resulted  into  total  Colonial occupation  by  the  British  in  both  Mashona  and  Matebele land. The two regions became a single country which was named Southern Rhodesia by the British  and  the  Shona  and  Ndebele  were  subjected  into  divide  and  rule

Divide and rule policy. After defeating the Shona and  Ndebele, the  British  introduced  a  policy  of  administration  called “ Divide  and  Rule  Policy” in  Southern  This  was  aimed  at  disuniting  the  Shona  and  Ndebele  so  as  to  weakening  the  Africans  and  avoid  another  uprising.





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