ZIMSEC History O Level Notes: The Mutapa State: The Political Organisation of the Mutapa State
- The King was known as Mwenemutapa which translates to “the owner of the conquered lands” or Munhumutapa which translates to “he who conquered”
- He was the overall ruler of the state and all subjects were loyal to him.
- He was seen as divine or heavenly and accorded such status in order to make his subjects fear him as they were awed.
- The King usually stayed in a capital called Zimbahwe (Portoguese Zimboa) meaning “house of stone.”
- Nyatsimba Mutota the first Mwenemutapa organised the kingdom/state into provinces which had districts under them.
- He appointed chiefs and his immediate advisors played an important role in the appointments.
- The chiefs paid annual tribute as a sign of loyalty to the King.
- The used diplomacy and force to subdue his subjects.
- Rebellious chiefs were attacked by the empire’s army at the orders of the king.
- Vassal chiefs were lighted their own fire from Mutapa’s Royal fire as a sign of allegiance
- Vassal chiefs also paid tribute to the Mutapa.
- He also used intermarriages with vassal chiefs as a way of strengthening his allegiances.
- The King’s duties included:
- Chief judge- he tried cases and was the last court of appeal.
- He appointed chiefs in consultation with his advisors who included spirit mediums.
- Maintained strong army for defence against neighbouring states.
- He received and shared tribute
- Was the custodian of all the state property
- Allocated land
- Presided and oversaw religious ceremonies
- Presided over the chief’s council.
- The governor of the provinces was also known as Nengomasha
- He was the Deputy of the Munhumutapa and thus the second-most powerful person in the kingdom.
- He was usually a blood relative of the Mutapa.
- His duties and roles included:
- Leading the army in a campaign where the Mutapa was not involved.
- Being a contact point at the palace for the vassal chiefs or their representatives when they visited court.
- Assisting the Mutapa in the appointment of provincial chiefs when one chief died/resigned or was dismissed.
- Announcing to the visiting provincial leaders the orders of the king.
- Discussing important matters and developments within the state with the Mutapa.
- Acting as a regent when a Mutapa died before a new one was appointed.
- Ensuring the Mutapa orders were carried out throughout the kingdom/state.
- Keeping the king informed of what happened at the and the outlying provinces.
- They played an important role in uniting the state.
- People respected and obeyed the spirit mediums.
- In return they were given royal status by the king.
- The chiefs communicated to the people through spirit mediums.
- The army ensured the survival and expansion of the state.
- They crushed revolts and were sent to punish rebellious chiefs by the king.
- Military commanders acted as advisors to the king and they were appointed by the King.
- They enforced the law and order of the state through the kingdom and on vassal chiefs.
- The army was usually run by the Captain-General known as Mukomohasha.
- The general oversaw trade in addition to heading the army on behalf of the king.
- He was also a chief strategist and in charge of military matters such as weapons, intelligence and enemy status.
- Judges held court every year at Mutiusinazita/Mbire.
- Ambassadors were sent to the king each year to receive the royal fire as a sign of loyalty.
- This efficient judiciary system was perfected by Mutapa Munembire/Munembiri.
- They were appointed by the king.
- They were responsible for administering the provinces through disseminating information to and from the king.
- They resolved disputes and solved problems in their own provinces but referred all important matters to the king’s court.
- These chiefs renewed their status every year by showing up at the Mutasa’s court as a sign of loyalty and to receive the royal fire.
- Each province was divided into districts which fell under district chiefs.
- These implemented the state policy under the supervision of the provincial chiefs.
- They handled matters within their districts but referred important matters to the provincial chiefs.
- District chiefs were also responsible for appointing village heads and supervising them.
- District chiefs acted as information officers for the state.
- Central administrations was done by the Dare
- This was made up of the court chancellor, the treasurer, head drummer, nengomasha, cook, chief priests and diviners.
- The treasurer was also referred to as a steward.
- He received presents brought to the Mutapa court and was in charge of trade goods, supervised the royal finances.
Chief Musician/Door Keeper
- Was in chage of the and of musicians provided for entertainment to the king and his court.
- The chief musician/door keeper presented visitors to the king.
- He would screen the king’s visitors.
- Known as Mbokorume and as the king’s right hand man.
- Was usually the king’s son in law but a brother in law or grandson could also hold the office.
- He checked the loyalty of other principal officers in the state.
- Could hold other temporary assignments e.g. leading the army.
- Kept the king’s secrets.
- Acted as the king’s fool.
- Buried the Mutapa and anointed a new one.
- Arranged biras i.e. religious ceremonies.
- The chief n’anga was known as Netondo
- He led the group of diviners at the court and in the provinces.
- The king also had a herbalist.
- They performed religious ceremonies.
The royal wives
- In each provincial town there was a royal wife who checked on the loyalty of the provincial rulers.
- Senior wives known as Mazvarire stayed at court and gave advice to the King.
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