The Rozvi State

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The Rozvi State

Tools found at Khami ruins founded after the fall of Great Zimbabwe: Image by Skyscrapper city.

Tools found at Khami ruins founded after the fall of Great Zimbabwe: Image by Sky-scrapper city.

The Rozvi State

Origins of the Rozvi State

  • Changamire Dombo I, the leader of the Rozvi was a man of considerable military talent and an administrative genius.
  • With this military ability Dombo was able to defeat the Portuguese at the battle of Maungwe.
  • Changamire’s first capital was at Tsindi ruins near Marondera and Macheke.
  • He moved over to Butwa( sometimes spelled Butua) and established his capital at Manyanga.
  • The Rozvi eventually became too powerful for everyone hence their name which means “the robbers”/”raiders”/”marauders.”

Reasons for the rise of the Rozvi State

  • Changamire Dombo was a descendant of the Mutapa and he initially established his kingdom in the interior with his capital at Tsindi near Marondera.
  • He defeated the Portuguese who tried to grab more land and power further inland to Mbire and Guruuswa near Butwa between 1684 and 1695
  •  The rise of Dombo was a result of civil war in the Torwa state of which he was a citizen.
  • It is possible that he came from a family with special religious or military duties.
  • He may have grown rich and powerful through keeping cattle.
  • He is said to have had special powers like, he could make rain or make soldiers brave or change the color of cattle showing that he was a charismatic leader.
  • The Portuguese thought he was a magician or wizard because of the many tricks he showed in battle.
  • His soldiers formed a half circle around their enemies.
  • They used many kinds of weapons including bows, arrows, assegais, spears, wooden clubs and shields.
  • The Rozvi received guns as tribute from the Portuguese thus most high officials had guns and knew hot to use them.

The Rozvi Economy


  • The King received tribute from the chiefs in the region. These included cloth, beads, hoes, axes, gold, ivory, cattle, skins, grain, tobacco and salt.


  • They practiced internal trade with the locals and external trade with the Portuguese.
  • The Portuguese were not allowed to advance too far into the interior of the country.
  • African traders called Vashambadzi moved across the country and acted as middlemen between the Rozvi and Portuguese.
  • The traders paid taxes as they moved from village to village with their goods.
  • There were no special market days or market places except on the borders where the Portuguese arrived.


  • The Rozvi depended much on the subsistence farming and other agricultural activities.
  • Each family was expected to grow enough food to feed himself.
  • The Portuguese wrote about a flat and beautiful plain bearing rice, pumpkins, watermelons, beans and other vegetables.
  • Their main tools were the axe and the hoe.
  • Axes were used to clear the trees while hoes were used to till the land, plant seeds and for weeding.
  • People shifted to new pieces of land after a few years and started the process all over again i.e. they practiced shifting cultivation.
  • The royal family benefited from the labour of its subjects under a system called Zunde ramambo.
  • These subjects would prepare the chief’s land, plant, weed and harvest the crops which were stored at the chief’s compound.
  • The land was communally owned with the chief as its custodian. Every adult was entitled to a piece of land.
  • The Rozvi community was also pastoral rearing goats, sheep and cattle. These were a source of both wealth and conflict between tribes who raided each other.
  • Important people and chiefs owned cattle.


  • The Rozvi were also a hunting society.
  • The spear, bow and arrow, wooden staff and axe were important hunting tools.
  • Pits and nets made of twisted bark were also used to trap animals.
  • People hunted in teams which sometimes went out for weeks and dried the meat as a form of preservation in the jungle and later bring it back to their homes.
  • The King was also a custodian of the animals therefore half the tusks of elephants killed were surrendered to him.
  • The hooves of these elephants were given to the chief and they were used as stools.
  • Pangolins were royal game and were surrendered to the chiefs.
  • The ivory was exchanged for guns.


  • The Rozvi were a mining community.
  • All gold and precious minerals were surrendered to the chief. The chief would reward the miner surrendering the minerals to him.
  • The King distributed most of what he received to the members in his lineage and other chiefs.
  • All chiefs paid annual tribute as a sign of loyalty.
  • In rituals districts made their contributions and the remaining items after the ritual would be distributed among the members of the king’s family.

Political Organisation of the Rozvi State

  •  It began with the hut, then the family head, the neighborhood head (headman), village, region, sub-chief and chiefdom.
  • At the top is the chief and then the king and his court.
  • The King ruled with the help of a council called Dare.
  • Members of the council included priests, military leaders and provincial governors.
  • Some of the King’s wives played a role at the court and some of the son in laws had special duties.
  • The King was a figure of great respect and loyalty.
  • He was the distributor of land and the holder of other properties in trust of the state: prisoners of war, cattle taken from people accused of various crimes are examples of said property.
  • The king was the head of the legal system.
  • He had the power to call up the army and declare war.
  • He could also summon communal labour.
  • The king had claims to game, elephant taxes and other taxes from the state.

Religious organisation

  • The mambo’s rituals surrounded relations with ancestors.
  • The king was the religious leader as well in addition to being the political and legal leader.
  • He communicated with God through the ancestors.
  • The priests of Mwari served at a shrine (Mabweaziva) and they were very powerful.
  • They carried messages telling the people to obey the king as instructed by the ancestors.
  • The priests had agents called Vanyai  who spread the word of Mwari throughout the provinces.
  • They acted as an intelligence network, bringing information from the provinces.
  • The power of the priests of Mwari strengthened the role of the mambo  and also limited his powers.

The fall of the Rozvi state

  • The Rozvi had great mineral wealth and controlled external trade.
  • The Rozvi leaders understood the weaknesses and divisions of the Portuguese and expoilited them by making policies that made them dependent on the Rozvi for example forcing them to use middlemen (vashambadzi).
  • The Portuguese tried to gain the land and mineral wealth of the Rozvi for a long time without any success.
  • The Rozvi were finally defeated by Zwangendaba with little resistance around 1690.
  • The royal house scattered to other parts of the country.
  • The royal house scattered to other parts of the country.
  • As the remaining Rozvi were just starting to recover when Mzilikazi and the Ndebele arrived and attacked Butwa.
  • The Shangaani also raided the Rozvi in the Chipinge area as the Rozvi started to collapse.
  • The Rozvi empire now remained only in Mashonaland but there finally defeated by the British South African Company settlers.
  • Thus external forces contributed largely to the fall of the Rozvi state.
  • The fall of the Rozvi state can also be attributed to their political system which only served to enrich the royal family at the expense of ordinary people.
  • As a result the state lost the support of its people.
  • The hatred was worsened by the habitual pillaging done by the Rozvi army.
  • The Rozvi were also loosely administered without any central power source which made disintegration easier.
  • It can thus also be argued that the state alienated its own people leading to its decline and fall.
By | 2017-01-17T11:23:24+00:00 April 9th, 2015|O Level History Notes|44 Comments

About the Author:

He holds an Honours in Accountancy degree from the University of Zimbabwe. He is passionate about technology and its practical application in today's world.


  1. Taps April 11, 2015 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Nice but we need mor europn hist nots including moroccan crisis, balkens, peace treaties

    • Garikai Dzoma April 11, 2015 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks we will start working on that.

  2. Taps April 11, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Nice, But we need mor europn hist ,moroccan crisis,balkens,peace treaties etc

  3. vusi May 8, 2015 at 3:29 pm - Reply


  4. colleta mutate May 22, 2015 at 9:49 am - Reply


  5. enok June 9, 2015 at 8:27 am - Reply


  6. grant June 27, 2015 at 9:33 pm - Reply


  7. langton August 1, 2015 at 5:32 am - Reply

    Comment…what about the rozvi rulers

  8. matenhere martin August 11, 2015 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Very informative and to the point; how do we contribute articles and notes on specific topics?

    • Garikai Dzoma August 11, 2015 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      We are working on a site for students,teachers and tutors to interact. It should be working soon, we are still testing it internally. I will inform you once its up.

  9. Pride Basvi August 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    its a good document and are we allowed to download it?

  10. Thandy September 28, 2015 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Comment…thank you so much

  11. nkosinamandla October 6, 2015 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    Comment…very nice and intrestng

  12. Denzel November 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Comment…this is wonderful

  13. Carlyn November 23, 2015 at 11:44 am - Reply

    I like you have , I need more on the importance of trade

  14. Abel November 28, 2015 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Comment… guys please help me, I need to learn more about the history of Zimbabwe so please advise me on books I can buy

  15. alluva February 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Comment…very good notes. straight to the point

  16. ALLAN HUNGWE February 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm - Reply


  17. enock March 1, 2016 at 11:49 am - Reply

    pliz i need 6 names of the rozvi capital

  18. Nomvuyo March 12, 2016 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Comment…woow very informative i got wat i wanted um now ready to write my essay

  19. fadzy March 13, 2016 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Comment…Its nice to hear from you…pliz continue helping us…

  20. simon duuro March 17, 2016 at 10:15 am - Reply

    please if it may help us students by giving detailed information on the aspects of the Zimbabwean history from the beginning to the end siting out brief scholarly views

  21. Ralph March 18, 2016 at 6:36 am - Reply

    Comment…nice but more on trade

  22. Kian March 24, 2016 at 9:10 am - Reply


  23. tinashe April 14, 2016 at 9:57 am - Reply

    very helpful i liked it

  24. Tynalpha April 18, 2016 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Very helpful , thank you!

  25. Emmy April 19, 2016 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    thank you so so much

  26. andre April 20, 2016 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Please can someone me. I need to know six responsibility’s of the rozvi ruler.

  27. andre April 22, 2016 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Please help!6 government officials of the rozvi state

  28. thakazela bird April 24, 2016 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    thank you so much

  29. Munashe April 25, 2016 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    It was gud thank so much

  30. vimbai May 8, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    Comment…thank yu so much

  31. chelsey May 23, 2016 at 9:40 am - Reply

    thank you for the notes sir may you kindly add more information on sources

  32. Geohand June 21, 2016 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    Hey ,this nts enlighten my brain (

  33. Lucky Adolf July 5, 2016 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Comment…thank u for the notes. We’ll keep up the good work.

  34. vic July 7, 2016 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    thanx a lot. can we have a level notes also or you have another website. (vicsumbuz3105@gmail)

  35. philmon teya July 21, 2016 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Comment…thanx guyz

  36. Oswald September 1, 2016 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    like this

  37. Cheryl June 26, 2017 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    anx for the answers l got a lot of help in writing my essay

  38. Ncube Courage August 23, 2017 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Excellent……we need more on both African and European history…….
    The treaties,the bosinian crisis,the Sarajevo assassination

  39. Edward Mkeredzi August 25, 2017 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    thnkx i liked the notes….i understood this than what my teacher gave me

  40. panashe September 11, 2017 at 10:43 am - Reply

    hey it was really helpful but i need more on the question ”how effective was the rozvi state”.

  41. webster October 30, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply


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