Headman Mzilawempi’s eviction from Rhodesdale Estate in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the struggle for restoration of lost status—1953-2021


  • Joshua Chakawa National University of Lesotho, Lesotho
  • Alfred Magudhu Arden University , Coventry, United Kingdom


Chief, headman, Kore kore, forced migration, Zimbabwe


This article discusses the enduring effects of traditional leadership demotion and forced migration in Zimbabwe. It draws from the experiences of headman Mzilawempi and his people who were evicted from Rhodesdale Estate in 1953 and relocated to Hurungwe District, Mashonaland West Province whereupon Mzilawempi was downgraded from the position of a chief to a headman. The study addresses how the relegation continued to impact Mzilawempi chiefdom/headmanship and the ways in which colonial reconfigurations of traditional posts haunt Zimbabwe today. We examined mechanisms that have been utilized by Mzilawempi and his people in their struggle for elevation to the position of chief since coming to the Hurungwe district. This qualitative research concluded that the demotion of the traditional leader led to increased differences with the minority regime, challenges of asserting authority in the new destination by Mzilawempi culminating in demands by the incumbent headman for elevation by the Zimbabwean government partly using post-2000 newly resettled adjoining former white commercial farms as a further justification for a bigger title. From 2019, the struggle for Mzilawempi’s reinstatement led his people to constitute themselves into a committee to map and lead the struggle. That committee was seeking to have Mzilawempi elevated to the position of chief at the time of undertaking this research.

Author Biography

Joshua Chakawa, National University of Lesotho, Lesotho

Department of Historical Studies


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