Some people still practice the African Religion of the Mutapa state.

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: The Mutapa Kingdom:Religious Organization of the Mutapa State

  • The Munhumutapa was the supreme leader and the religious leader of the Mutapa people.
  • He had the ultimate religious powers.
  • Evidence from oral tradition argues that the Munhumutapa was a seen as a divine king
  • This is also supported by written evidence from Portuguese sources which state that the Mutapa subjects were of the belief that the Munhumutapa would go to heaven once he died
  • The people believed if the Munhumutapa died he would become a national ancestral spirit mudzimu and be worshiped.
  • Just like the residents of the previous state like Great Zimbabwe,
  • the Mutapa people believed in the supreme being whom they called Mwari and
  • They believed Mwari was the creator
  • The Mutapas also believed in masvikiro who are the mediums of mhondoro
  • Mhondoro refers to the spirits of a deceased chief or king
  • These spirits were seen as being of national importance
  • It was believed the mhondoro spirit would posses lions without manes (females) until they found a medium to possess
  • The Mutapa people also  believed that the masvikiros and the Mhondoros would pass on  their grievances, requests and petitions  to Mwari
  • and in return Mwari would communicate to them through the masvikiro.
  • Prayers and pettitions were passed on from the last deceased ancestor up until they reached Mwari
  • The Mhondoro’s and masvikiros could castigate the Mutapa if he did something wrong.
  • Thus the mhondoro and masvikiro acted as a check on the Mutapa’s power and exercise of authority
  • This essentially means there was a rudimentary separation of religious and political power
  • As the Mhondoros and Svikiros were not entirely under the power of the Mutapa
  • The Mutapa was not the overall head of the religious system but he was given his deserved respect in this area.
  • The religious leaders provided leadership in times of political crisis, e. g during the first chimurenga 1896-7 or Shona- Ndebele uprisings.
  • The Mutapas gave the mhondoros gifts in the form of cloth, beads,cattle and young men and a sign of respect and also to get their support
  • This means the Mutapa could influence the mhondoro and svikiros to see things their way in certain instances
  • Mhondoros shrines were located in the capital and the mhondoros were responsible for their maintenance.
  • Mhondoros served as oral historical figures as they kept record of king names and also their deeds.
  • Go to this page to see a list of some of  the famous Mhondoros/Svikiros in the Mutapa Kingdom

To access more topics go to the History Notes page.