Wednesday, September 22, 2021
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Shungu na Mutitima (Mosi oa Tunya) – The Smoke that Thunders

Elizabeth Duve Dziva
Among the most essential African natural heritage which we have
benefited from despite our cultural narrowness is Mosi Oa Tunya, widely known
with the colonial name, Victoria Falls. The renowned waterfall is one of the
most awe inspiring views on planet earth and   the
largest waterfall in the world which is located on Zambezi river, the fourth
largest river in Africa and on the boarders of Zambia and Zimbabwe named after
Queen Victoria of England by a Scottish missionary and famous explorer David
Livingstone who is said to have “discovered” the falls in 1855.
Of course the latter was probably the first white man to
publish about the mighty falls to the outside world, but it is rather biased to
agree to the fact that he “discovered” the falls. Apparently, before Livingstone‘s
encounter, the majestic falls had always been a religious centre for the people
native to the area. This is despite the Euro centric ideology that Africans had
sacral fear of the falls hence would only worship from afar. The Tokoleya (Tonga
or BaTonga and the Leya or Baleya) people of Bantu origins, the Lozi, Makololo,
Nambya and the Ndebele are native to Victoria Falls.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the area has been
occupied from around 3 million years ago. 
The falls, fondly called Shungu Na Mutitima by the Tonga and later
aManzaThunqayo by the Ndebele migrants from Zululand is a roaring machine. Apparently,
the noise of the falls can be heard from a distance of 40kilometers, the mist
from the falling water rises to over 400meters and the falls can be seen from a
distance of 50km.
Before the dawn of overpractised and exaggerated modernization
and Christianity which turned the shrine into a plain park, the area was a
sacred and essential element of the Tokoleya culture. Victoria Falls formed an integral
part of their religious life. The most important religious aspect of the
Victoria Falls is that of the Chekausiye (Insikautshiye) which is also called
the Nyami Nyami by other ethnic groups associated with the falls. The snake was
believed to be the Zambezi River God or the Zambezi snake spirit which had a
direct link with the BaTonga Gods (Barimo).
The BaTonga often depict the snake as male and according to
oral tradition, it had a strong relationship with the inhabitants of the
valley. Long ago, the inhabitants of the area would go and worship during
difficult times like drought, famine and. However, due to the modern custody of
such natural heritage sites, the custom of using the falls as a shrine has
since vanished. Most probably, the slow bleeding of every aspect from socio
economic to political system is due to the demise of such norms.
It is beyond reasonable doubt that Shungu Na Mutitima (Mosi
Oa Tunya) is African heritage and needs not only to be enjoyed and devoured by
both indigenous and foreign tourists but also to be safeguarded. There is need
to cherish such natural wonders, the history and the romance as sacred
heritage, for our children and our children’s children. An intensive effort to
preserve our heritage is an essential link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic,
inspirational and economic legacies, all of the things that factually make us who
we are.
The striking Victoria Falls is a legendary site, apart from
being the world’s greatest sheet of falling water; it’s got exceptional
geological and geomorphological features and active land formation. It is also
a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Victoria
Falls mist sustains a perennial rain forest. Victoria Falls lies along the
Zambezi River, one of the largest rivers in Africa which flows 1,687 miles across
Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique until it reaches the
Indian Ocean.
The falls are also located within and close to some major
national parks namely the Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, the Victoria Falls
national park, the Zambezi national park, Matetsi Safari area, Kazuma pan national
park and the Hwange national Park. It also has the moon bow which is the
reflection of the moon on the waters of the falls which can be enjoyed at
night. It also has the lunar rainbow, and the devil’s pool, more so tones of
water which have been estimated to 6million cubic liters fall to the ground
every minute. Above all, According to David Livingstone, the breathtaking falls
are a majestic sight, extraordinary enough to be “gazed by angels in their
Our nation has diverse and extremely rich cultural heritage.
It is a source of pride for us as Africans. We need not look any further for inspiration,
communication and an opportunity for self identity than natural wonders like
Mosi Oa Tunya
Elizabeth Duve Dziva is an Archaeological
and cultural heritage practitioner presently teaching at Errymaple College in
Zvishavane, the views in this article are solely those of the author in her own
capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization. Email:

TellZim News is the leading news organization in the Southern region. It provides candid, balanced and timely news from the communities. Keeping it real. Committed to tell Zimbabwe.

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