The Butua State is one of the precolonial states that existed in the Zimbabwean plateau. It was closely related to the Great Zimbabwe Kingdom which eventually declined in 1650. It was located near present day Bulawayo at Khami.
Founding of the Butua State
The Butau State was a resultant of the fall of the Great Zimbabwe State in AD 1450. The state was founded south-west of the Great Zimbabwe at Khami near present day Bulawayo.
Administration of the State
Between AD 1450 and 1685, Butua was ruled by Mambos of the Torwa dynasty, who were probably sent from Great Zimbabwe or part of the royal family there. These leaders, known as Sipundule or Chibundule, gained respect and allegiance among the people, as illustrated by traditional Kalanga praise poems. The Sipundule Mambos were successful in building a prosperous state ushering in a time of peace, stability and prosperity where harvests were good. The Chibundule Mambos ruled through provincial leaders who lived in relatively small towns of about 1,000 people at the most. In the peripheries of these centres, ordinary Kalanga reared their livestock and grew sorghum, melons and cowpeas in sparsely populated settlements quite similar to modern farms in the area.
Archaeological research and oral traditions show that Butua remained a highly stratified state with the Chibundule family at the top and their related governors just below them. The ordinary population of Kalanga had its own local chiefs and headmen who administered the daily affairs of the people, collected tribute and sent it to Mambo at Khami through the provincial governors, with surplus imported goods distributed out from Khami through district governors.
Economy and Trade
The production of gold from the Tati area, copper from the Thakadu Mine, and trade at Domboshaba was controlled by the primary leader of the Butua state known as Mambo who lived in a large capital of over 5,000 people at Khami. The state also controlled trade in salt and hunting dogs from the eastern Makgadikgadi pans, around which it built stone-walled command posts. Trade with the Indian Ocean was resumed, through the agency of the Portuguese, but was no longer through Great Zimbabwe but through the Zambezi Valley. The material culture of Great Zimbabwe was continued and the stone working and building techniques were further refined.
The Kalanga state Butua, which had dominated the Zimbabwe plateau (south central Africa) for four centuries, collapsed in the 1830s due to repeated difaqane invasions, and its population became subject to Ndebele invaders. One major change in the rule of the mambos took place at Khami with the arrival from the north-east of foreigners in Butua known as the Rozvi/Lozvi or Nyayi. Their ruler Changamire ousted Mambo Chibundule sometimes around the 1680s or 90s through political intrigues and instability but apparently no major warfare. Radiocarbon dates from archaeological excavation show that Khami was burnt down in 1685 resulting in the end of the rule of the Chibundule Mambos.
The old Chibundule rulers appear to have fled to the west (in the area now in Botswana), where they became known as Wumbe, giving rise to a number of local Kalanga chiefdoms. Other Kalanga chiefdoms descended from Mengwe, or from groups of Sotho attracted from the south such as the Nswazwi and Chizwina (Sebina) chiefdoms.
The Rozwi Kingdom continued the stone-building culture that it had inherited and resumed trade through the Portuguese. Over time, the kingdom was weakened by succession disputes and droughts and the components were able to assert a high degree of autonomy. In the early 19th century, the kingdom was overthrown by invading Nguni speaking people from the south (Ndebele) who crossed the Limpopo under MzilikazI in early 1838.