Mutare is the name of Zimbabwe's third largest city after Harare and Bulawayo. Popularliry referred to in Zimbabwe as Kumakomoyo, this word depicts the city’s mountainous terrain giving it a unique distinction which makes it different from the rest of other cities in the country.
Mutare boasts not only of this unique geography, rather it has a diverse array of cultures, language, tradition and history which make it an interesting venture to write about, talk about and explore. The history of Mutare as a city offers the most valuable knowledge towards understanding its social and economic dynamics.
The name Mutare is a derivative of the local Shona word Utare which in the local manyika dialect refers to iron or gold. During the pre-colonial period the name was given to a river running adjacent with Tsambe River. It is believed this river had deposits of iron resulting in it being named Utare by the local Mutasa clan. Penhalonga Valley between these two rivers was thus associated with gold and iron deposits and this milieu resulted in the naming of the area to Utare and subsequently Mutare.
What we now know as the city of Mutare today emerged from a small Manyika speaking society under the leadership of Chief Mutasa. These people claim to have settled in the area for decades long before the Europeans set their feet. Their myths and oral traditions refer to their ancestral claims of the whole territory. This is contrary to popular belief that Mutare was first established by the Pioneer Column in 1890. Infact, the Pioneer Column did not see an empty space before them, but rather a fully functional indigenous Mutasa society with efficient political structures, a booming economy and thriving agriculture.
Growth of the Township
The coming of the Pioneer Column ushered in the establishment of the first European settlement between the Tsambe and Mutare Rivers. This settlement became to be known as Fort Umtali. This was the third settlement of the British Pioneer Column after the settlement of the Southern and Northern parts of present day Zimbabwe. By 1895 Mutare the British South Africa company had begun to establish itself through the erection of infrastructure. The township had developed as a market centre with four hotels, shops, banks, churches, schools and printing works. The laying of the railway line in 1895 gave the township a modern face which paved way for its industrial and demographic expansion.
With the granting of a municipality status on June 11 in 1914, Mutare became the third largest municipality after Salisbury and Bulawayo. The construction of residential and commercial infrastructure commenced around 1915 with the first batch comprising bachelors’ quarters in the present day Sakubva area for males most of whom were domestic and plantation workers. The establishment of a power station in 1922 ushered in the growth of small scale industries which focussed, by and large, in timber processing. These developments attracted the local indigenous populace to seek wage labour employment in the white dominated Umtali township. Thus there was a rampant population increase and by 1941, there were about 1 796 Africans living in the township. This phenomenal expansion in both population and infrastructure earned Umtali a city status in 1971. With the end of the colonial period, the city regained its indigenous name of Mutare shedding off the colonial tag of Umtali.
The city of Mutare is the best for outdoor activities and retreat expeditions. The climatic environment offers a serene environment away from the buzzing noise city traffic and irritating industrial pollution of the urban areas. The mountainous terrain offers the best experience for the hiking fanatics. The Mutare National Museum offers a historical appreciation of the city through displays of artifacts. Lodges and hotels scattered all over the city gives presence a wide array of choice for the visitors. The most notable include the Leopard Rock Hotel, Holiday Inn Mutare, Troutbek Inn in and Juliasdale in Nyanga. There a number of game parks, unique views, leisure centres, botanical gardens and sites which offer a plethora of entertainment facilities for both locals and visitors.
Climate of Mutare
Mutare boasts of unique climatic conditions which are seldom found elsewhere in Zimbabwe. The savannah tropical climate consists largely of cold winters and warm summers. The winter season spans from early May to end of August. During this season, lowest temperatures are recorded. The coldest month in this regard is July with a minimum of 6 °C and a maximum The summer season in Mutare like in most parts of Zimbabwe spans from September to April. This is the season of the ‘sun and rains’. The months of September and October are the hottest with minimum temperatures averaging 16 °C and maximum often reaching 32 °C. The average rainfall is between 800mm and 850mm. Heavy rains are usually received between the months of December and January. The North Eastern winds which blow from the present day Mozambican areas usually results in precipitation. These climatic conditions have inevitably favoured the thriving of both exotic and indigenous botany forests and this has led to the common conception which identifies Mutare as the city of timber production.
Geography and Population
The geographical terrain of Mutare is breath-taking. Of the diverse geographical aspects of Mutare, the Christmas Pass stands as one of the most cherished not only by the outsiders but also to the locals who regularly visit the site to remind themselves of the beauty that surrounds them. The Christmas Pass view of the city provides the most spectacle bird’s eye view of the city especially from the mountain high which somewhat flies above the city meandering up and down into the city. The Christmas Pass view is even more intriguing during the night as it allows one to see all sheds of lighting shining from below; from the streets light, moving vehicle lights, domestic house lamps, to a burning cigarette in the streets of Mutare. It is a city swallowed up in a mountainous terrain and engulfed in giant indigenous and exotic trees blended together in harmony to give a serenely configured geography. Housing a population of about 300 000, Mutare is home to several races and ethnic groups. It is in fact a multicultural home of the local Manyika people, the Zezuru of Mashonaland, the Ndau of Chipinge and surrounding areas, the Ndebele, neighbouring Mozambicans, Asians and Europeans. This population is spatially located in various suburbs of Mutare which include the high density areas of Dangamvura, Sakubva and Chikanga. The Central Business District is also surrounded by low density suburbs such as Morningside which accommodate a smaller proportion of the inhabitants.
The city of Mutare is also the capital of Manicaland province which includes district such as Buhera, Chipinge, Chimanimani, Rusape and Makoni. In the last decade, the city has become of strategic importance due to the discovery of diamonds at Chiadzwa and Marange. This has led to establishment of big multinational mining enterprises, refurbishment of roads, and establishment of an airport among other developments. The presence of numerous tourist resorts in the area and its proximity to the Nyanga Mountains make the city a place of perpetual economic and social interaction.
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