Taboo Systems as a Conflict Restraint in the Political Feud in Zimbabwe. An Exploration of Mazowe and Shamva districts, post independence

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2016

319 Pages, Grade: 1.0


I do hereby declare that the thesis being submitted to the University of Lusaka, for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy in Governance and Leadership; Taboo systems as a conflict restraint
in the political feud in Zimbabwe: An exploration of Mazowe and Shamva districts post-
independence, has not been previously submitted by me for a degree at this or any other
university; that it is my original work, and that all the material contained herein has been duly
Signed on this ... day of ....................... at the University of Lusaka.
Obediah Dodo: ...

: Obediah Dodo
: Professor Sichalwe Kasanda
Professor Everisto Nsenduluka
: Taboo Systems as a Conflict Restraint in the Political Feud in
Zimbabwe. An Exploration of Mazowe and Shamva Districts, Post-Independence.
: Doctor of Philosophy in Governance and Leadership
: 2016
: ...
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this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes
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All rights reserved. No part of this thesis may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, be lent, sold, hired-out or otherwise circulated without express written consent of
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Obediah Dodo

To Gloria, Takudzwa, Paidaishe, Arnold, Nokutenda and Paidamoyo.

I wish to acknowledge invaluable help that I have received from various people in different
sectors and spheres of my life. First and foremost, special gratitude goes to my supervisors;
Professor Sichalwe Kasanda and Professor Everisto Nsenduluka for their polished expert and
academic guidance. I also need to recognise the help that I got from all the oral defence
panellists at the University of Lusaka especially Dr Christine Mushibwe and Dr Ronald
I also wish to pay tribute to my fellow lecturers at Bindura University especially from the
Departments of Peace and Governance and Social Work and the Faculty Dean Prof Pfukwa
for the support and encouragement. Dr Ibbo Mandaza has always supported in various forms.
Finally, I acknowledge all the support that I received from my family and especially my
children who ran around as home assistants; Takudzwa, Paidaishe and Paidamoyo.

Following a realisation that during each plebiscite in Zimbabwe, scores of people are injured, killed
and displaced due to the intensity of political violence, this research was carried out to focus on the
possible role of traditional taboos in restraining the behaviours of the conflict perpetrators. This is
against the fact that traditionally, taboos were used as a policing mechanism in respective
communities. However, due to the advent of globalisation, modernity and other influences, some of
these taboos seem to have been washed to the periphery and lost relevance. The study carried out in
Mazowe and Shamva districts, was primarily exploratory being applied within the qualitative
paradigm. The study, employing formal interviews, focus group discussions and archival material
drew a total sample of 135 participants from across the divide through snowball and emergent
sampling. The analysis and interpretation of data was achieved through the use of NVIVO software
and Content Analysis method, which provided for the analysis of written and audio material. To
ensure near objectivity and total acceptability of the results, the research instituted some measures
like; depth in research, objective interpretation of the world by all concerned stakeholders,
appropriate sampling mode, method triangulation, data triangulation, timing and duration of the
study. The study found out that while the taboo concept was an old-fashioned mechanism of
restraining conflicts in society, it still had its place for as long as there were deliberate efforts
towards sustaining its importance. It was also established that indeed, there were some volatile
situations that were addressed by the fear of the effects of the taboos. Some conflicts were also
averted by the fears created by some taboos that have since been swallowed by other `cultures' and
religions. To ensure that the preventative role is sustained, the study has also recommended that there
be some deliberate inculcation of the belief system in the young ones in society over a period through
all the socialisation systems like schools, churches and the family. The retention of the practice is
purely to regulate childrens behaviours.

DAPP ­ Development Aid from People to People
FGD ­ Focus Group Discussion
JMC ­ Johane Masowe Chishanu
JMCM - Johane Masowe Chishanu Madzimbabwe
JMCNT - Johane Masowe Chishanu Nguo Tsvuku
MDC ­ Movement for Democratic Change
MDC-T- Movement for Democratic Change- Tsvangirai
MDG ­ Millennium Development Goals
NCA ­ National Constitutional Assembly
NGO ­ Non-Governmental Organisation
PRSP - Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
RENAMO ­ Mozambique National Resistance Movement
SADC- Southern Africa Development Community
ZANU PF ­ Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front
ZRP - Zimbabwe Republic Police
ZIMSTATS- Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency

While the discussion sounds familiar to many, to some, it is a completely alien arena with
new terms and concepts which probably need to be defined and clearly elucidated. This
explanation has to be strictly contextual to the study in question so that relevance is
maintained throughout.
Taboo- this is a traditional regulatory and system design mechanism that is culturally
embedded in a community primarily meant to set apart a person, an object, or a place as
sacred to achieve conservation, respect and continuity. In the African society, taboos are
created by particular societies to fit specific situations and times. It is no wonder why a taboo
in one area may not be in another. In this study, taboos are treated as socially-embedded
pronouncements by elders as a way of instilling order in society over everything; natural
resource, people, discipline, and ideology. In the absence of a clearly written down law,
communities only resorted to taboos which did not require a third person to police or
intervene; there is self-regulation as people believed that the unseen `gods' and spirits will be
seeing and hearing from the atmosphere.
Conflict- A conflict is an activity that has traditionally been regarded as retrogressive,
destructive and unnecessary in society though there are some quarters which view it as
catalysts for development. In this study, conflict is considered as an activity whereby two or
more individuals have clashed and have developed some degree of hostility against each
other. However, precisely, conflict refers to misunderstandings particularly over land,
ideology and ethnicity in the areas under study. It takes any number to be involved in a
conflict from personal, group, inter-group and inter-personal.

Traditional- In this research traditional is defined as the systems that are embedded in the
people of the area called indigenous. It will be realised in the study that the term is used
differently in different situations. Traditional leadership are those political, social and
religious structures that are embedded in the pre-colonial period and are culture sensitive.
However, common to all its use is the fact that it is culture-born, local systems oriented and
Conflict restraint- This is a measure or system of deterring or pre-empting a potential
misunderstanding between parties. Conflict restraint may be achieved in a variety of ways;
economic, social or legal and should be long-term oriented so that the same conflict does not
recur again. A conflict restraint is a system on the ground which is supposed to regulate and
control conflicts in society. These systems do not necessarily require the physical
intervention of other beings; rather, there is self-regulation due to the level of belief in the
minds of the society. People involved in unwanted acts are deterred by a mere feeling that
something unusual happens at the instigation of the unseen spirits moving around the
atmosphere. In this study, `restraint' will be interchanged with `prevention'.
Peace-building -are long-term efforts at reconciliation, capacity building and societal
transformation that take place after fierce conflict has reduced or ceased. These peace-
building efforts may be political, economic, social and military and primarily designed to
reinforce political settlements, in a bid to remedy the causes of conflict. These measures are
instituted in society to benefit everyone with an ultimate intention to keep potential hostilities
down. In this study, typical peace-building measures could involve establishment of
education institutions so that young people could benefit intellectually, establishment of

health centres and employment facilities so that there will not be idle people who are exposed
to violence and possible recruitment for sinister motives.
Conflict resolution ­ After experiencing destructive conflicts, there comes some need for an
end to it and this can only be through some sustainable and community appreciated means.
Conflict resolution is more than the realisation of an accord and seeking to re-establishing
relations between stakeholders as it seeks to get to the core causes of conflict and not simply
treat its intervallic or symptomatic manifestation. Conflict resolution implies attending to a
problem by deeply exploratory measures where the participants voluntarily outline their
relationships before settling for anything new.
In conflict resolution, it is imperative that the root and main causes of the conflict be looked
at objectively so that whatever conclusion or resolution is reached, all the parties are satisfied.
Failure to please all the parties literally leads to recidivism of the conflicts and become
cyclical in nature. In this study, conflict resolution is basically a means through which
hostilities are ended amicably in a sustainable and long-lasting manner to the satisfaction of
all concerned parties.
Culture - Since the study is primarily focussing on concepts and issues to do with peoples'
ways of doing things and leading lives, it becomes important to look at culture and
understand what it really entails. It has been generally acknowledged by various scholars the
world-over that culture is one area that presents challenges in clearly understanding in view
of the associated dynamism. There are some anthropologists and sociologists who consider
culture as a discussion that produces chain of command, unity, and homogenization of
individuals under study. Culture has been known to shape and build people's characters

largely based on their lived experiences. Put simply, culture expresses and defines
assemblage identities, is group indoctrination and a socially transferable philosophy of a
This definition highlights one aspect of identifying a group from another through systems that
are learned over period. Therefore, culture is a way that a defined community of people
chooses to follow as it executes its daily chores. These may be various in one individual but
the most prominent one finally defines one's culture.
Conflict management- This is a process whereby a conflict is under control by relevant
stakeholders so that it does not produce disastrous effects to the intended and unintended
people around. Conflict management is said to be a skill of coming up with suitable
institutions to steer the unavoidable conflict into suitable channels for peace. Ideally, this is
supposed to be a deliberately planned and regulated process and not ad-hoc or impromptu.
Participants- these are the people or respondents who provided with the data during the
research interviews, discussions and through other means as outlined in the methodology
section. They are being referred as participants because they participated in the research and
not only served as respondents.

Release Form
Definition of Terms
Chapter One - Introduction
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background to the Study
1.3 Shamva District
1.4 Mazowe District
1.5 Statement of the Problem
1.6 Objectives
1.7 Research Questions
1.8 Structure of the Whole Report
1.9 Summary
Chapter Two - Literature Review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Indigenous Knowledge
2.3 Taboos

2.4 The Shona People's Beliefs about Taboos.
2.5 The Zezuru, Taboos and Conflict Resolution
2.6 African Community Living
2.7 Important Traditional Institutions
2.7.1 Public Shrines
2.7.2 The Elderly
2.7.3 Children
2.7.4 Names
2.7.5 Songs
2.8 Traditional Leaders
2.9 Culture
2.10 Some Types of Taboos
2.10.1 Food Taboos
2.10.2 Health Taboos
2.10.3 Environmental Taboos
2.10.4 Unhu-Enforcing Taboos
2.10.5 Death Taboos
2.10.6 Safety Taboos
2.11 Social Control
2.12 Challenges Facing Taboos
2.13 Conflict Prevention
2.14 Conflict Transformation
2.15 African Traditional Religion (ATR)
2.16 Ubuntu/Unhu/Humanity
2.17 Superstition

2.18 Exorcism
2.19 Avenging Spirits
2.20 Case Studies of Avenging Spirits
2.21 Totems
2.22 Globalisation
2.23 Roots of Conflicts
2.24 Conflicts in Africa
2.25 Elections and Violence
2.26 Human Rights
2.27 Youth in Decision-Making
2.28 Conflicts in Zimbabwe
2.29 Ideology
2.30 Victims
2.31 Offenders
2.32 Agency Concept
2.33 Women and Violence
2.34 Alternative Endogenous Dispute Resolution (AEDR)
2.35 Restorative Justice
2.36 The Rwandese `Gacaca'
2.37 Ugandan `Mato Oput'
2.38 Mozambique `Kimbanda'
2.40 Others
2.41 Sustainability of Traditional African Systems
2.42 Reconciling Traditional Systems with Modernity

2.43 Role of Christianity in Conflicts and Conflict Resolution
2.44 Role of Political Parties in Conflicts and Conflict Resolution
2.45 Women in the Crisis
2.46 Summary
Chapter Three - Methodology
3.1 Introduction
3.1.1 Objectives
3.1.2 Questions
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Qualitative Research
3.3.1 Rationale for Using Qualitative Method
3.4 Grounded Theory
3.5 Data Collection Methods
3.5.1 Interviews
117 Rationale for Using Interviews
3.5.2 Focus Group Discussion
119 Application of FGDs
121 Rational for Using FGD
3.6 Target Population
3.7 Sampling
3.7.1 Snowball Method
3.7.2 Emergent Sampling Method
3.8 Principal Investigator
3.9 Data Sources

3.10 Data Collection
3.11 Limitations
3.12 Delimitations
3.13 Analysis and Interpretation
3.13.1 Application of Content Analysis Method
134 Rational For Using Content Analysis
3.13.2 NVIVO Analysis
3.14 Reliability and Validity
3.15 Ethical Considerations
3.16 Summary
Chapter Four - Theoretical Framework
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Deterrence Theory of Punishment
4.2.1 Implications of the Deterrence Theory of Punishment to the Study
4.2.2 Structural-Functional Theory
4.2.3 Implications of the Structural-Functional Theory to the Current Study
4.3 Conceptual Framework
4.4 Summary
Chapter Five - Results Presentation and Discussion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Exploration Survey Results Presentation
5.3 Research Proper Results Presentation
5.4 Interviews

5.5 Mazowe District
5.6 Shamva
5.7 Identified Taboos from the Interviews
5.8 Taboos Social Role
5.9 Influence in Conflicts
5.10 Relevance of Taboos
5.11 How Taboos can be Either Embraced or Discarded from the Society
5.12 Focus Group Discussions
5.13 Mazowe
5.14 Shamva
5.15 Analysis of Data
5.16 Most Cited Taboos
5.17 Most Cited Reasons for the Erosion of Taboos
5.18 Most Cited Conflict Types
5.19 Most Used Gestures and Expressions
5.20 Interpretation of Data
5.20.1 Identification of Taboos
5.20.2 Appreciation of Taboos
5.20.3 Roles of Taboos
5.20.4 Other Themes
5.20.5 Re-Generation of Taboos (Way Forward)
5.20.6 Other Issues
5.21 Hypothesis Analysis
5.22 Summary

Chapter Six - Conclusion and Recommendations
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Conclusion
6.3 Recommendations
6.4 Areas for Further Research
6.5 Summary
Press Articles
Figures and Tables
Fig. 1 Mashonaland Central Province
Fig. 2.1 Violence Perpetrators
Fig. 2.2 Recorded Cases of Violence
Fig. 3.1 Constant Comparison
Fig. 3.2 Schedule of FGDs
Fig. 3.3 Population Statistics
Fig. 3.4 Selected Research Centres
Fig. 3.5 Relative Frequency
Fig. 3.6 Study Themes
Fig. 4.1Sustained Inculcation Conceptual Framework
Fig 5.1 Relative Frequency
Fig. 5.2 Frequency of Participants
Fig 5.3 Interview Schedule

Fig. 5.4 Interview Questions
Fig. 5.5 Schedule of FGDs
Fig. 5.6 FGD Sex Distribution
Fig 5.7 Thematic Areas
Fig 5.8 Relative Frequency Table
Fig. 5.9 Identified Bases
Appendix 1- Participant Consent
Appendix 2 - Consent for Audio Recording
Appendix 3 ­ Consent Letter by the Provincial Admin, Mash Central province
Appendix 4 ­ Consent Letter by District Administrator, Mazowe
Appendix 5 ­ Consent Letter by District Administrator, Shamva
Appendix Taboo Definitions
Appendix Taboo List

Chapter One
1.1 Introduction
A taboo is a system or an act of setting apart a person, an object, or a place as sacred to
achieve conservation, respect and continuity. Since time immemorial, in the African
traditional set-ups, people have always respected and adhered to these taboos. Taboos were
meant to regulate the behaviours of people, help conserve natural resources and environment
and respect the existence of other creatures. The study therefore seeks to explore the role that
the taboo systems play in political conflicts in Zimbabwe. Precisely, the two districts under
study are known to be ardent believers in traditional practices; the purpose of this study
becomes therefore to establish their roles and whether the traditional practices are still
relevant especially in view of the advent of contemporary approaches. Most of the political
conflicts are experienced during election periods: pre, during and post-election phases. The
pre-election period is defined by the presidential pronouncement of the election campaign
and when the Nomination Court accepts names of all contestants. The study specifically
focuses on Mazowe and Shamva districts in Mashonaland Central province post-
Globalisation effects generally point to a gradual shift of cultures and traditions to a more
diluted end. It is against this belief that most traditional beliefs and norms have been eroded
by modernity and therefore no-longer effective that the research seeks to establish how much
of the effect of taboos was eroded that people were no-longer afraid of committing crimes
including killing, raping, robbing and maiming and going against societal norms.

Every district the world-over seeks to develop for the betterment of its residents. This is
achievable through the cooperation of various stakeholders, governments included. In that
regard, in September 2000, over 189 member states of the United Nations, Zimbabwe
included endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDGs are an international
pledge towards the reduction of poverty and to promoting human development across the
globe (Igwe, 2011). Besides, there are several other commitments that have been either
ratified or formulated which include the 2004 Malawi Declaration on Election, the 1997
SADC Gender and Development Protocol, the African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Rights, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 100 and 111 on Equal
Remuneration and Prohibition of Occupational Discrimination, Children's' Rights
Convention (CRC), the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) (UNDP, 2005) that
monitor progress towards the attainment of MDGs,
United Nations Security Council
Resolutions 1325, 1889 and 1820 focussing on the avoidance of aggression against women
and involvement of women in peace-building (ZUNDAF, 2011).
On the protection of
Zimbabwe has also ratified the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for
Action and the Prevention and the Eradication of Violence against Women and Children
(Chipaziwa, undated). Good governance and value for human rights are fundamentals for
sustainable human growth. In view of the above, Zimbabwe appended to the Millennium
Declaration, which acknowledges the significance of good governance in establishing a
playing field that is conducive to development and to the eradication of poverty.

1.2 Background to the Study
Given Zimbabwe's historical background that involves protracted bloody wars during the
colonial period, in post-independence, the new regime has often clashed with other
opposition formations, civil society and individual personalities over policy pronouncement,
ideology and or perception amongst others. In most of these conflicts, members or rival
formations have either killed each other or the ruling party membership or through the hard
power, have killed the others. During the 1982-87 Gukurahundi crisis, government security
agents and members of the dissident group killed innocent people in cold blood leaving over
20 000 souls dead (CCJP, 1987). Similarly, during the 1985 General elections, members of
the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) ruling party meted violence on the political
opposition elements leaving others dead. From 1999 when Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) political party was formed, ZANU PF and through the hard power intensified its
killing spree targeted at divergent ideology across the board. Specifically, civilians were
killed in 1999, 2000, 2002, and in 2008 (WOZA, 2008, Machakanja, 2010, RAU, 2012). In
most of these conflicts, it was people known to each other who were either fuelling or killing
others in cold blood. Most of the perpetrators have not considered the sanctity of life and the
question of `ngozi' avenging spirits.
Traditionally, in the Shona culture, it is believed that if one transgresses socially or goes
against set societal systems and expectations, there are some varied calamities that are
experienced either by the individual or the entire community. Some of these social systems
and expectations otherwise called folkways and mores develop into what is then considered
taboo for they are `forbidden solely to regulate societal behaviour'. The enforcement of these
taboos is two-fold; at the individual level where one fears facing misfortunes as a person or
coming to the whole family and at community level where the traditional leadership ensures

maximum adherence otherwise the entire community gets affected by natural phenomenon
like droughts and disease epidemics. In the event that there has been some transgression,
some of the ways of remedying the wrongs are through traditional compensation to the
aggrieved and appeasement of the spirits. The processes towards achieving these ends usually
involve a lot; expensive material resources, human labour and commitment and torrid rituals
so much so that people are deterred from infringing the taboos. Members of the community
are restrained from hurting others, killing others and annoying the spirits of either the dead or
the forests.
Mashonaland Central province is located to the north of Zimbabwe bordering with Zambia to
the north and Mozambique to the east and with Harare to the south, Mashonaland East to the
south-east and Mashonaland West to the west. The province is made up of 8 administrative
districts; Bindura, Mazowe, Guruve, Mbire, Muzarabani, Mount Darwin, Rushinga and
Shamva. In terms of total land area, there are 28 346 square kilometres, constituting about
11% of the entire Zimbabwe land area. There are 1 022 975 people in the province, according
to Zimstats (2012) national census, of which 92% live in the rural areas.

Fig. 1 Mashonaland Central Province
(Provincial Statistics Department Mashonaland, Bindura, 2006
Mashonaland Central province is one of the first regions to be exposed to the war of
liberation in the early 1970s as the liberation fighters on reconnaissance programmes first
visited districts in this province; Guruve, Muzarabani, Mount Darwin and Rushinga (Bhebhe,
1999). This also explains why most of the earliest liberation war fighters were drawn from
these areas and why the same districts are characterised by political violence. The area is
characterised by violence perpetrated by people who believe that the only salvation to their
culture of violence lies in the influence of taboos and other cultural deterrents. What the
inhabitants have however failed to realise is the fact that globalisation has steadily washed
away some of the basic values around traditional norms and taboos.
While almost all the districts in Mashonaland Central province have been involved in
violence at one point or the other, Mazowe and Shamva have been significantly outstanding
largely because the two are touted as the spines of ZANU PF ideology and the fact that there
Guruve Sth
Mashonaland Central Province

is prime land for agricultural purposes. To some extent, the districts are inhabited by
prominent politicians who would not let the constituencies to opposition political parties. The
proximity of the two districts to Harare has also influenced violence as people can easily
move from the capital city of Harare to campaign for their political cause. Actually, during a
2001 by-election that was held in Bindura following the death of the sitting Member of
Parliament Border Gezi, one of the contesting political parties then, MDC deployed its
campaign teams from Harare via Domboshava communal areas which is about 30 kilometres
away. This move was precipitated by the fact that ZANU PF had sealed the entire
constituency from other parties. Apparently, Mazowe borders with Harare along the
Borrowdale and Marlborough areas while Shamva is about 40 kilometres away.
It is important to highlight the fact that most of the conflicts that have been recorded were
experienced around election periods. What traditionally happens in Zimbabwe is that at least
60-45 days before the election date, the election management body, Zimbabwe Election
Commission (ZEC) holds a Nomination Court to accept names of all possible candidates in
the pending plebiscite following a Presidential proclamation in a Government Gazette. Prior
to the Nomination Court, no-one is allowed to campaign for any post. This process has not
taken into consideration the role and effect of the Delimitation Commission which draws
boundaries for political constituencies. It is after this nomination and opening of the
campaign space that political parties embark on terror campaigns through the youth
constituency. In the majority of cases, the youth are mobilised and abused in violence and
terror projects by senior political leaders mainly because of their idleness. During the process,
they are promised jobs, beer, political apparel and even marijuana drugs. To the youth, the
fact that they spend their time with senior politicians, drinking beer and driving around makes
them feel excited and very happy. At the end of the day, the youth are assigned to carry out

heinous acts of violence against their political rivals. It is also important to mention that while
the youth are at the forefront in violence, they are supported by the hard power sector,
ultimately giving them courage and blessings. This only applies to the youth aligned to the
ruling party.
In the province, there is an unwritten belief within ZANU PF that Shamva is the haven of the
most audacious and brutal youth who can be easily mobilised to inflict terror on the members
of the opposition parties. This has been witnessed on several occasions but most prominent
was when Chiwaridzo township of Bindura was `invaded' by the MDC in 2001 before the
youth from Shamva Tafuna small-scale mining area were deployed to reclaim the township.
During the clashes, 5 people were killed and several others were injured and property
destroyed. Unfortunately, the cases were suppressed from the media and the Police made no
arrests (Dodo and Musorowegomo, 2012).
In most of the incidences where people fight in both districts, the leadership ends up
consulting with the traditional healers and Christian prophets for cleansing and leave the foot
soldiers facing the potential consequences of misfortunes and avenging spirits. There is a
general belief that the traditional cleansing ceremonies protect perpetrators from the ills of
crime while some simply believe that traditional taboos and norms are supposed to deter
people from engaging in violence.
It is important to note that the two districts were selected for this study mainly because of the
following reasons: their proximity to Harare makes the study easy in terms of movement and
coordination; the two districts are still strong adherents to the concept of traditional taboos;
the districts also experienced enough political violence to meet the requirements of this study

and that there are different ethnic groups in both districts so much so that they are be able to
input their understanding of taboos in the study.
The conflicts studied in this research are political: pitting ZANU PF against the MDC party
membership. What must be realised is that whilst the study talks of the above parties, there
may be involvement of other political ideologies which may not be adequately captured and
discussed. However, the two remain the most prominent and most active. ZANU-PF has been
the ruling party since 1980 independence from the Ian Smith regime and has dominated the
province until in year 2000 when the MDC claimed some percentage of the membership. In
this study, what is referred to as MDC is the main faction of the two MDC formations led by
Morgan Tsvangirai.
1.3 Shamva District
Until probably year 2000, Shamva district was largely divided into four main settlement
types; communal areas where the generality of the black subsistence farmers lived,
commercial farming areas where the majority of white farmers lived, semi-urban areas that
provide with commercial services like government offices, post offices, banks and high
density settlements and the mining areas where commercial mining took place resulting in
some urban-like settlement sprouting. Presently, the district is characterised by basically three
settlement types; semi-urban at Wadzanayi Township, commercial farming area and
communal areas. However, what is most striking about the commercial farming areas is the
fact that there is not much difference now between the `commercial' and the `communal'
farmers following the 2000-2004 land reform exercise. That alone has meant heightened
unemployment especially for the youth and subsequent poverty for the entire communities.
All the three settlement areas are also characterised by a politically polarised atmosphere.

The district is under the following traditional leaders; chief Nyamaropa in the central region,
chief Madziwa to the north, chief Mutumba to the west and chief Bushu in the east and
Headman Mushowani.
Shamva is known to be politically violent in selected areas like Wadzanayi where there is a
lot of influence from the administrative political structures, Tafuna, Madziva Teachers'
College and Chindunduma/Corner Store general areas mainly because of the influence from
illegal artisanal miners locally called `makorokoza' who are generally extremists in
behaviour. Illegal miners are of no fixed abode and therefore prepared to commit crimes and
easily slip away without any trace. However, the opposition MDC party has some political
support around Shamva Gold Mine and in Wadzanayi Township largely because of their
urban nature and the fact that there are workers who feel the effects of a poorly performing
economy. Madziwa Business Centre and Chihuri general area are also notorious for political
violence and they are influenced by being in the midst of the communal area which is a
stronghold of ZANU PF. It is also suspected that political culprits take comfort in the fact
that, it is the home area of the Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.
1.4 Mazowe District
Like Shamva, Mazowe district is characterised by four settlement types; urban areas in
Glendale, Concession, Christon Bank, and Mvurwi, mining settlements in the mining areas of
Mazowe Jumbo, Iron Duke and Ceasar, communal area largely in Chiweshe and commercial
farming areas throughout the district. The district has 29 wards, 13 of which are in Chiweshe
Communal Area and a population of 156,693 people as at 2012 national census (Zimstat,
2012). All the 429 commercial farms measuring 343,378 hectares that were in the district

before the 2000-2004 land reform exercise were compulsorily acquired rendering almost all
the previously employed farm workers jobless (Matondi, 2013).
Mazowe district is under the following traditional leaders; chief Chiweshe to the south, chief
Negomo to the east, chief Makope to the north and headman Nyachuru in the south as well.
The district, home to the Mbuya Nehanda spirit medium of the 1800 still practices some of its
traditional cultural systems albeit with some interference from various Christian religions like
the Salvation Army and the Apostolic churches and the influence of globalisation.
The district has known pockets that are politically volatile. Gweshe, Nzvimbo, Jaji, Bare and
Chideu general areas (all in the communal areas) are places where ZANU PF has over the
years maintained its grip and so dominated violently. The traditional leadership has also
played some role towards strengthening the domination of ZANU PF party; with chiefs and
kraal heads threatening to evict their subjects who are suspected of siding with the opposition
political movements. Some of these traditional leaders have stretched their influence into the
former commercial farming areas contrary to the dictates of the Traditional Leaders' Act
which stipulates that traditional leaders only govern in the communal areas. This is evidenced
by Chief Negomo's futile attempts at prosecuting people in the commercial farming areas and
urban towns since 2009. The political situation in Glendale, Concession and Mvurwi, all
urban areas, is tricky as both political movements: ZANU PF and MDC have almost equal
support and therefore can square up when it comes to violence.
Statement of the Problem
People have been killing each other for political reasons in Zimbabwe ignoring the threats
and reality surrounding repercussions of some of the taboos in African traditions regarding

life. Most of the killing, injuries and hatred have been perpetrated on the weaker and
vulnerable part of the society by the supposedly stronger without any regard for the negative
repercussions legally, socially, morally or otherwise. Most of the regulatory systems
witnessed in these areas have been enforced by the influence of the taboos. But how
sustainable is the African traditional taboo system as a mode of social behaviour control in
the face of modernity?
1.6 Objectives
To successfully engage in the research, the following objectives were formulated and are to
be achieved.
To identify taboos which are in use as conflict restraint apparatus.
To analyse the nexus between the Zimbabwean traditional belief system and the
contemporary western approach to conflict.
To explore the influence of taboos in conflict escalation/de-escalation in Zimbabwe.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the traditional taboo system in conflict resolution in
a) To assess the influence of modernity on the traditional African belief systems.
1.7 Research Questions
In-order for the study to be focussed, there is need for a clearly drawn set of questions that
will then set the route for the entire research. Research questions are important in any
research because they help explain what the study will be set to establish. According to
Maxwell (2005), primarily, research questions serve two purposes; to assist in focussing the
study, that is the relationship between questions and goals and the conceptual framework and

to guide the process, that is the relationship between questions and methodology and validity.
For this study, below are the set questions that guided the study:
What are some of the African traditional taboos that are still in use in Mashonaland
Central province?
How does society reconcile with the traditional African beliefs and practices?
Have taboos been of any meaningful importance in restraining behaviour and restoring
How could taboos be modernised for the globalised conflict-ridden society?
1.8 Structure of the Whole Report
The thesis is presented in a logical sequence following the requirements of the University. It is
presented according to chapters, One to Six. Chapter one simply presents an introduction to the study
before background information is presented in detail. Basically, this chapter addresses the following
areas; research objectives and questions, statement of the problem and its scope. It is outlined in a
manner clear enough to allow consumers to easily follow the argument. This is followed by Chapter
Two which reviews literature. Literature Review is a
critical understanding of what the other
scholars have said and researched on the same subject. The chapter also reviews other
documentation and policies from other related stakeholders.
Chapter Three is also presented
looking at the mode through which the study was technically
conducted specifically concentrating on the various operations of the research, theoretically and
philosophically. This chapter deals with the real operations of the research process, the planning,
execution, moderation and analysis of the results and deduction mechanisms. The research design and
paradigms, data collection tools, analysis methods, issues about validity, reliability and relatability
and ethical considerations are discussed in this chapter. This is followed by Chapter Four which

discusses the theories and conceptual framework designed during the study. Chapter Four focuses on
some of the theories that could be used to guide the research before closely outlining the main theory
which is the Deterrence Theory of Punishment. Weaknesses and strengths of all the selected theories
are unravelled in an effort to get the most appropriate guiding theory.
Chapter Five discusses the collection of data from the participants through all the three modes;
interviews, focus group discussions and archival material. After the relevant data mobilisation, it is
presented in its semi-raw form before analysis is conducted. It also looks at how the interviews and
FGD were conducted, the challenges and successes that were encountered on the ground. Results
from the three data collection means is presented and interpreted accordingly creating relevant themes
in line with those created by the Deterrence Theory of Punishment in Chapter Three.
Chapter Six simply condenses what has been mobilised during the research prominently highlighting
most of the creative and innovative ideas from the findings. This chapter answers whether the
objectives of the study have been achieved or not and reveals any new knowledge that has been added
on to the academia body. However, because there were other new areas that were noted but not
answered, it brings out other areas for further research. After this chapter, come the Appendices and
1.9 Summary
This first chapter of the study presented an introduction to the study by highlighting the
background to the study: the conflicts that were experienced during the period under review,
participants, taboos involved and the modus of implementation of the noted taboos in conflict
management. The chapter also explained the geographical location of the areas under study
before narrating the districts' social, political and economic activities as a way of presenting
some background to the areas under study. It also looked at the research objectives, research

questions, limitations and delimitations to the study so that the reader appreciates the scope of
the study and the path through which the researcher will follow in unlocking the puzzle. Also
touched in this chapter is the statement of the problem which has been presented in a detailed
manner and some of the key terms that were identified and defined as they will be applied in
the entire study.

Chapter Two
2.1 Introduction
Every family has ways and practices that are meant to socialise members so that their
behaviours and ways of conducting themselves in public are within the expected norms as per
their traditions and cultures. To achieve those expected norms and standards, society has
some rules that have survived the test of time and have almost become part of social laws;
meant to restrain and or regulate people's behaviour. Over the years, it has been these social
rules that have to some extent, controlled and policed society. Confirming the same notion
are Haralambos and Holborn (2000), Afe (2013) and Emmanuel (2009) when they note that
`every culture has a long list of guidelines that direct conduct in particular situations. These
are taboos and Gelfand (1979) calls them `avoidance rules'. Arifalo (2005) also contributes in
the debate giving out that during the pre-colonialist era, taboos were the only measure of
social restraint and duty and the foundation of the entire social order. However, another
school of thought argues that all these traditional African systems are fast eroding away
through the inculcation of Western ideologies and technologies (Eyong and Foy, 2006).
The essence of this study was to analyse the role that taboos have played in the Zimbabwean
conflicts either as a restraining mechanism or as a conflict motivator. It is also important to
highlight the fact that the conflict that was experienced in the areas under study never
assumed an ethnic dimension as to the Shona versus either the Ndebele or whites or the Kore-
Kore versus either the Ndau or Venda. Rather, it simply followed purely political lines as to
which political party or orientation one followed. However, in this chapter, the focus is on

critically understanding what the other scholars have said and researched on the same subject.
The chapter also reviewed other documentation and policies from other related stakeholders.
2.2 Indigenous Knowledge
Indigenous knowledge is infrequently documented, and is usually passed on by word of
mouth between generations; but much information is only used in exceptional situations and
so may fail to be passed down to upcoming generations. It is often active knowledge that
may only be reserved if it is in use. Dora-Hoppers (2001) cited in Maila and Loubser (2003)
explains indigenous knowledge as `information that is defined by its embeddedness in the
cultural network and history of persons together with their development which is the spine of
the social, economic, and technical identity of such persons'. On the other hand,
describes it as
what native people have always known and done for ages; customs that
developed through test and error and also proved flexible to deal with change.
Indigenous knowledge driven systems are steadily being worn-out chiefly due to the adoption
of modernity (UNEP, 2003). Eyong (2003b) also notes and laments the
fast erosion of
indigenous knowledge and attributes it to globalisation, colonialism, commercialisation, and
lack of competent codification, modernisation, collapse of the customary family constitution
and role, induced community displacements, and the shrink in the practitioner support. It is
this erosion of indigenous knowledge that has affected the relevance and sustenance of
traditional taboos in the developing world. Eyong further opines that IK is a critical engine
for sustainable development arguing that lack of it means that people will not have a base
from which to initiate their developments and programmes.

Similarly, Nyota and Mapara (2008) give out that indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) like
songs and children's games are some of the ways that were used to pass on knowledge and
history to younger generations. It is argued that, through these systems, children could be
socialised into morally acceptable habits so much so that they grew up as up-right
2.3 Taboos
A taboo is a prohibition due to sacredness or some other reason defined by society. It is
enforced by social convention and practice whereby society believes that any violator of the
norms will suffer or face some misfortune. According to Osei (1995), a taboo is a derived
Polynesian word `tabu' which means prohibited. In Greek, it is similar to `sacer, Kadesh' in
Hebrew, `Nso' in Igbo, `Zviera' in Shona, and `mmusu' in Akan language. The essence
behind taboos or avoidance rules, according to Gelfand (1981) and Dodo et al (2012) is that a
child in a family must conform and behave like others in order to avoid an unusual
occurrence. Any unusual behaviour in any member of the family would mean an outcast.
Similarly, people were expected to be afraid of some behaviours and activities that they were
involved in because of the repercussions thereto. Thody (1997) however defined a taboo as a
precautionary belief that hampered open exchange of ideas as it forces adherents to follow its
dictates or face punitive measures. Most taboos have their roots in the history or the myth of a
community and initiation into a deity service. Taboos are not cast in stone that they are static
across generations and time. Instead, they can be changed, wiped off or have others devised
and added onto the list depending on the prevailing circumstances and challenges,
geographical location, culture and people's perception towards their resources and heritage.
First and foremost, societies make norms which serve as guidelines for expected behaviours
in particular societies, times and situations. It is from these norms that laws, folkways, taboos

and mores are derived. A folkway is a practice for daily behaviour that individuals adhere to
for convenience though no violation of any of it has serious consequences. On the other hand,
a more is a practice based on morality and the society strongly believes in it so much so that
any violation usually results in condemnation. Unlike the above two norms, a law is a
practice that is on paper and enforced by an authorized organization. It is mandatory that its
violation results in a particular sentence (Giddens, 2001, Macionis and Plummer, 2002).
Taboos were traditionally regarded as part of traditional education system. According to
Omobola (2013) and Kagan (2012), societies were expected to socialise their youth into their
customs, religious philosophy, ethical values and societal views of the entire community
through its traditional education. There are also arguments to the effect that traditional
education was responsible for the continued existence of some societies prior to the coming
of contemporary technical inventions.
Taboos may cover a variety of subjects, such as restrictions on same family marriages,
restrictions on consumption of some foods, conditions on dressing and killing a person or
killing a sacred animal. Interestingly, most of the scholars around the concept of taboos
acknowledge that while taboos have over the years managed to control societies, there is an
element of falsehood. These taboos are then grouped by Gelfand into six categories according
to the following themes; those that talk about avoidance of danger, good behaviour, living in
the correct way, successful pregnancy, healthy living, and those conveying religious
teachings while Madu (2002) indicates that when something is said to be taboo, it must not be
touched, talked about, or looked at. Meanwhile, Thody (1997) also categorises taboos into
five distinct forbidden groups; actions, nourishment, themes, ideas, and signs.

Meanwhile, Bozongwana (1983) goes on to classify the same taboos in a slightly different
manner from that of Gelfand. Bozongwana's approach groups them according to the people
who are affected by them. As such, the classification is according to those that affect men,
those that affect children, those that affect women, and those simply classified as general
taboos. Tatira (2000) presents a slightly different perspective to the background of taboos.
This is evidenced in the argument that taboos were traditionally a mechanism to regulate and
control the behaviours of children when they grew up. The emphasis is on children and the
argument is that children's behaviour could only be moulded at an early age. Subsequently,
Tatira thematically groups these taboos into 5 categories; those that are meant to guard
against bad behaviour, those that warn against danger, and those that conscientise children on
issues pertaining to health, those that are meant to prevent cruelty, and others grouped under
miscellaneous. All these scholars' approaches to the question about taboos are different
though they seek to relay the same message. This is seen in Pfukwa (2001) conception of
taboos where he views them in their practical usage. Precisely, Pfukwa groups them
according to those that related to wild animals and birds, those that related to land, and those
that related to people. Although he had specific categories, he went on to talk about other
specific taboos for specific events and activities. No wonder why he elaborately talked about
taboos related to the Zimbabwe's liberation struggle.
Taboos are one of the earliest social systems that regulated society (Cassier, 1972). Over
time, these were developed and more of them were added by religious priests and community
leaders as a way of over-hauling the entire social system. Again, over time, the same religious
leaders assimilated them into their sects or belief systems and transformed them into
something more sacred and supernatural as they consolidated their power and control over
societies. The few taboos that were not assimilated and remained in the minority religions or

cultures like the traditional African system were rubbished as `savage taboos' by
philosophers and anthropologists like Cassier and others. Overall, from the arguments posited
by various scholars, it can be safely observed that taboos are strong sanctions required for the
effective control of societal behaviour.
It must however be realised that in many African societies Zimbabwe included, esteemed
taboos are now on the periphery and rapidly phasing out mainly due to socio-economic
challenges and the wave of modernisation that has flown across the borders. Their role of
protecting the natural surroundings, order, peace and the uprightness of African societal
structures has been exposed to extinction (Mawere and Kadenge, 2010).
2.4 The Shona People's Beliefs about Taboos.
Since time immemorial, the Shona people have always believed in the Supreme Being (God)
and have been worshipping through the ancestral spirits. That religious structure worked
effectively so much so that whatever people prayed for was delivered. The Shona people also
believed that whenever a person disrespected a taboo, the ancestors sent serious misfortunes
and unusual occurrences as a way of punishing. If one killed another, no matter the reason,
the spirit of the dead could then return to the perpetrator usually at night and inquire why the
murder was committed. The appearance of the dead is so traumatising that the perpetrator and
the rest of the family are forced to seek amends. There are also instances when the dead can
appear as a ghost to several other members of the perpetrator's family as a way of influencing
the entire family to make amends and compensate. However Masaka and Chemhuru (2011)
think otherwise as seen in their argument that Shona taboos only stir-up fear in people, which
has no fundamental significance, "but is a means to an end" - good behaviour.

In most cases, the spirit of the dead comes to a member of the perpetrator's family in a trance
and outline the circumstances surrounding the murder act as a way of ensuring that everyone
is convinced that it is the spirit of X deceased. The spirit then makes relevant demands to the
perpetrator failure of which people may start to die mysteriously. The entire family may in
other cases, perish except the perpetrator so that he/she pays up. The Shona people also
believe that once a person has killed (kubata ropa) another say in a war situation, he/she is
supposed to be cleansed to remove all the evil spirits associated with that war. This is done
through a special traditional process that involves traditional brew. According to Honwana
(1999), this avenging spirit called `ngozi' in Shona is similar to the ones in Mozambique
which are called `mipfhukwa'.
It is also believed by the Shona people that whenever a taboo has been tampered with, the
entire community may be able to tell through the subsequent implications in the community.
In some cases, there may be droughts, unusual occurrences of say baboons in a village
contrary to the norms and trends and that people may lose their teeth in the event that they ate
their totems. In the Shona culture and traditions, there are several taboos that are recognised
and whose infringement can be deadly. These and several others have been respected and
help to regulate society.
2.5 The Zezuru, Taboos and Conflict Prevention
It should not surprise that the study only focused on the Zezuru people and yet initially, it
indicated that there are several ethnic groups in the two areas under study. What must be
realised is that the Zezuru people constitute the majority (about 96%)
of the entire
According to a source within the Registrar General of Births and Deaths' (RG) office in Bindura. RG is the department
responsible for the registration of people in Zimbabwe.
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Taboo Systems as a Conflict Restraint in the Political Feud in Zimbabwe. An Exploration of Mazowe and Shamva districts, post independence
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Obediah Dodo (Author), 2016, Taboo Systems as a Conflict Restraint in the Political Feud in Zimbabwe. An Exploration of Mazowe and Shamva districts, post independence, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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