Mthwakazi is a traditional nation made up of modern-day Matabeleland and parts of the modern-day midlands regions within the modern state of Zimbabwe. Modern-day Matabeleland is divided into three provinces: Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo, the capital of the region. These provinces are located in the west and south-west of modern-day Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. zimbabwe_map

The region is named after its inhabitants the Ndebele people. Other ethnic groups who inhabit parts of Matabeleland include the Tonga, Sotho, Kalanga, Venda among others. It has to be noted too that Mthwakazi is also home to non-Black citizens who include those of European and Asian decent among others.

Mthwakazi, to the south of Zimbabwe

Below are the proposed provinces of an autonomous Mthwakazi

Map of the Mthwakazi traditional state

Matabeleland makes just over 17 percent of the population of Zimbabwe. As of August 2012, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency or ZIMSTAT, the region had a combined population size of 2,086,247 in a surface of area of just over 130,000 square kilometres (just over the size of England). Matabeleland South had 683 893 people, of whom 326 697 were males and 356 926 were females; Matabeleland North province had a total population of 749 017 people out of the population of Zimbabwe of 13 061 239. The sex ratio (proportion of male and female population) was 48 and 52 percent, respectively, within an area of just over 75,017 square kilometres. Last but not least, in the same census, Bulawayo province had a population of 653,337 in an area of 1,706.8 square kilometres.

The major city is Bulawayo, other towns of note in the region are Beitbridge, Gwanda, Lupane, Plumtree, Victoria Falls and Hwange.

Bulawayo City Centre                  The Bulawayo City Centre street view

Bulawayo Central

An aerial view of the Bulawayo City Centre

The Matabeleland region is characterised by a generally harsh, hot and dry climate and suffers from frequent droughts leading to food and water scarcity. Although the land is particularly fertile, the dry climate makes large-scale crop production less viable for traditional farmers. In recognition to this, the colonial government formed large numbers of cattle ranches, and cattle ranching has proven to be more successful than growing crops in the province.

The mighty Zambezi River provides perhaps the best hope for a long-term solution to water problems in Matabeleland. Image result for zambezi riverHowever, Zimbabwe government plans to draw water from the Zambezi River to the region via the conveniently named project  Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project have yet to materialise meaning crop farming and industrial growth have continued to falter since the 1980 ‘independence’.

Drought impacts crop harvest

Drought impacting crop harvest in Matabeleland

Matabeleland perennial water problems: a woman fetches drinking water from a well along a dry riverbed

However, Matabeleland North is also home to significant reserves of economically viable resources like gold, limestone, methane gas, coal, and timber. As evidenced in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve, the region is also known for its substantial wildlife population. The most famous geographic feature of Matabeleland North is undoubtedly the Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfalls, located on the Zambezi river on the northern border of the province.

The Victoria Falls, to the west of Bulawayo (the capital of Matabeleland) is a major tourist resort that forms a common border between Mthwakazi and Zambia

Aerial view of the mighty Victoria Falls
Matobo Hills, Matabeleland South

Matopo Hills, Matabeleland South