Rhodesian Place Names

MOUNT DARWIN


Latitude 16 48' S, Longitude 31 30' E, Altitude 965 m (3,185 ft), Rainfall 760 mm (30 in)

Mount Darwin is a township in the north east of Rhodesia, and the hill is known to the Africans as 'Pfura' meaning a large Rhino. The people of the district are of the Makorekore tribe who have a number of different clans, each of which has its own mutupo, or totem. It was named by Selous after Charles Darwin. Gold is the only mineral which has been worked and after the occupation very little mining of any kind was carried out. This is strange since the Darwin district was reputed to be mineralised on account of the extensive old workings. It is more likely that its inaccessibility was the cause of its neglect.

On the summit of Pfura there are the remains of stone walls, thought to have been built by the Makorekore. With the discovery of the Shamva mine in 1909 the district was over run by prospectors who thought there was probably more gold to be found further to the north, but they restricted themselves to pegging claims and little actual mining took place. Included in this area is a piece of land known as Lawley's Concession, an area of 40 000 ha granted to Pauling and Lawley in consideration of their services in connection with the railway construction from Beira to Salisbury. The concession is now used for ranching, but minerals were formerly worked by the Monomapta Concessions Ltd. This Company commenced operations at the Ruia Mine where a large body of auriferous schist had supposedly been discovered. Although this discovery attracted considerable attention to the district, the mineral rights in Concession area belonged to the owners so claims could not be pegged under ordinary prospecting licences. In addition to the Ruia, two other small mines were located on the Concession; they were the Old Shambuki and the Monkey Mine. Alluvial gold was obtained from washing the sands of the Ruya and Bemberi rivers and a large number of quartz reefs were sampled in an endeavour to find the source of the gold. All drew blanks, with the exception of some low values from a big blow of quartz close to the confluence of the Ruya and Bemberi rivers. Gold was also panned from the banded ironstone on Dunkerry farm.

The area towards the north of Mount Darwin is designated Tribal Trust Land, and contains a large population of tribesmen. The Evangelical Alliance Mission operate a number of stations in the Tribal Trust Land, including a large hospital at Karanda Mission. Terrorist incursions took place in this area during 1974, and the village itself became a target for attack.

Darwin was probably the earliest site of missionary endeavour in what is now Rhodesia. Father da Silveria, a Jesuit priest, landed at Sofala in 1560, and was the first known missionary to the Africans in Southern Africa. After working among the tribes of what is now Mozambique, he resolved to labour among the Makalanga people. After receiving the approval of the Monamatapa, who also lived in the area, he proceeded to the Chief's kraal, known as Zimboe (not to be confused with Zimbabwe). The missionary was received with great hospitality, and he was showered with gifts of gold, cattle and female slaves, which he courteously declined. After a month of expounding the Christian faith, the Chief and his wife were baptized, followed by 300 of his people. But Silviera's work was soon frustrated by Mahommedan traders who had witnessed with alarm the spread of the Christian faith. They poisoned the Chief's mind against Silveira and represented him as a witch doctor. The Chief soon reverted to his heathen way and a conspiracy against the missionary was planned, and he was brutally strangled on March 16,1561. His body was cast into the Musengezi river as an offering to the crocodiles.

Darwin originally belonged to the native district of Mazoe, which in January 1899 was divided into the districts of North and South Mazoe. The former included the Darwin area, but in September 1909, it was formally changed to the Darwin district.

The Africa Trans-Continental Telegraph line, which formed part of Rhodes' dream to have British territories linked from Cape to Cairo, was originally planned to pass through Mount Darwin on its way to Tete, in Mozambique. A temporary connection had been established when the Mashona Rebellion broke out, and much of the line was destroyed by the rebels. In addition the construction camp was attacked and Capt. McCullum, one of the constructors, was brutally murdered at Matatima. The Native Commissioner from Mazoe, who had gone to warn the construction parties of the danger, was himself attacked by his own native police and his mutilated body was found near Mount Darwin. The line was abandoned and later constructed to Tete from Inyanga. Some of the material which had been carried by porters to the construction depots beyond Mount Darwin was abandoned, and reports are still received of telegraph poles lying there.

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Most of the information on this page is extracted from the books :
"Avondale to Zimbabwe" written and published by R. Cherer Smith ISBN 0-7974-0313-2 and
"Tabex Encyclopedia Zimbabwe" Quest Publishing ISBN 0-908306-04-0
with additional notes and photographs by the webmaster and other contributors as acknowledged.