The Dombe people are the original inhabitants of the upper Zambezi Valley and are descendants of the Toka Leya who are found across the Zambezi River in Zambia. In their early history there were no borders between Zambia and Zimbabwe. When the Nambya people began to migrate, they settled among the Dombe and there was some assimilation.
Living within the Hwange district in north-western Zimbabwe has always been a challenge for the Dombe. The area is hot and dry. The soil is sandy and there is a limited amount of available water for irrigation. They have been somewhat successful in growing drought-tolerant varieties of maize, sorghum, millet and tobacco. They also have had to face displacement as some of their settlements were transformed into the Hwange National Park and were located in areas where coal mining was developing. Traditionally Dombe built and lived in simple houses made from timber frames covered with reed woven side walls and thatch roofs. These have contributed to health problems, fires and the need for constant maintenance. In addition to these problems there is now a shortage of natural materials. They are trying to build their houses of mud bricks which is safer.
The Dombe have had a strong moral code to live by which includes respecting their elders and honoring their parents. Their tribal structure has gone through changes. The head of the families is in charge of taking care of any problems or issues that come up with their families. In some of the villages an elected man known as a Kraal is still responsible for evaluating any serious criminal or civil disputes that occur among the people. If a person is found guilty of committing a crime or offense his case used to be given to the headman and counsel to decide on punishment. Serious offenses include killing, witchcraft, stealing or injuring others. Punishments included fines, restoration, torture, banishment from the tribe or death. Imprisonment was not an option. From there the headman gave the information to the chief of the tribes.
Currently the Dombe do not have chiefs. They try to settle minor problems within their families, clans or tribes. However serious offenses are expected to be handled under the civil justice imposed by the Zimbabwean courts. The Dombe feel their culture is under serious threat. The Zimbabwean constitution states that every person in the country has the right to maintain their traditional language and culture. However, this is changing, and now strong effort has been made to force the Dombe to learn Ndebele or Tonga as these are more common spoken languages. Most of their cultural dances and traditions are disappearing.
Although fundamental Christianity has had a strong influence in the lives of many people groups in Zimbabwe, only about 15% of the 7,000 Dombe are Christian believers. They have a strong, indigenous religion that plays a vital role in their lives as individuals or as a unified group. Most Dombes firmly believe in a strong communication with the spirits of dead ancestors who they believe help them in their daily lives. For this reason, the spirits have many functions in their lives such as protection against evil spirits, communication with the supreme (creator) god and helping them maintain their moral code of living. Often if they feel the communication with their ancestors is weak, they seek out the help of a “holy” person to seek answers for problems or other issues in their lives. This may take place in a special “holy” place that can be in a natural location such as a cave, tree, mountain or by a river. Many Christian Dombe highly respect their ancestors and turn to them for help when needed.
The Dombe need strong Christian leadership to guide them into holy living. Many declared Dombe’s Christians need revival and integrity to live by Christian principles and not mix ancestral worship with their beliefs.
Poverty, job loss, health issues and education are all problems the Dombe face. The government has implemented some minor programs to help them; however, lack of funds has limited this help.
Pray that programs to assists them in their daily living will improve their lives.
Pray that outside Christians will understand that they are vitally needed to intercede and help the Dombe become strong believers.
Pray for a Holy Spirit sent revival to bless the Dombe people and use them as an example of what God can do.
Scripture Prayers for the Dombe in Zimbabwe.
|Profile Source: Joshua Project
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|Matabeleland North province: Hwange district, Lukosi area; southwest of confluence of Zambezi and Shangani rivers. Source: Ethnologue 2016