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Tsholotsho District

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Title: Tsholotsho District  
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Subject: Geography of Zimbabwe, Districts of Zimbabwe, Tsholotsho District, Bubi District, Umguza District
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Tsholotsho District

Tjolotjo, Zhwane
Tsholotsho in Matabeleland North Prov.
Tsholotsho in Matabeleland North Prov.
Country Zimbabwe
Province Matabeleland North
 • Member of Parliament Jonathan Moyo
 • Total 7,844 km2 (3,029 sq mi)
Population (2005)
 • Total 119,681
 • Density 16/km2 (40/sq mi)
Time zone SAST (UTC+2)

Tsholotsho District is an administrative district of Matabeleland North Province, Zimbabwe. Its administrative centre is the business centre of Tsholotsho which is located about 65 km north-west of Nyamandhlovu,and 98 km north-west of Bulawayo as the bird flies, in the Tjolotjo communal land. Districts around Tsholotsho include Lupane, Hwange, Umguza, and Bulilimamangwe District (formerly Plumtree District).


Before the Mfecane of the 1800s, the area was occupied by the San with the name "Tsholotsho" (alternate spelling "Tjolotjo") being derived from the San word “Holohou” meaning the head of an elephant. The area was a favourite of the elephant herds and had attracted early ivory hunters. When the Matabele arrived in 1838 the area held mostly Maswara bushmen, who were not true bushmen but a mixture of the San and others, and elephants were still to be found in abundance. The name "Tsholotsho" was adopted by Mzilikazi and his people as they entered what then became Matabeleland from the north in search of new pastures and lands and fleeing the tsetse fly of the lowlands.

The settlement of Tsholotsho is situated about 65 kilometres west of Nyamandhlovu in the Gwaai Tribal Trust land. It has been an administrative centre for the trust land for many years and fell under the jurisdiction of the Native Commissioner for Nyamandhlovu who first assumed responsibility in 1909. Prior to this date the area fell under the jurisdiction of the Superintendent of Natives at Bulawayo.

The village is linked to Plumtree by a dirt road and other roads lead through very heavy Kalahari sands (Gusu) into the Gwaai Tribal areas and beyond into the forest reserves. The soils around the precincts of the village are regosols derived from Kalahari sands and shallow rocky basalt-derived pockets are to be found in the district. There is a belt of alluvium along the Gwaai river which has led numerous prospectors in the search of minerals and precious and semi-precious stones. An industrial school was founded at Tjolotjo in 1921 by H. S. Keigwin, who also had a hand in establishing a similar institution at Domboshawa the following year. The original course was designed by E. D. Alvord, who was then an agricultural missionary at Mount Selinda, where he had started instructing African students on similar lines in 1920. The school was moved to Essexvale between the years 1941 and 1944 and renamed 'Esigodini'. It is fitting that Mr. Alvord's son D. L. Alvord should have been appointed the principal of the college.

After the college was transferred to Essexvale, the vacated land was used as an experimental substation of the Matopos Research station, where the work is primarily concerned with the breeding of indigenous Nkone or 'manguni' cattle. These animals which originally came from Swaziland and Zululand, were brought by the Matabele during their northward migrations during the first half of the 19th century. These cattle are believed to have originated from a shorthorn-sanga cross. The name sanga was applied to the giant horned cattle of Abyssinia. The head and horns form the principal conformational features by which the breed is identified; their most characteristic feature when mature, being the lyre-shape.



Tsholotsho is located in an area which once used to be a water logged basin over 250 million years ago. This basin can be traced as far North as Hwange and is responsible for the formation of the coal deposits in Hwange. Tsholotsho has two principal rivers which are Manzamnyama and Gwayi. The rivers are relatively wide being over 100m in places but usually only flow during the rains.

Tsholotsho is composed of mainly three types of soils.The Kalahari Sands cover over 70% of the Tsholotsho land area. These are located on the North Western areas of Tsholotsho from Korodziba through Dlamini right up to Jimila. The Kalahari Sands can also be found in the North-Central areas like Sipepa and Kapani. The rich black Clay soils are found in a 4 km wide belt stretching about 2 km either side of Gwayi River in what can be called “The Gwayi River flood plain”. This area is prone to flooding as in the case of Mahlaba and water logging as in the case of Shakiwa (Matemaule). The red clay soils can be found in the South Eastern areas of Tsholotsho right from Mapulubusi through Madona and right up to Ngqoya.

Flora and fauna

Tsholotsho is home to hardwoods such as the teak, these being found in the Kalahari sands. The clays are home to the thorn acacia and extensively covered grassland areas. Being located next to the massive Hwange National Park, Tsholotsho is home to basically all the animal species found in Zimbabwe, these being the elephants, buffaloes, lions, kudus and hundreds of other species.


Tsholotsho is home to three ethnic groups, these being the Ndebele, Kalanga and San. The principal language is Ndebele which is spoken by over 80% of the population and understood by over 90% of the population.


The main economic activity in Tsholotsho is farming. The soils are bad for cultivation except the black clay soils along Gwayi river. The Kalahari sands are surprisingly good for cattle rearing though they need massive investment in terms of reliable water provision and disease prevention. For those who cannot embark on either of the two economic activities the gold mines and farms of South Africa are the only solution hence the massive migration to South Africa in this district. An industrial school was founded here in 1921 but was relocated to Esigodini in 1941 and the old buildings taken over by the Matopos Research Station where cattle breeding is researched.

Transport and communication

Tsholotsho District has a relatively extensive road network system. Most of the roads are however unusable due to the extensive Kalahari sands covering the district. The road from Bulawayo to Tsholotsho District's main business centre is a tarred strip road for 103 km of its 117 km length. Upon reaching the Business Centre it branches into three main branches which further subdivide into smaller roads. Of note is the main road from the Business Centre to the Bulawayo - Victoria Falls highway which is now a tarred double lane road. The road passes through Nembe, Jimila, Tshino, Mcetshwa, Sipepa Business Centre, Gwayi Siding all the way to the Bulawayo - Victoria Falls highway. This road branches at Nembe; with a dirt road branching to the north-west later joining the main road at Sipepa business centre. The distance from Tsholotsho Business Centre to Sipepa Business centre is 113 km by this road as compared to 72 km when using the main road.

Another road leaves the Tsholotsho Business Centre in a westerly direction later branching about four times. The first branch is a road to Plumtree passing through Ehampeni,Mhlahlo, Emlotheni,Dinyane,Mbamba,Bhubhude, Matshangane and other villages. Another branch heads as far as Korodziba passing through Somlotha, Chief Mswigana, Dhlamini, Mazibisa and other notable villages.

Yet another branch goes beyond Butabubili, passing through Mgodi Masili and having a turnoff to the Seventh-day-Adventist-run Nemani Mission. Most of these roads link in places forming a surprisingly sophisticated web for a district generally regarded as poor.

Government and politics

Tsholotsho is a well known “battle ground” of Zimbabwean politics with the latest event being the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration of 2005 involving leading ZANU-PF members and Jonathan Moyo, in which they were accused of mooting a boardroom removal of President Mugabe. It was the location of a mass killing in 1983, as part of Robert Mugabe's "Gukurahundi". Jonathan Moyo, sometime information minister in the ZANU-PF government, was elected as an Independent MP for Tsholotsho.

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