Role of chiefs in tourism branding

17 Sep, 2023 - 00:09 0 Views
Role of chiefs in tourism branding Chiefs serve as custodians of their community’s cultural heritage


 Charles Mavhunga

COLONISATION had a significant impact on traditional chiefs in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The British colonial authorities implemented a system of indirect rule that involved co-opting and controlling traditional leaders to maintain control over the indigenous population, and Africans got abused.

Colonisation disrupted traditional systems of governance. The power and autonomy of chiefs to institute the deep cultural values of Africans were diminished because the colonialists created a system that forced the administrator to become subordinate to it.

They were no longer the sole decision-makers in their communities and had to adhere to colonial laws. The colonial system diluted the powers of the chiefs, and this explains why some of the natural resorts have colonial names.

The areas include Victoria Falls, instead of Mosi-oa-Tunya (Shungu Nyamutitima), under Chief Mukuni of the Tonga; and Prince of Wales in Nyanga, under chiefs like Saunyama, Katerere, Mupatsi or Tangwena, who are the custodians of the resort centre.

The major issue is that the colonial system sought to destroy the African brand from the global picture, hence the call to rejuvenate the tourism brand architecture through chiefs in independent Zimbabwe.

The introduction of cash crops, wage labour and private land ownership disrupted traditional communal land tenure systems and weakened the chiefs’ control over allocation of the key resource.

The colonial authorities often favoured chiefs who were compliant with their policies, leading to divisions and conflicts within communities. Some chiefs collaborated with the colonial administration, while others resisted colonisation and faced marginalisation or removal from their positions.

Those who defied some of the colonial orders include Chief Chingaira, Chief Mashayamombe, King Lobengula, Chief Mangwende and religious leaders such as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi. Some of the religious leaders and prominent chiefs got hanged and their heads were cut off and taken to museums in the United Kingdom.

Mbuya Nehanda warned the colonialists: “Mapfupa angu achamuka” (my bones shall arise), and this manifested itself in the emergence of the Second Chimurenga that liberated Zimbabwe.

It is against this background that this article is focusing on the role chiefs in independent Zimbabwe should play to rejuvenate the prominence of the tourism brand in the country.

To correct the distortions made by the colonial leadership, chiefs in the country should perform the following roles to brand the tourism industry:

  1. Cultural preservation: Chiefs serve as custodians of their community’s cultural heritage.

They can play a vital role in preserving and showcasing traditional arts, crafts, music, dance, rituals and other cultural practices that can attract tourists seeking authentic experiences. Resort centres that still have colonial names should be renamed. The new names should be associated with the cultural values recognised by the local chief.

  1. Authenticity: Chiefs should share the history of their forefathers and traditions. Chiefs provide authentic and unique narratives. This serves to enhance the tourism branding of their regions and creates a sense of connection with the cultural values observed in the area, thus, promoting the African brand.
  2. Community engagement: Chiefs are highly respected community leaders. They can engage with local communities to ensure tourism development aligns with the traditional heritage values observed in the area.
  3. Sustainable development: Chiefs often have a deep understanding of the local environment and natural resources. This means they can play a crucial role in promoting sustainable tourism practices that protect the environment, preserve biodiversity and support the well-being of local communities.
  4. Conflict resolution: In cases where conflicts arise between different stakeholders involved in tourism development, chiefs can use their influence and mediation skills to resolve the disputes and find mutually beneficial solutions.
  5. Destination promotion: Chiefs can actively participate in promotional activities to attract tourists to their regions. They can collaborate with tourism authorities, travel agencies and other stakeholders to showcase the unique cultural and natural attractions of their communities, thereby contribute to the branding and marketing efforts of the destination.


Charles Mavhunga co-authored textbooks in business enterprising skills and is currently studying for a PhD in Management at Bindura University. He can be contacted at: [email protected], Cell: 0772989816.


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