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Exploring Gokwe: Places to Visit, Culture, and Population Insights

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Gokwe, formerly known as Sebungu, is a town in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe with a rich history dating back to the late 19th century.

Over the years, it has undergone several name changes and cultural transformations.

Exploring Gokwe: Places to Visit, Culture, and Population Insights

picture credit to Zim bhoo

This article provides a comprehensive overview of Gokwe, covering its historical background, population, notable places to visit, cultural practices, local governance, educational institutions, geographical location, climate, and more.

ALSO READ: https://zimprofiles.com/journey-through-chinhoyi-history-culture-and-the-silent-pool/


Gokwe’s journey began as Sebungu in 1898 and underwent various name changes, eventually settling on Gokwe in 1957.

The town’s nomenclature reflects its historical and cultural evolution.

The exact origin of the name Gokwe is a bit shrouded in mystery, with two main possibilities:

1. Tonga origin:

  • Many believe the name derives from the Tonga language, spoken by some of the earliest inhabitants of the region. In Tonga, “goko” can mean “outer shell” or “hard crust,” potentially referencing the rocky terrain or the presence of a large baobab tree.
  • Supporting evidence: This theory aligns with the historical presence of the Tonga people in the Gokwe area and the region’s geographical features.

2. Ndebele origin:

  • An alternative explanation suggests the name comes from the Ndebele language. Here, “Abashankwe” refers to a specific group of people who historically lived in the area.

  • Possible interpretation: The Ndebele name may have translated to “people who live alone” or “cut off from the south,” reflecting the region’s relative isolation before colonization.

Current usage:

  • Regardless of its precise origin, “Gokwe” has become the accepted name for the region and the two towns within it, Gokwe North and Gokwe South.

  • Local significance: The name carries cultural and historical importance for the various communities who call Gokwe home.

Adding to the mystery:

  • Some sources cite an additional theory, attributing the name to a Shona chief named Tawonesi. However, historical documentation supporting this claim is scarce.

Ultimately, the precise origin of Gokwe’s name remains debated.

Whether rooted in the Tonga language, the Ndebele experience, or another source, the name reflects the rich and diverse history of this Zimbabwean region.

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Brief History

The mystery of Gandavaroyi Falls, Gokwe. - Find&Go

Exploring Gokwe: picture credit to Find&Go

Sebungu, initially established on March 15, 1898, merged with Mapfungautsi in 1901 to become Sebungwu-Mapfungautsi.

The name Sebungu persisted until it was later condensed to Sebungwe in 1907 and finally renamed Gokwe on January 18, 1957.

The area has deep roots in traditional beliefs, with Tonga, Shona, and Ndebele tribes populating the region.

Gokwe, now encompassing Gokwe North and Gokwe South districts in Zimbabwe, boasts a rich and multifaceted history woven with tales of ancient inhabitants, colonial influences, and the resilience of its people. Let’s embark on a brief journey through time, unearthing the layers of Gokwe’s past:

Early Inhabitants:

  • Pre-colonial era: The earliest confirmed presence in Gokwe dates back to the Stone Age, with archaeological evidence suggesting habitation around 20,000 years ago. Later, Bantu-speaking communities, including the Shangwe and Tonga people, settled in the region, establishing their cultural practices and traditions.

  • Shangwe Legacy: The Shangwe people, known for their ironworking skills and agricultural practices, left a significant mark on Gokwe. Their traditional stone ruins and burial mounds are scattered throughout the district, serving as tangible reminders of their rich history.

Colonial Arrival:

  • Late 19th century: European colonization arrived in the late 19th century, with the British South Africa Company claiming vast swathes of land, including Gokwe. The region was incorporated into Southern Rhodesia, marking a shift in social dynamics and land ownership.

  • Colonial impact: The colonial era saw extensive land appropriation for settler farms, displacing many indigenous communities and disrupting their traditional way of life. The introduction of cash crops and forced labour also significantly impacted the region’s economy and social structures.

Independence and Beyond:

  • 1980: Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, ushering in a new era for Gokwe. Efforts were made to address land imbalances and support development in the previously marginalized district.

  • Modern Gokwe: Today, Gokwe is a predominantly rural district, with agriculture remaining the mainstay of the economy. Cotton production was once a major focus, but diversification into other crops and livestock rearing is gaining traction. The district also faces challenges like drought and limited infrastructure, but communities are striving to build a more prosperous future.

Cultural tapestry:

Throughout its history, Gokwe has witnessed the blending of diverse cultures and traditions. Indigenous rituals and beliefs mingle with Christian influences, shaping the unique cultural tapestry of the district.

Music, dance, and storytelling remain important facets of local life, keeping the past alive and celebrating the spirit of the Gokwe people.

Exploring Gokwe’s history offers a glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of its people. From the legacy of ancient civilizations to the ongoing quest for development, Gokwe’s story continues to evolve, promising a future as vibrant as its past.

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As of the latest available data from Zimstats, Gokwe boasts a population of 24,054, with 45.4% being male and 54.6% female.

The town’s growth rate stands at 2.2%, making it larger than some towns that attained town status before Gokwe emerged as a prominent business centre.

Places to Visit

Exploring Gokwe: Places to Visit, Culture, and Population Insights

picture credit to Frank Kay photo

While Gokwe might not be on the typical tourist trail, it offers unique experiences for those seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures and a glimpse into rural Zimbabwean life.

Here are some potential places to visit in Gokwe, depending on your interests:

Nature and wildlife:

  • Gokwe Forest Reserve: A vast nature reserve with diverse vegetation, home to elephants, lions, leopards, and birdlife. Guided game drives and camping safaris offer an immersive wildlife experience.
  • Chief Jahana Wildlife Sanctuary: This private sanctuary protects endangered species like the black rhino and provides opportunities for guided walks to spot wildlife and learn about conservation efforts.

  • Sengwa Gorge: A dramatic natural wonder with stunning cliffs, waterfalls, and rock pools. Ideal for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying the scenic beauty.

Culture and history:

  • Shangwe Ruins: Discover the remnants of ancient Shangwe settlements, including stone enclosures and burial mounds, offering a glimpse into their historical way of life.

  • Mutange and Gwehava Dams: These dams offer boating opportunities, fishing, and scenic picnic spots. Additionally, Mutange Dam features a cultural village with traditional huts and demonstrations of local crafts.

  • Local markets and villages: Immerse yourself in the vibrant everyday life of Gokwe people by visiting local markets, bustling with activity and colourful displays of produce and crafts. Interacting with villagers offers a chance to learn about their traditions and way of life.

Other activities:

  • Fishing expeditions: Several rivers and lakes in Gokwe provide excellent fishing opportunities for various species. Hire a local guide to access some of the best fishing spots.
  • Birding tours: The diverse birdlife of Gokwe attracts birdwatchers from across the globe. Specialized tours can help you spot rare and endemic species.
  • Camping and stargazing: Escape the city lights and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Gokwe countryside. Camping under the vast starry skies offers a truly mesmerizing experience.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Infrastructure in Gokwe is limited, so be prepared for basic amenities and potentially challenging roads.
  • Respect local customs and traditions when visiting villages and interacting with communities.
  • Consider hiring a local guide to enhance your experience and ensure safety, especially when exploring natural areas.

Remember, Gokwe offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature, discover historical sites, and experience the warmth and hospitality of rural Zimbabwean communities.

If you’re looking for something beyond the usual tourist hotspots, Gokwe promises an authentic and unforgettable adventure.


Exploring Gokwe: Places to Visit, Culture, and Population Insights

picture credit to UNICEF

Gokwe, in Zimbabwe, boasts a rich tapestry of culture, woven from the threads of its diverse history, ancestral practices, and vibrant living traditions.

Let’s embark on a journey to explore the colours and textures of Gokwe’s cultural landscape:

Traditional beliefs:

  • Spirituality: Ancestral veneration plays a significant role in Gokwe culture. The ancestral spirits, known as “vadzimu,” are believed to watch over their descendants and intervene in their lives. Traditional rituals and ceremonies are held to appease and connect with the vadzimu, seeking their blessings and guidance.

  • Divination: “N’anga” or traditional healers hold a respected position in the community. They utilize various methods like throwing bones or interpreting dreams to diagnose illnesses, offer spiritual advice, and connect with the unseen world.

  • Taboos: Certain practices and behaviours are considered taboo in Gokwe culture. These restrictions, often linked to respect for ancestors and the natural world, guide daily life and maintain social order.

Music and dance:

  • Mbende: This energetic dance, performed by women in a circle, is a common feature at celebrations and ceremonies. The vibrant drumming, rhythmic clapping, and synchronized movements create a captivating spectacle.

  • Jerusarema: This dance, originating from the Shangwe people, involves storytelling through movement and gestures. It depicts historical events, cultural practices, and moral lessons, serving as a form of community education and entertainment.

  • Traditional instruments: Instruments like the ngoma (drums), hosho (shakers), and mbira (thumb piano) add rhythm and melody to music and dance, creating a unique sonic signature for Gokwe culture.

Arts and crafts:

  • Basket weaving: Skilled artisans craft intricate baskets for various purposes, from carrying crops to storing food or serving ceremonial roles. Different patterns and techniques are employed, reflecting individual creativity and cultural significance.

  • Wood carving: Woodcarvings depicting animals, figures, and geometric patterns adorn homes and objects, showcasing artistic expression and cultural symbolism.

  • Beadwork: Beads are used to create vibrant jewelry, accessories, and decorative items, adding colour and personal flair to outfits and ceremonies.

Oral traditions:

  • Storytelling: Stories passed down through generations play a crucial role in preserving history, cultural values, and moral lessons. Folktales, myths, and legends entertain while transmitting knowledge and shaping community identity.

  • Proverbs: Concise sayings, known as “tsumo,” offer wisdom and guidance on various aspects of life. These nuggets of oral tradition are woven into conversations and stories, serving as a moral compass for the community.

Contemporary Influences:

While traditional practices remain central to Gokwe culture, modern influences are also evident.

Gospel music, contemporary dance styles, and new forms of artistic expression are embraced by younger generations, adding a dynamic edge to the cultural landscape.

Understanding Gokwe’s culture:

Exploring Gokwe’s cultural tapestry offers a deeper appreciation for the lives and beliefs of its people.

It highlights the richness of traditions passed down through generations, the resilience of ancestral practices, and the ongoing evolution of this vibrant community.

Whether you’re interested in specific aspects like spiritual rituals, traditional dances, or artistic expressions, delving into Gokwe’s culture promises a fascinating and enriching journey.

Gokwe Town Council Contacts

For inquiries and information related to Gokwe Town Council, individuals can contact the respective departments:

  • Reception: 0552592840
  • System Administrator: 0552592297
  • Director of Finance: 0552592343
  • Chief Administration Officer: 0552592243
  • Town Secretary: 0552592310
  • Town Engineer: 0552592507

ALSO READ: https://zimprofiles.com/zvishavane-unveiling-the-roots-and-traditions-of-a-zimbabwean-town/


Gokwe’s education sector comprises both primary and secondary institutions. Four primary schools enrol a total of 4,961 pupils, while four secondary schools cater to 2,520 students.

The emphasis on education underscores Gokwe’s commitment to fostering knowledge and skills.

Here are some schools in Gokwe:

  • CZM Primary School
  • Gokwe Primary School
  • Cheziya High School
  • Njelele High School
  • Saint Paul’s Secondary School

Geographical Location

Situated in the north-western part of Zimbabwe, Gokwe experiences semi-arid conditions, with an average temperature of 40 degrees Celsius.

The town’s boundaries encompass various landmarks, highlighting its unique geographical features.

Gokwe is located in the northwestern part of Zimbabwe, within the Midlands Province.

It’s not a single town, but rather a region that’s been divided into two administrative districts: Gokwe South and Gokwe North.

Here’s a breakdown of the geographical location of Gokwe, including its coordinates:

Gokwe Centre:

  • This is the main town or the administrative centre of the Gokwe region.
  • It lies at 18.22° South latitude and 28.94° East longitude.
    Gokwe Region:
  • The broader Gokwe region encompasses both Gokwe South and Gokwe North districts.
  • Its general location can be described as:
    • North of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city.
    • Bordered by Nkayi North District to the south.
    • Neighboring Botswana to the west.


Gokwe falls within ecological region IV, characterized by an annual rainfall ranging between 250 to 500mm.

The climate influences the town’s environmental conditions, shaping its landscape and lifestyle.


Gokwe has undertaken various infrastructure projects, including the construction of a townhouse, primary schools, streetlight rehabilitation, and ongoing water and sewer rehabilitation.

The town is equipped with essential services such as police, courts, hospitals, and clinics.


Gokwe’s industrial landscape is dominated by small-scale entrepreneurs, with notable entities like Cottco and an abattoir contributing to the local economy.

The town also hosts supermarkets, financial institutions, and modern nightspots.

Tourism and Heritage

Tourism in Gokwe is bolstered by attractions such as Chirisa Game Park, a wildlife park approximately 80km from the town, and the Semwa Gorge, located around 70km away.

The town presents investment prospects in the tourism sector, mining, manufacturing, agriculture, and infrastructure development.

Investment Prospects

Gokwe offers various investment opportunities in tourism, mining, manufacturing, agriculture, and infrastructure development.

Despite facing challenges such as gulley formations and economic shifts, Gokwe remains a town with untapped potential.


  1. Gokwe Places to Visit – iHarare Jobs – Published on August 17, 2022, by Bryoryans.
  2. Gokwe Town Council – Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe – Accessed for population and services data.
  3. About Us – Gokwe Town Council – Retrieved for historical information, contacts, and additional details.

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