Zvishavane (Shabani)

Zvishavane, originally known as Shabani, is a mining town in the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe. Surrounded by low hills, it lies 97 kilometres (60 mi) west of Masvingo (Fort Victoria), on the main Bulawayo-Masvingo road. Other roads lead from Zvishavane to Gweru, 121 kilometres (75 mi) north, and Mberengwa, 27 kilometres (17 mi) south-west. It is also on direct rail links to Gweru and Beit Bridge which then link up with Harare and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe and to Maputo in Mozambique, and Pretoria in South Africa. It has a private airport serving the city. There was a small Jewish Community in the town during the 1920-1950s with 10-15 families.

The town developed as a residential centre for Shabani Mine, which started operations in 1916 to supply asbestos during the First World War. Growth was slow due to poor communications until the railway reached the town in 1928. Although the asbestos mine is the biggest producer of the mineral in Zvishavane, platinum, gold, beryl, chromite, iron ore at Buchwa and huge deposits of diamond at Murowa are also mined in the area. The surrounding area is dominated by cattle ranching, while peasant agriculture is practiced in the nearby communal lands of Mberengwa and Buchwa. The administration of Zvishavane has developed over the years to keep pace with its growth. A Village Management Board was set up in 1921 and replaced with a Town Management Board in 1930. It was granted municipal status in 1968.

Below are photographs from the Jewish cemetery with seven headstones taken in July 2023 by Noble Moyo, a professional grave cleaner and maintenance person.  If you have any stories related to the Zishivane or a family connection or know the names on the headstones please contact the editor.

Click on the images below to enlarge and view the captions and then the left/right arrows to scroll through the images.  The last image is actually a video clip of the cemetery.

Update 11th Sept 2023 – we received a number of video clips from Noble Moyo after he was assigned to clean and restore the headstones as best as possible. Some of the lettering could not be restored because of the original technique used, according to Noble.  To view these clips please go to the ZJC Youtube channel.

We received the following background to some of the people buried in this cemetery:

  1. Janette Amato wrote :
    The tombstone of Mair Amato is my uncles stone . He was my Dad’s younger brother and died in a car accident / drowning at the age of 30 alongside a young guy from Johannesburg. The driver survived.   The guy driving wouldn’t listen to my folks or Mr Kransdorf, he said he could cross the bridge but unfortunately they were swept away in that strong current.
  2. Beniamino Bibi Sciarcon wrote:
    Dinner at our house was over and it was evening. Mair was in Uncle Moises car when his neighbours offered to give him a lift since they lived in the same flat. He got out and got into the mini morris minor .Your dad went left they went right. As the car crossed the bridge it was swept away half a mile downstream. Alby told me he saw the lights pointing into the sky. My dad rushed over and in the dark there was nothing to do.
    As you know the driver survived but Mair was in the back and never had a shot. I’ll never forget that horrible night. 
  3. Janette Amato wrote:  Abraham (Abe) Rosenthal was a jeweler in Shabani was a bachelor, don’t know any of his family, was good friends with my parents. And Raphie Israel may be able to help with the grave with the family name Israel. 

  4. Raphie Israel wrote  – Lilian Leah Israel was our sister. Died tragically in an accident at an air show.  

Meir Amato z"l

Click on this short video clip below to view the cemetery. With thanks and credit to Noble Moyo of Flame Lily Evocations.