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The Zinza of Tanzania

Population:      213,972 (CPPI, 1999); 223,000 (Joshua Project, 2006)
Religion:       Traditional Animism (Most sources); Christianity (
Registry of Peoples code:  Zinza:  111183
Registry of Languages code (Ethnologue):  Zinza:  zin


Location: The Zinza people are found in Geita District, northwestern Tanzania, west of Lake Victoria and on islands in the lake.

The Zinza are related distantly to other Bantu peoples in the area.  They appear to be most closely related to peoples on the northern side of the lake in Uganda.  After the government eradicated the tsetse fly in the 1940s, other peoples began to migrate into the lakeside area of the Zinza.  Thus the Zinza now share their area with the Sukuma, Haya, Kerewe and Jita.

Identity and Language:
The Zinza language is a Bantu language as are its neighbors.  Following the Bantu pattern, the Zinza call their language Kizinza, meaning "language of the Zinza."  The primary language is Zinza with Swahili being the trade language.

Zinza is closely related to Nyankore and Nyoro of Uganda.  A linguistic survey in 1989 revealed clear indication that the Zinza could benefit significantly from Scripture translation and literacy programmes in the Zinza language.  The literacy rate of the Zinza is comparatively high at 70%.

The Zinza have a mixed subsistence economy.  Most of the Zinza are farmers and fishermen, producing cotton and bananas along with the fish they catch.  Some are builders and goldminers.

Their basic diet is rice, fish, millet porridge, and bananas.  They also raise cassava, corn, sweet potatoes and a variety of fruits.

There are about 30,000 Zinza living in urban areas.  Health education is a great need as well as literacy work.

There has been a Christian presence among the Zinza for about 100 years.  But the Zinza have shown indifference to the gospel.  They have accepted aspects of Christian faith alongside their ancestral and clan spirits, believing these spirits can capriciously cause illness and misfortune.  There is widespread use of fetishes and traditional potions and use of diviners.

Previous evangelisation by the Africa Inland Church (AIC) has seen only limited response.  Statistics are uncertain; Joshua Project reports that while 24% may state some relationship with a church, only about 0.50% are active Evangelical believers.

AIC work along the shorelines and islands of the southeast region of Lake Victoria, has reported that the Zinza among these have been receptive.

The Summer Institute of Linguistics reports Bible portions in the language 19301958. In the 1990s, a Bible translation team was reported to be working on a new complete translation, but no report is available on the status of this translation.

For more on the Zinza
Zinza -- Ethnologue
Zinza --

Orville Boyd Jenkins
February 1997
Last updated 3 May 2006

Copyright © 2002, 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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