Before independence the main forms of political organization were the chiefdoms and the villages. Neighbors, and also kin, collaborate in many activities, and there are several ritual and secular associations and societies. Since independence, as part of the Republic of Tanzania, the area inhabited by the Nyamwezi and the Sukuma has been subject to its laws and constitution. It falls administratively within Mwanza, Shinyanga, and Tabora regions, which contain several administrative districts. These districts are segmented into divisions, which, in turn, contain wards, within which there are officially constituted villages. There are governmental and party officials at each level, and a series of elected committees. Since 1973, villages have been the basic unit of organization, although, within them, ten-house groups are recognized. In the early 1980s a new grass-roots village-security organization—Sungusungu or Busalama—emerged, and it has spread to all parts of the area. All able-bodied village men belong to the local Sungusungu group, and there is sometimes a women's wing.
Conflicts have occurred between the Revolutionary party (CCM) and Sungusungu, but there has also been some cooperation between them, and the groups are now legally recognized. Each village has its own group, but there is also some intervillage collaboration. Single-party rule is due to end, and multiparty elections are planned in the mid-1990s.
Social Control. There are official district-level courts, and below these there are primary courts. These administer national and some customary law. Neighbors' courts dealt with many disputes in the past, but nowadays Sungusungu groups hear cases. Their function is to maintain village security against cattle thieves and other enemies, including witches in some areas. Members are armed with bows and arrows, which have proved to be effective weapons for them, and with whistles for sounding alarms.
Conflict. Since World War I, the area has been relatively peaceful. The independence struggle was active but mainly nonviolent. Class conflict is not yet strongly developed, although there are substantial differences in wealth in some areas. Initial official reactions to Sungusungu were mainly negative, but the groups received qualified support from Julius Nyerere and some other leading Tanzanian figures. Government has since tried to control the groups and encourage their development elsewhere, but there are signs that enthusiasm for the system is declining among villagers themselves.