Wednesday, March 17, 2021


The Essence of The Pilgrimage of Incwala - by Rodney Tingo-Kanyama

  • Wednesday, March 17, 2021
  • Samuel Albert

    A perspective from a Nguni of Gomani Ngcamane Maseko

    By Rodney Sigidi Tingo-Kanyama Nzunga, Blantyre, Malawi.

    Submitted on March 2, 2021


    It is five years since the passing of uZwangendaba Mbelwa IV, King of Ncwangeni Jele Nguni of parts of northern and central Malawi. In addition, it is twelve years since the passing of Kanjedza Gomani IV, King of Ngcamane Maseko Nguni of parts of central and southern Malawi1. These were two Nguni Kings who left a permanent mark on Abenguni of Malawi, for having emulated their big brother, reigning King uNjengebaso Mphezeni IV of Ncwangeni Jele Nguni of Chipata eastern Zambia and a part of central Malawi(Mchinji). Kings Mbelwa IV and Gomani IV were both inspired by King Mphezeni IV in taking big and bold actions aimed at bringing back the ever living Nguni memory among their people, which has been so evident since 2008.

    This paper, however is not about the Nguni Kings of Malawi, or Zambia either, but rather a reflection on the ancient Nguni Observance called iNcwala, especially as done by the Mphezeni’s Nguni, which in a normal year should have been officially opened on Thursday 25th February, 2021. This year however, His Royal Highness King Mphezeni IV took the decision to decree the cancellation of the public ceremony, just because of the prevailing covid 19 crisis affecting the whole global world. Just last year in 2020, King Mbelwa V decreed the cancellation of his people’s yearly uMthetho Ceremony. So did King Mswathi Gomani V for his Ngcamane Maseko Ngunis’ uMhlangano omkhulu. This is the first time in recent Nguni memory when anything like this ever has happened. It is a crisis indeed, a time to see things differently. It is time to look enzansi, down south east as our ancestors did in times of personal or collective crises. We reflect on iNcwala with the heart of a pilgrim.


    The Incwala form as observed by Mphezeni Nguni of Chipata2 Zambia was revived in 1980 during the reign of uMphezeni III. Before then, it was last observed in 1898 during the reign of uMphezeni ka Zwangendaba (aka Mphezeni I), and was then banned for the next eighty two years until its revival in 1980. Mphezeni III slept on 11th June, 1981, and as such there was no Incwala in February 1982. But in June of that year, Mtwanakosi(Crown Prince) uNjengebaso entered ubukhosi(Kingship), and he presided over his first Incwala on 25th February, 19833. It has gone uninterrupted for the last thirty -eight years till now, thanks to the corona virus epidemic.

    Mphezeni Nguni kingdom is a migrant nation which exists very far from the original home of Abenguni. It has a character of its own. The iNcwala was revived after many years without one. Final preparations and the actual festivities happen during the months which in the older days, the Nguni

    1 It should be noted that using the criterion of traditional authority, Mbelwa’s Nguni are located in Mzimba district in north Malawi, and in Ntchisi, Dowa, Kasungu, Lilongwe, and Nkhotakota districts in central Malawi; Gomani Nguni are located in Ntcheu, Dedza, and Lilongwe districts in central Malawi, and in Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi, Blantyre, Thyolo, Chiradzulo, Mwanza, and Neno districts in south Malawi.

    2 Formerly known as Fort Jameson, (J. A Barnes, “Politics in a changing Society).

    3 Matshakaza B. Lukhero, “Ngoni Nc’wala Ceremony”,. Published in Lusaka page 29.

    who crossed the Zambezi called Impala, Inkokoni, and Impuso4. Using the modern calendar, we can roughly translate that preparations begin during end-December(Impala). Then in January(Inkokoni) the preparations are in full momentum. During February, meetings can only take place during the first two weeks to conclude the preparations before the Festivals begin, depending on the moon’s position, and the Zambian national calendar of event). We can safely conclude that the month of Incwala for Nguni of Mphezeni is “Impuso” the weeks just between February and March. It is no coincidence or guess work. In the regions of Malawi, and Zambia, we taste the first crops around this period. Circumstances being different then from the situation in Eswathini and South Africa, the processes may have more such divergences

    We can state that iNcwala has three faces: the inner soul face which resides inside people’s hearts; the inner enclosures face (emagumeni) where so much behind the scenes actions happen; and the outer (public) face. It can be argued that what most people know as iNcwala is what is seen in the public face, and it is only one percent of the whole. The ninety -nine percent is what happens in faces of the inner soul, and the inner enclosures. The author cannot claim authority to discuss details competently. Much work is about imisebenzi, a certain order of doing things best left to traditionally certified experts and Omphakathi5.

    In terms of organization, there are generally two types, one being the main organizing committee, and we can argue that its focus tends to be the public outer face of iNcwala. Then there is the team which focuses on the correctness of whatever happens in the inner enclosures. Order must be followed to the last detail, and no recklessness is tolerated in handling matters. The King and the whole Nation go through a renewal process, a time to respond to the Nguni calling again from Nkulunkulu.

    The organization of the public face, events is orderly. The committee appointed is headed by ordinary Nguni citizens who are shortlisted and recruited for their competence in handling events with such a magnitude. Report meetings are organized in council at kaGogo (KwaGogo, eMtenguleni ka Sosela, Matriarch village of Queen Sosela, Great Wife of Jele Nguni Patriarch King, Zwangendaba, mother of Nthuto Mphezeni)6. While the committee is present, representatives from all izibaya (regimental villages) attend too. The representatives include some elders and abamlumnzana(village headmen). The Amakhosi(Zibaya, territorial chiefs) are also in attendance. Some key non-traditional stakeholders also attend, such as local government authorities, health, security, and business personnel. It is a standard set up to encourage everyone to be an active participant. The King himself regularly and personally attends these meetings.

    4 Margaret Read, “Children of their fathers- growing up among The Ngoni of Nyasaland”. Page 123. Copyright Margaret Read 1959, Yale University Press, 1960. It should be noted that the Nguni nations which crossed Zambezi had their own names for the months of a year. The whole year was covered in thirteen months. Margaret translates the third month of “Impuso” as “when first crops are tasted” which according to the situation in Malawi/Zambia/Mocambique corresponds with the last weeks of February and the first week of March.

    5 Courtesy Thabethe Gift Ndengu, Original founding member for Mzimba Heritage, and Co-Administrator, Amasiko Abenguni. “Mphakati” suggests Inner circle, more about confidentiality rather than mere exclusiveness

    6 Matshakaza B. Lukhero, Ngoni Nc’wala, page 30; J A. Barnes, “Politics in a changing Society- a political history of the Fort Jameson Ngoni”, 14-21. The Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, 1954.

    The Great Festival itself is traditionally officially opened at the next full moon in February(Impuso). In the olden days, the days of the week would not matter. However, with the change of Nguni society, as being a part of the modern Zambian republican, and with new stakeholders to make room for, Kugwabula Incwala 7(official opening) always happens on the Thursday morning of the appointed date, usually within the last two weeks of February. The honour to lead this detail is with Induna ka Gogo, Induna of the King’s Grandmother village, Inkosi Madzimawe (Manzimabi)8. Regiments perform iNgoma at the King’s palace of Ekuphendukeni. Then a party arrives to present the first fruits to the King, consisting of uselwa(maswela, gourd/a type of pumpkin), nhlobo(green maize), and imfe (mamphenga, nsinde, a sweet cane in the family of sorghum and millet)9.

    Abonina (elderly women) call out: uMphezeni phuma uhambe! Phuma (come out!) wena ka Libandla lika Nsingu(you of the Council/Army of Nsingu, son of Mphezeni). Hamba wena ka Nthuto Mphezeni(go you of Nthuto Mphezeni)10.The King comes out fully dressed in lion skins to receive them while izimbongi(praise singers) recite the King’s Royal Zwangendaba Jele isibongo and izithakazelo( clan and individual reputational poem) The King enters back into his palace. The process of uKuluma is completed. Then he comes out again to be escorted by a convoy and regiments about twenty five kilometers away to kaGogo at eMtenguleni where everything else to do with iNcwala happens. It is such a spectacle to see the King’s convey drive past the Chipata municipality, with many people lining up, and state security detail in full employment.

    As the King arrives at his kaGogo Royal retreat, he is received by traditional amabutho(regimental warriors) in full ancient Nguni regalia. They all get into trance performing ingoma. The King comes out from his vehicle, and is immediately led to each regiments to perform ukuhlola (inspection). When this is finished, the King is escorted to the retreat house, called eLawini11. It is usually around 4 and 5 p.m when this happens. Some guests are already seated at the podium just next to the King’s retreat house. There is plenty of talking and catching up to do. The King might be seen. INcwala time is a time for the King to observe mzilo(abstinence). Generally it is a quite evening, except for the market areas where so much music, dancing go, and other kinds of merry making go.

    The second day, Friday can truly be called the “iNcwala Day”. The King and his royal guests, mainly other traditional authorities from far and near, Nguni or not, and other leaders, are treated to a day long of izingoma performances. It is an unforgettable event. On the third day, the Saturday, ingoma continues to happen. It is also the day when the King receives the highest elected official guests such as the republican presidents from within Zambia, and their guests, brother-presidents or vice-presidents.

    7 Hilda Kuper, An African Aristocracy, page 203

    8 “Madzimawe” is the corruption of the Nguni phrase, “amanzi”(water) “amabi”(filth/bad). In the Nguni form, it should read “Manzimabi”. Inkosi Madzimawe is fondly called “Gogo”. The Chinyanja translation of “gogo” is “grandparent”, male or female. In Nguni languages however, it has a specific meaning for “Grand mother”. But Inkosi Madzimawe, even though a male person, is “uGogo”. This is because in his traditional role, he is of the Indlunkulu(Big House) of the Queen Mother of Mphezeni, which was eMtenguleni.

    9 AT. Bryant, “The Zulu people- as they were before the white man came”, page 512, Shuter and Shooter, 1949; Matshakaza B. Lukhero, “The Ngoni Nc’wala Ceremony, page 16. Published in Lusaka Zambia. It is interesting to note the use of “maswela” in Lukhero’s book as opposed to “uselwa” in Bryant’s book reflecting the evolution of Isinguni among Ngunis who crossed Zambezi river.

    10 Author’s additional lines, as inspired by the King’s praises and ingoma performances

    11 Margaret Read records this word as “Laweni”. It is also in common use among Mphezeni Nguni. However, sharing notes with Mphezeni Nguni key researcher and analyst, Douglas Mwale (Gumbi Kaziguda) has recommended the use of “Lawini”

    It is the author’s view that this day culminates in two events, namely, the Nguni regimental two kilometer march to the Isikhundla(arena) where guests wait to see Inkosi ya Makosi. The sight of at least a thousand amabutho marching and performing giya12 and in chorus with Ingwenyama amongst them, only tends to take one down the memory lane to when Abenguni north of the Zambezi crossed the mighty river and made it to these parts of the world. It has a lasting effect on your psyche. The King has been in seclusion, making a deep connection with the Most High. It is such a heavy burden to be King. The whole Nguni nation must join him in celebrating.

    Then at the arena itself, Ukuhlaba nzima13(stabbing the black bull) is carefully done by a man set apart for this function. This black bull is given as umnikelo(offering). Ulubende(raw blood) is quickly collected for the King to complete the process. Induna yendlu le Nkosi(the Royal House Induna)14 oversees the roasting of isibindi (liver). In the Nguni tradition, isibindi(liver) symbolizes the much desired quality of any Nguni, chutzpah, grit, resilience, courage, the daring spirit. It can easily be understood why the roasted liver is cut up into pieces and taken first to the King and then passed on to a cross-section of his high level guests.

    The rest of the day ends with speeches by some selected leaders of the Kingdom, and the guest politicians and presentation of gifts to the King. The event closes by around 3 p.m. In the evening a Royal dinner is hosted for the King and some of his guests. In some cases, there are live band performances by such diverse artists as Zambia’s Sakala brothers, Angela Nyirenda, and Malawi’s Lucius Banda in Chipata city. Everyone will have returned home by Sunday.


    The author suggests that all Nguni nations and people have experienced displacements in some form, especially with regard to their locations. It is worse for the present day northern Nguni nations of Sochangane in southern Mocambique, Mzilikazi in Zimbabwe, and farther north, of Zintambila in Angonia Mocambique, Gomani and Mbelwa in Malawi, Mphezeni in Chipata Zambia and Njelu-Mhlophe(Njelu-Mshope)15 Nguni of Tanzania.

    As these northern Nguni nations were migrating, they were being recreated into various forms suffice to say, because of new experiences, assimilations with other cultures, disruptions of constant war scenarios, and eventually the changing society and the resultant new dominant thoughts. These Abenguni groups hardly have had time to revive the iNcwala tradition in a consistent way. There is evidence though that some processes have been maintained though, but hardly any evidence of the

    12 Traditional Nguni performance. It is usually done by an individual warrior with his weapons. It can be compared to kata forms in karate.

    13 Author’s Nguni selected word for “ kuhlaba inkhunzi yomnyama( slaughtering the black bull). It is interesting to note that Baba Matshakaza Blackson Lukhero uses the word “incwamba” for the same. It is important to note that the author assumes that “Nzima/Mnyama” stands for “darkness”, which can be a state of melancholy or potential calamity. However, Nguni analyst Simao Chatepa holds the view that the “black bull” of Abenguni symbolizes originality of life, something like the Genesis story in the Jewish Bible, a static state

    14 Author’s personal Nguni suggested words.

    15 Patrick M. Redmond, “A political History of the Songea Ngoni from the mid-nineteenth Century to the rise of the Tanganyika African National Union, Proquest, pages 59-89

    practice of the whole ceremony as we know it. The Nguni of Sochangane16, Mzilikazi, Zintambila, Gomani, Mbelwa, and Njelu-Mhlophe do not do iNcwala in their domains. There is simply no institutional memory and precedent in these Kingdoms. However, old writings by anthropologists such as Margaret Read and Barnes indicate that some old Nguni of Gomani and Mbelwa in the 1930s still remembered something of iNcwala17.

    We are therefore very fortunate that Nguni of Mphezeni have kept this tradition. Though once banned by the British in 1898, it was finally revived. At its revival in the 1980s it must have been largely a local Zambian event. With the political changes of 1990s in both Zambia and Malawi from one party to multi-party democracies, it has become more open. Mphezeni Nguni of Malawi attend in multitudes. Over time, King Mbelwa of Mzimba too has made a number of trips to observe the Ncwala. King Kanjedza Gomani did not live long enough to make the pilgrimage to Ncwala, but thanks to his direction and the efforts of his close aide, a Nguni elder called Impi Charles Govati, Maseko Nguni of Malawi18 and Mocambique are high on the list of pilgrims to iNcwala of Mphezeni. Notable among them are the Zintambila Maseko Royal house of Mocambique, several senior members of the Gomani Maseko Royal House including King Mswathi Gomani V himself, and Mgazi Maseko Nguni royal family of South Africa19.

    Other international high profile dignitaries have also been guests at iNcwala, such as Nxamalala Msholozi His Excellency Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma while he was South Africa’s Deputy President. King Zwelithini’s Chief Induna, Thulasizwe Shenge Inkosi Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi too, has visited.

    There is little doubt that King Mphezeni’s iNcwala is a big force in Southern Africa in many other ways. It is a big event which facilitates many commercial activities. It attracts wide media publicity, and is a big tourist attraction. In some other way, at an arts and museum center called Kungoni at Mua, Dedza in central Malawi, the Zambian ingoma hlombe style performance has been perfectly mastered by the dance troupe composed of mainly Maseko Ngunis and Chewa.

    There is yet no evidence of will to revive iNcwala in the other northern Nguni Kingdoms. Perhaps the Mzilikazi Kingdom of Ndelebes in Zimbabwe might be the first to do it when it has been properly recognized as a Kingship. In the Shangaan areas, there is no evidence of will. In Gomani’s kingdom, they do Mhlangano at the grave of King Gomani ka Tshikuse Maseko who was killed by the British in 1896. In Mbelwa’s Kingdom they do uMthetho at Hola Mountain, the scene of a tragic punitive war against rebelling Baza Dokowe.

    In Tanzania, it is Government policy not to recognize kingships. However the Njelu-Mhlophe Nguni celebrate Maji maji, the tragic war with German forces in the 1800s which cost Nguni lives. All these

    16 Consultations with Baba Simao Hodges Chatepa. It is important to note that though the Shangaan people of Mocambique do not have a King,and therefore cannot celebrate Incwala, Baba Simao mentions Portuguese records which document that founder of the Gasa(Shangaan) Kingdom, Sochangane held Incwala in the 1820s.

    17 Margaret Read, “Ngoni of Nyasaland”, pages

    18 Impi Charles Govati appears courtesy of Gomani Amangcamane Trust. In more ways than can be stated, the author owes much of his lifetime journey in ubunguni to Baba Govati who has tirelessly mentored, reprimanded, and sponsored him on countless occasions. The author constantly consults Impi Govati on matters of ubunguni. Baba Govati introduced the author to many illustrious Nguni. He also led the author to the kraal of King Mphezeni, and introduced him to the royal house of Mdlasomi ka Khophoza ka Mgazi ka Khabangobe ka Maphanga, Ngcamane Maseko Nguni of South Africa. And he recommended the author to the Friends of Kungoni. Let alone the author’s personal benefits, it is hard to imagine how Ngcamane Maseko Nguni history would have been developed without the individual efforts of Baba Charles Govati.

    19 Revival of Maseko Ngoni records.

    events are not equivalent to iNcwala though, but unique to the individual kingdoms, just as Shaka Day and Isandlwana are unique to Amazulu or if HRH King Mphezeni decreed that there will be Nsingu Day every year20. Since, iNcwala is the common tradition to all Nguni nations, it has sometimes been suggested that all northern Nguni Kingships with particular emphasis to those of Mbelwa and Gomani must do their own iNcwala. The thrust of the traditionalists’ recommendation is that just as ultimately each person must bear his own burdens, each Nguni King can only fully observe his own Incwala21. How exactly that would be done or when it will be decided to be done, can only be the prerogative of the Royal Seats and their Councils of Amakhosi, and not for their obedient servant like the author. They could do it in a rather small localized way. It does make sense to do at least the first fruits/crops process.


    We now come to the critical question: what is the point of maintaining the Incwala tradition at all? Is it a relic of the past, irrelevant to the times we are in, or perhaps a Chipata Zambia Nguni, Eswathini, and Kwazulu matter and not for other Ngunis? The author is of the view that the Incwala spirit must be kept alive always, as discussed below:

    Ubumbano(Unification)22. Ubunguni(Nguni life) thrives on our living collective memory, where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going. This is done mainly through izibongo(praises) and izingoma(Nguni singing). It is not about living in the past, but always being mindful of the power of precedents. At Incwala, Abenguni come together to observe their common destiny23. We are renewed and refocused as a people. There is a good reason why the British colonialists frowned on iNcwala and why the African Governments of Zambia and Malawi (one-party) might have some reservations about it. We cannot ignore the power of our living memories.

    Kunyathela24. First fruits. The spirit of gratitude is admirable in any human being of any colour, creed or religion. Nothing wrong with Abenguni giving thanks in the way they know best.

    Zambezi crossing. This is unique to Abenguni of Zwangendaba(Mphezeni and Mbelwa) and Ngwana Maseko (Gomani, Zintambila, Kachindamoto). Crossing the Zambezi was a permanent change of our circumstances. It was a sort of crisis moment, an entry into very unfamiliar territories, an uncertain future. Some Ngunis must have wished they returned back home where their life experience was more familiar, more predictable, and therefore more secure. But the Leadership decided that there was never going to be any looking back. They pressed on to break new ground (vul’indlela), to pursue the dreams “Amaphupho”25 Incwala revives this memory of great change. It takes a new meaning this year with the covid 19 crisis. Economies have been disrupted. Just how shall we face the many problems as Abenguni?

    20 Matshakaza Blackson Lukhero, “The Ngoni Nc’wala Ceremony”, page 14. Matshakaza writes the sonname of the son of Mphezeni as “Nsingo”, a militant Crown Prince who went to war with the British.

    21 Revival of Maseko Ngoni (Gomani Amangcamane Trust) briefings

    22 Revival of Maseko Ngoni and Mgazi Ngcamane Maseko Nguni Council (South Africa) records.

    23 O. F Raum, “The Interpretation Of The Nguni First Fruits Ceremony

    24 Matshakaza B. Lukhero, page 4; AT Bryant, The Zulus before the white men came to them”

    25 Y. M. Chibambo, “My Ngoni of Nyasaland”, Lutterworth Press, United Society for Christian Literature, page 24. This book was translated by Rev. Charles Stuart from the original Tumbuka version“Midauko, Makani gha Wangoni”, authored by the same Rev. Yesaya Mlonyeni Chibambo. In his book, the word is translated as “Mapupo”. The author received his copy as a present from late Mr. Frank Johnson as encouragement in pursuing knowledge of ubunguni.

    Nzima26. The black bull that is slain at Incwala and everything detailed process about this tradition is a constant reminder of the pain of leadership for the King and for Sizwe sonke sabenguni(Nguni nation). It is not for the King alone. It is like Jacob when he wrestled with the delegated of the Most High, throughout the night27. He went away limping, but with the prize of blessings, and a new name Israel. The slaying of the black bull is about facing the Giants in our lives, “Amaf’omnyama” (Dark clouds) we must wrestle with: How will we govern our society and solve its problems? Ubunguni, as Amavulindlela(the founders of Nguni nations) lived, is not for the fainthearted. It is not about performing Ingoma at Incwala and that’s it, “sala kahle Baba, zobonana next year!”. When Incwala se imbonyiwe28 it is ended, the real life begins, everyday life! Real test of ubunguni.

    Theme of coexistence with others. Modern day Incwala is never for Abenguni alone. Many guests are received. In fact it is put in the republican national calendar of events. In any case, Abenguni do not exist and live in closed systems. Former President of Malawi, Prof. Peter Mutharika once said “it is important for Ngoni people to celebrate their culture. But they must remember to co-exit with others”29. As a people who have gone through many cycles of both the triumph of conquests and the trauma of defeats, Abenguni tend to risk being self-centred, and sometimes our collective psyche is exposed to various negative energies and toxic narcissism30. The renewal spirit of Incwala takes us into the opposite direction, to embrace humanity with the spirit of practical ubunthu(Umunthu)31. The world of today is not about tribal groups. It is our opportunity now to contribute to the building of our nations and the SADC region, together.


    It’s time for ukugolozela, (contemplation) when each person has to contemplate and connect with spirituality. The historical fate of the African in the last four hundred years is that he was subdued in two ways, slavery and then colonization. Colonization is well familiar to Abenguni, but anyone suggesting that Abenguni were taken into slavery are not dealing with truth appropriately. However, the effects are the same, all about losing what we value, and displacement. Since four hundred years ago then, we have experienced change in Nguni economic lives, education, and religion.

    It is like being summoned to participate in the Council of Ancestors (Libandla la Madlozi)32, with all kings of olden times present, and the present ones too. A diverse kind of people are in attendance too, including surprisingly people of distant races. There is a chilling silence until the Chief Induna instructs a Holocaust survivor to address the Council. The holocaust survivor does not turn to the Kings but instead turns to the person summoned, and says: “adversity has run you down, and you cannot rise above it by finding meaning in giving service to humanity”33. As the words sink down the mind, and after give the Royal salute, many thoughts run through: modern education is an advantage, and Abenguni, old and young, cannot think twice about seeking it. No one in the world can claim originality in knowledge and skills. It is always about learning from others and owning it.

    26 Author’s Nguni selected word for “inkhunzi yomnyama(black bull).

    27 Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi with Joel Segel, “Jewish with Feeling”, page 192.

    28 Margaret Read, “The Ngoni of Nyasaland”, page 61. International African Institute, Oxford University Press. In the early 1930s, Margaret Read lived for three years among the Nguni of Nyasaland(Ngcamane Maseko Nguni of Ntcheu and Mocambique, and of Mbelwa, Mzimba) and of Mphezeni Jele, Chipata Zambia. He research assistant was the Rev. Y.M Chibambo.

    29 Author’s personal reminiscence of Press report.

    30 Robert Greene, “The Laws of Human Nature”, profile books, pages 42-71

    31 Chiwoza Bandawe, “Practical Umunthu Philosophy, Montfort Press, page 19

    32 Napoleon Hill, “Think and Grow Rich, pages 249-257. Revised and extended by Dr Arthur R. Pell

    33 Victor Frankl, “Man’s Search For Meaning”, pages 135-184.

    In religion too, many Abenguni have become Christians. Nothing wrong too, since at the heart of spirituality, all things turn to one end, Nkulunkulu who is the same for all. A true Mnguni therefore is also a worshipper, a prayer warrior. It’s not about returning to our primitive ways, and certainly not just about taking everything from others either.

    It is about rediscovering ubunguni and positioning it powerfully in the modern world. It is about finding the spirit of the monkey cartoon character curious George, who was forcefully taken out of Africa, exiled, was alone, but with an ever enthusiastic spirit he makes something out of everything and every situation, just like Israel’s son, Joseph, the ultimate enterprising person. We cannot continue the vicious cycles like the countless Abenguni who are trapped in the toxic narcissistic tendencies of modern life, which at their worst have the potential to turn a whole population into a nation of psychopaths who only treat other human beings like objects when we should be taking care of one another 34. Even in displacement, we must find our way.

    The memory of the Council of Amadlozi keeps coming. It is like Dlozi(Ancestor) Lion King Mufasa addressing Simba: “you have forgotten me!” Ubunguni is our true Lifa (inheritance). Perhaps by taking care of it instead of “just paying lip service”35 we might do something great about it by taking our place in the Circle of Life36. We have a choice. Nguni nations did not just happen. Likewise, Nguni history did not just happen. Success and failure do not just happen. They result from human actions. We cannot be trapped by our past. We look at the world as it is now. And yet our memories are living. We tap on the hustling spirit37 of our founders to forge our collective future, openness, determination (inkani), complete preparedness, warrior ethic, leadership, and self-reliance (ukuzithemba), and reputation(Isithunzi, shadow/Soul-force)38. Such a balancing act.

    Ubunguni angeke buphele (Ungoni sungaphele)39, ubunguni cannot be perished. Abenguni angeke aphele wonke (Angoni satha onse)40, not all Abenguni die. Vuka mathambo41 ka Mavulindlela ba Sizwe sabeNguni! Vuka mathambo ka Zwide! Vuka mathambo ka Zwangendaba Jele! Vuka mathambo ka Ngwana Maseko42. Vuka mathambo ka Baba Sangwa Steven Ngoma! Vuka mathmbo

    34 Daniel Goleman, “ Social Intelligence, Ne Science of Human Relationships”, pages 117-132.

    35 King Gomani Kanjedza IV, Speech, Mua Cultural Open Day, 8th August, 2009. HRH Kanjedza Gomani’s reign lasted only a year, the shortest in record history, but the Nguni renaissance spirit he implanted in his people is unprecedented. His vision has made it possible for Ngcamane Maseko Nguni to properly document their history, and reconnect with Nguni of Mbelwa, Mphezeni, Zintambila, remnants of Ngcamane Maseko Nguni of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, Njelu-Mhlophe Nguni of Tanzania, and the Mdlasomi ka Khophoza ka Mgazi ka Khabangobe ka Maphanga Ngcamane Maseko Royal House of South Africa.

    36 Disney’s “The Lion King”(book and motion picture).

    37 50 Cent and Robert Greene, “The 50th Law”, pages 27-68. Profile Books

    38 Mike Boon, “The African Way- the power of Interactive Leadership” page 31-45. Zebra Press

    39 A well proverb among Mphezeni Nguni. The author personally heard, Inkosi Mnukwa(one of King Mphezeni’s chiefs) mention it in Libandla(Council). A common feature in ingoma of Mphezeni Nguni

    40 A well known proverb among Ngcamane Maseko Nguni of Malawi.

    41 “Arise dry bones”, lines borrowed from “Vuka mathambo” a song by South Africa’s mbaqanga female Trio Imithente. From their album by the same name.

    42 It is not uncommon to come across some Nguni groups and writers who hold the view that Gomani Maseko Nguni are a break way from King Mzilikazi ka Mashobane Khumalo founder of the Ndebele Kingdom. This view is not fully backed by historical facts. HRH Mswathi Gomani V, King of Maseko Nguni of Malawi, is a direct descendant of Ngwana Masesenyana Mnyandazizwe Maseko. An analysis of several old sources at Malawi National Archives, as well as writings of A.T Bryant, Phillip Bonner, and Mandla Maseko clearly say that Ngwana Maseko’s Nguni state originated from Usuthu(Lusuthu) Valley in Eswathini. He left around 1823 with Nxaba Nsane and Zwangenda after the Ndwandwe were defeated by Shaka Zulu. The three lived together in the Zimbabwe are before Mzilikazi arrived. Margaret Read in the 1930s recorded an isibongo(praise) for Ngwana in her short write up, Songs of Ngoni People, and in one line it says “wena oSilo, Amachamani, nge

    ka Baba uLasamu Zimba! Qina43 mathambo ka Zikhulu zika Libandla ka Njengebaso Mphezeni IV Kosi! Qina mathambo ka Baba uCharles Govati ka Phumisa umlondolozi wakithi! Bayethe Inkosi ya Makhosi, uNjengebaso Mphezeni Jele! Nina bohlanga, nina bomdabuko, Amakhosi bonke bakithi, Nina ka Ndlovu. Thina Sizwe masithi Bayetheee! Nina izindaba za zitha!

    Sidwaba so Luthuli”. This is rightly spelled as “Amangcamane…Sidwaba so Luthuli”, a well known isithakazelo(praise) for the Ngcamane Maseko royal clan.

    43 “Qina”, stand firm..the last lines are a celebration of Nguni heroes of past and present including Baba Sangwa Ngoma, an old man whom the Mphezeni Nguni turned to as “Mlondolozi”, guide to remind them about the Way of Incwala.


    Friday, August 9, 2019


    The Abenguni (AbaNgoni of Nyasaland)

  • Friday, August 9, 2019
  • Samuel Albert

  • The Genealogy of their Chiefs.

    1. Mlotshwa 2. Mafu
    1. Zwangendaba 2. Ntabeni 3. Mgayi
    Mbelwa (Mombela) 2 Mpezeni (first born, not heir), 3.Mthwalo, 4. Mphelembe 5 Maulawu (Sons of Zwangendaba)

    The AbeNguni of Nyasaland migrated from Natal at the time of the disturbances of Tshaka. They had travelled southward from up-country as had the AmaXhosa, but they turned again and, retracing their steps, went north. 

    I have given them a place in this book because I believe they are one in origin with the Xhosas. Their name AbeNguni also decides me. As of old the name represents the tribe, and the tribe originates from some Chief whose name it bears. 

    It was not by accident that the Xhosas were described as Abenguni. The appellation is derived from an ancient chief of the tribe called Mnguni. 

    With regard to this point, Mr Fuze in his book, entitled, The Black Races (Abantu Abamnyama), says of the AmaXhosa, "The major portion of the tribe of the Chief Mnguni went westward toward the setting sun....It is the same Mnguni who was father of Xhosa, who, it would seem, was the great son of Mnguni. This tribe (AmaXhosa) has been long separated from their relatives whom they left behind (p.78). The point raised by this son of Zulu, we have referred to before. Its repetition is meant to draw attention especially to the latter part of Mr Fuze's statement. He says in brief: "The Xhosas in removing from the North (from Dedesi) left behind them a remnant of their own people, the AbeNguni in Natal." 

    Now we find that the people who responded to that name are the AbeNguni of Zwangendaba, and moreover the the tribe was known by that name in Natal prior to their migration northward. Evidence to this effect is found in the statements of Ntombazi, mother of Zwide. 

    In order to understand the point it ought to be borne in mind that Zwangendaba, Chief of the AbeNguni, had gone with his people to live under the protection of Zwide, the Chief of the AmaNdwandwe tribe. 

    The AmaNdwandwe were at constant war with Tshaka, often defeating him by the help of the AbeNguni. There came a day when the AmaNdwandwe were also defeated by Tshaka, whereupon Zwide withdrew with Zwangendaba to the country now described as Wakkerstrom. 

    There a quarrel arose between Zwide and Zwangendaba which was decided by the assegai. Zwide was defeated and made a prisoner by Zwangendaba, but after a time the latter relented, mindful of their former relations, when they fought their numerous battles together, and he released Zwide sending him home with provisions in the shape of sleek cattle. 

    But it would seem this act of kindness did not pacify Zwide. The scandal of his defeat embittered him, and he vowed vengeance on Zwangendaba. 

    The missionary of the AbeNguni in Nyasaland, Doctor Elmslie, says in his book on the history of these people:- Zwangendaba, who was one of the chief captains of Zwide, although living under Zwide, was not subject to his authority altogether. 

    After his quarrel with Zwide that Chief marshalled his forces seeking to revenge himself on Zwangendaba. When Zwide's impi was assembled at the Royal Kraal preparatory to marching out against Zwangendaba, Ntombazi, wife of Langa and Zwide's mother appeared and endeavoured to discontinuance the war, saying to her son "My child, would you destroy the AbeNguni? Did they not release you and send you home with many sleek cattle?" 

    But Zwide was not to be appeased. Upon which, Ntombazi adopted a singular course in order to remove this thought from her son's mind. In full view of the assembled host she disrobed herself and stood before them completely naked. This most unusual action startled and disconcerted the warriors who, filled with traditional superstition, regarded it as an omen of impending disaster; they were unmanned and disheartened and refused to fight. 

    Now for my present argument, the important point is this:- Ntombazi described the people of Zwangendaba as the AbeNguni. That was at that time quite a familiar name, nor was it casually adopted, nor yet was it given to them by other tribes like the Tongas who only heard their name in their flight northward from Shaka. 

    There are those who say: This name of AbeNguni originated with the Tongas when Sotshangana (Manukuza) arrived among them, fleeing from Tshaka. But Manukuza was a son of Gasa of Zwide's tribe, the AmaNdwandwe. 

    In seeking a new country he proceeded along the seaboard and settled in the territory beyond the Limpompo River which is now described as the country of Gasa (Gasaland). Gasa was a younger brother of Zwide. 

    Others again say: The tribe of Manukuza got their name from the Tongas who called them Abenguni because, as they said, the name implied that they were thieves or bandits. My reply is that Manukuza was one of the Ndwandwe tribe, which was only politically related to the tribe of Zwangendaba. 

    Manukuza tribe are not AbeNguni. True, in former days they were neighbours, assisting each other in their wars, but differing in tribal origin. It is reasonable to infer, therefore, that because of the familiarity of the name it also came to include the people of Manukuza. To the Tongas the name AbeNguni may be familiarly connected with thieving, but other tribes do not use in that sense. Here the tribal title is taken from a person who originated the tribe namely Mnguni.

    We left Zwangendaba on unfriendly terms with Zwide, and it appeared to this son of Mbekwane that in the circumstances his present abode would not, to use a Xhosa expression, "rear him any calves." In other words, he determined to leave Zwide and look for a new country in which to settle. 

    At that time, these chiefs and their peoples were settled in the Wakkerstrom district, just north of Natal, where they had proved a hard nut for Tshaka to crack. 

    Departing thence, Zwangendaba took the road to Mzilikazi's country, with whom he was on friendly terms, and who had preceded him in his flight to the country now known as the Transvaal and settled there. He followed the coastline at a distance, then went further into the interior looking toward the setting of the sun. Arrived at Mzilikazi's place they lived on friendly terms, but only for a time. 

    Therefore, Zwangendaba trekked, this time turning towards the sea in search of his friends Manukuza and Mhlabawadabuka, sons of Gasa, youngest son of Langa, son of Ndwandwe. He cleared a road with the assegai, sweeping, his enemies  before him, and none could stay him in his course. 

    He arrived there with with his following enlarged by accessions from other tribes he defeated in his course. However he did not stay long with Manukuza, for trouble arose between Manukuza and his younger brother, Mhlabawadabuka, and the latter was driven away. The latter with his following then joined Zwangendaba. 

    Now, people who have been accustomed to rule by the assegai and to live independently, do not easily accommodate themselves to the rule of others, which becomes irksome to them. So they separated from Manukuza, Zwangendaba while his "feet were still wet" (with travelling) parted from Manukuza together with Manukuza's younger brother, Mhlabawadabuka, making for the North. 

    Smaller parties broke off from them on the way up; some settled at the Sabi, others at the Zambesi. In the year 1835, Zwangendaba crossed the Zambesi near the township of Zumbo, built on the shores of the Zambezi by the Portuguese. 

    He forced his way until he crossed the Tshambezi,  a river which precipitates itself into the Lake Bangweolo, and skirting the shores of Tanganyika entered the country of the AmaFipa. The AbeNguni of Zwangendaba having reached this country settled there, and took possession of the land for themselves. 

    But this tribe was still to break into two sections. Zwangendaba, whose language was outspoken and who, besides being a man of power, was loved and respected by his people, at length lost his vitality, being well on in years when he arrived among the Fipa, and he died there. He left several sons. 

    The sections which broke away from the AbeNguni after Zwangendaba's arrival there, were numerous. The most notable were the AmaTuta, AmaViti, AmaLavi and the AmaHehe. These tribes exercised authority over all the country north of the Zambesi and right up to Tanganyika. 

    There were few tribes which dared to fight with them. Inorder to understand the strength of these tribes, we must remember  that the Amasai, a tribe of Hamitic origin responsible for the migration of Bantu tribes from their country at the Tana, and was powerful enough to settle among other tribes of the Bantu, is described by Mr Last as follows : "The Masai are reported to be the most powerful of the races of Central Africa, but should they ever meet the AmaHehe in a life and death struggle there would be wonders and surprises and a reshuffling of tribes, for it is not the first time the Masai have been beaten by the AmaHehe." 

    This tribe settled below the Ruaha, a branch of the Rufigi (A.H. Keane, Africa, Vol. II., p. 512) The AmaHehe (WaHehe) tribe in September 1891 routed a large force of Germans. It is a very savage tribe, and is a terror to any of the surrounding tribes. 

    And so it was with the AbeNguni, they have the capacity to live. They also know how to die like men. 

    Let us now follow the sections which went out from the AbeNguni of Zwangendaba, and set up tribes of their own. We have already seen that Zwangendaba died in the land of the AmaFipa, also termed the AmaSukuma. After his death, internal disputes over the succession arose and frequent battles followed. Mgayi, a younger brother of Zwangendaba, broke away with other followers, and went forth till he came to the neighbourhood of the great lake, the Victoria Nyanza. The country did not suit him, so he returned to the place where his elder brother died - the territory of the AmaSukuma.

    There Mgayi died, and as successor Mpezeni, eldest son by birth of Zwangendaba, was appointed chief. But he was not the heir although the first born. Mpezeni did not satisfy the abeNguni by his administration and they deposed him, substituting Mbelwa (Mombela) who became Zwangendaba's heir in his place. So Mpezeni removed with his following, and created his own tribe.


    Thursday, August 8, 2019


    Last Battle of the AmaNdwandwe with the Help of Zwangendaba's Ngoni

  • Thursday, August 8, 2019
  • Samuel Albert
  • Source : The South-Eastern Bantu, Abe-Nguni, Aba-mbo, Ama-Lala by John Henderson soga

    Dingiswayo, for whom Tshaka professed great affection, was killed in a war with the AmaNdwandwe of Zwide. This tribe had often fought with Tshaka and had frequently beaten him. It was the most powerful of all the tribes that refused to become tributary to the ImiThethwa. 

    Tshaka, the unconquerable, had in the death of his chief found a pretext for another trial of strength with his great rival. He spoke disrepectfully of Zwide,  of Ntombazi, Zwide's mother, and of Langa, Zwide's father, expecting that his expressions of contempt would be carried to the Ndwandwe chief, and his expectations were realised. 

    Two men of importance in Tshaka's service, Ngqwangube and Nikizwayo, were under sentence of death, and fled to Zwide. These men reported Tshaka's words to the Ndwandwe chief who sent back the following message, "Son of my old friend, why do you revile me so? Fix your spears in their shafts. I am coming."

    The Ndwandwe army took the field shortly after this warning. Its immediate objective was the headquarters of Tshaka at the Gqori hills, where Tshaka had two depots of  troops, namely Mbelembele and Sirebe. 

    The Ndwandwe warriors were commanded by Noluju, Zwide's general. When he came in sight of the Gqori, Noluju arranged his warriors in two divisions. One division he sent against the Mbelembele, and the other against the Sirebe. The Zulus were likewise formed up in two divisions, each defending its own headquarters.

    Ngqengelele, son of Vulana was commander-in-chief of Tshaka's forces. As Zwide's warriors came on to the attack, Tshaka surrounded by his bodyguard, all bearing black shields, took up a position to view the battle. 

    Fighting against the Mbelembele, Zwide drove in the right wing of Tshaka's force, while at the same time Zwide's right wing was driven back by the Zulus. Exactly the same thing happened at Sirebeni. 

    When Tshaka observed that his army was in danger of being cut to pieces, he grew restive and demanded that his shield, black and white in colour, should be handed to him by his bearer, intending personally  to lead his men. 

    The regiments forming his bodyguard he divided and sent one body in support of his right wing at Mbelembele which was badly shaken, the other he sent against the left wing of Zwide's warriors who were threatening to break through his right wing at Sirebeni. 

    These arrived just in time to avert disaster and, taking advantage of the check imposed on Zwide's forces, succeeded in carrying out an encircling  movement, and thus at both points had the enemy at a  great disadvantage. 

    Desperate fighting followed, and for a long time the issue hung in the balance, but in the end, after a sanguinary contest , the Ndwandwes broke through the encircling Zulus, but only to retreat. 

    The victory was so decisive that Zwide with the whole Ndwandwe tribe made preparations to evacuate their old country. This decision they carried out and moved right up to the Wakkenstroom district from the sea-board near St Lucia lake. 

    Part of Zwide's army was composed of Zwangendaba's AbeNguni, who later separated from Zwide and went north. These are the AbeNguni or AbaNgoni, of Nyasaland, and are, as has been stated at the end of the part of this book dealing with the AmaXhosa, to be of the same stock as the latter.

    Wednesday, August 7, 2019


    Shaka Zulu's Cruelty and His Demise

  • Wednesday, August 7, 2019
  • Samuel Albert
  • Source : The South-Eastern Bantu, Abe-Nguni, Aba-mbo, Ama-Lala by John Henderson soga

    Perhaps the wars in which Tshaka engaged as supreme chief of the Imithethwa and AmaZulu reveal the best side of the man, or at least do not display conspicuously the evil that was in him.

    His warrior and their leaders by their excesses help to share any responsibility, and to keep his shortcomings in the background. The savage nature of this inhuman tyrant comes into clearer relief through the details of his private life.

    In a fit of ungovernable fury over some trivial matter, he stabbed his mother, Nandi, to death, and afterwards made a great show of extreme grief.  Mr Henry Fynn states that the Zulus told him that Nandi died from dysentry. 

    But A. M. Fuze (in Abantu Abamnyama) in reference to this says, "Is it likely that the Zulus would open their hearts to a whiteman on the real facts of a matter of this kind?" Which, in short, means that Tshaka actually killed his mother with his own hands.

    There are so many instances of his extreme brutality that it would require a separate volume to record them all. We therefore pass them over and refer to the last, which so exasperated everyone that the natural corollary was the determination to put him to death. 

    The Zulu army had been despatched on an expedition against the Pondos. Though they overpowered the Pondos, the Zulus were yet unable to follow them into the fastness of the Mgazi and completely crush them. So, having exacted a promise from them that they would become tributary to Tshaka, the Zulus contented themselves with this and the captured cattle and returned home. 

    In the absence of his army on this expedition, Tshaka professed to have had certain revelations made to him, through the medium of dreams. He summoned the wives of many of the absent warriors before him. He, then, went through the formulae of the witch-doctor, and charged each one with being guilty of a certain offence. 

    Each individual was asked, "are you guilty?" When the answer was "No," the unfortunate woman was put to death. Others, hoping to escape the same fate, would reply "Yes," but they also were put to death. 

    Thus he trifled with the lives of human beings, disregarded the sacred ties of human affection. The tiger had tasted blood. It is said that four hundred of the wives of his warriors were done to death by him on this occasion. 

    Having temporarily satiated his lust for blood, he began to think and, in thinking, to fear the effect of his excesses on the army. Consequently on its return, he allowed it no time to rest, but sent it immediately on another expedition, this time far to the north-east. 

    That the death of Tshaka was being privately canvassed is evident from an incident which took place about this time. It is related that a notorious thief, Gcugcwa, was brought before Tshaka. It should be mentioned that certain forms of theft were punishable by death. This man was of the AmaQwabe tribe, that is, the Principle House of the Zulus, and was therefore a relative to the tyrant, and of some standing by birth. 

    When he appeared before Tshaka, the latter said to him as if in salutation, Sakubona Gcugcwa ("I see you, Gcugcwa"). Gcugcwa replied,  "Yes, Ndabezitha, I see you also." A second time Tshaka said, Sakubona Gcugcwa. The culprit saw a veiled menace in the salutation, but replied as before. 

    The Qwabe thief was no coward, and feared not death. When Tshaka, therefore, a third time said to him Sakubona Gcugcwa, Gcugcwa replied "Yes chief, you see me to-day, but others will see you to-morrow." "Seize him," said the chief, and Gcugcwa was led to instant execution.

    Retribution is a slow traveller, but reaches its destination in the end. The principal conspirators working for the death of Tshaka were his two brothers, Dingana and Mhlangana. They had not, as is sometimes stated,  gone out with the army on its expedition to the north-east, but had on some pretext remained at home. 

    They got into touch with Tshaka's immediate personal attendant, Mbopha, son of Sithayi, and succeeded in gaining him over to their interest by promising him a large tract of Zululand, and recognition as chief of that part of the country.

    Dazzled by this offer he became a tool in their hands. A sister of Senzangakhona, Tshaka's father, named Mkabayi, was still alive. She had seen her two nephews, Nomkayimba and Mfogazi, cruelly put to death and their inheritance seized by Tshaka. 

    She never forgave him and carried an aching heart with her through life. The conspirators knew this and broached the subject to her. She gave them every encouragement and used all her influence and powers of persuasion to detach Mbopha from his allegiance to Tshaka, and with the help of the promises made to him by Dingana and Mhlangana succeeded. Mbopha dissembled before his master till the fatal day arrived. 

    Tshaka was engaged with Faku's representatives who had come to tender the submission of the Pondos as tributary to the Zulu chief, at the same time placing before him the cranes' feathers, and other articles demanded as an indication of their submission. The meeting was in progress within the cattle kraal of the Great Place. 

    Tshaka seemed to be dissatisfied with the tribute, and was remonstrating with the Pondos, when Mbopha entered, followed by Dingana and Mhlangana. Mbopha took advantage of the chief's attention being distracted to plunge his assegai into Tshaka. Dingana and Mhlangana also set upon him, stabbing him repeatedly till he died. The Zulus thus sacrificed one tyrant, but in Dingana they got another and, if possible, a worse one.
    Dingane kaSenzangakhona


    Monday, May 6, 2019


    Livingstonia Mission Meeting With Ngoni Headmen 1890s

  • Monday, May 6, 2019
  • Samuel Albert
  • Among the Wild Ngoni
    Chapter VI. Meeting with the Head-men 

    A WEEK after our visit to Mombera a messenger arrived to say, that next day we were requested to come and repeat our words to the head-men of the tribe. We had heard various rumours in the interval, which had caused us no little anxiety as to what would be the result of the meeting. It was said that I had come with many loads of calico, beads, brass wire, and all the many things the Ngoni desire, and at the meeting I was to enrich the people and make them great. Great was the excitement of the people over this piece of news. How such an idea came to them takes us back to the first meeting of Dr Laws with them, when the subject of war was referred to. Dr Laws had said that by obeying “the Book” and giving up war and plunder, they would become richer and greater than they were. The spiritual sense in which the statement was made was not perceived by the Ngoni, and from that day many were the theories expressed of how “the Book” was to bring riches and greatness to them. The native lives only for the present and could not be expected to see the force of such a statement, but it served to emphasise the special work we, unlike trading Arabs who were the only foreigners they had seen, had come to do. We were “the people of the Book” and not for trade. The Book was talked of, near and far, and became a source of wonder and enquiry, so that even from the start, while no systematic mission work was allowed, not a day passed on which some information was not given and seed sown, which, as we now view our work, has borne good fruit. It was no uncommon occurrence to see a group of strangers from a distance, at the house with the request to be shown the Book,—they had heard of it and wished to see it.

    On the morning of the great council of ama-duna we were in the chiefs cattle kraal at eight o’clock, and the whole day till three o’clock in the afternoon was occupied in talking. The cattle-fold is the centre of every Ngoni village. At the royal kraal, where we met, it was a circular space about eighty yards in diameter fenced with young trees. Around it in ever widening circles the huts of the people were built. The gate was at the side nearest the river, and at the opposite side was a smaller gate leading from the chiefs quarters, which were fenced off from the houses of the ordinary people. In the centre of the cattle-fold there was one of the huge ant-hills which are so numerous throughout Ngoniland.

    Soon after our arrival, troops of warriors fully armed marched in and took up their situations in the enclosure. There were eventually several hundreds present, but perfect order and quiet were observed. When all the warriors had assembled, the chief councillor, Ng’onomo, and the others came in. There were eleven present that day. Accompanying the councillors was a large number of men of inferior rank but possessing certain powers in the tribe. The councillors seated themselves in a semi-circle near to us. After the usual delay each saluted the Mission party, and then Mr Koyi rose to open the business. They were told I had come desiring to stay among them, and to teach them the Word of God, and to heal the sick. Several of the councillors spoke, and all were very warm in their expressions of welcome and readiness to give permission to my staying. All went smoothly until Ng’onomo got to his feet. He began by performing a war-dance, which, being accompanied by the war-shouts of the warriors present, and as I could not understand its meaning, discomfited me not a little. I was reassured when I caught the broad smile on Sutherland’s face as he looked at me.

    All the nice bits of native politeness and flattery had been said, and Ng’onomo, bent on the one question of war and conquest, desired to give the meeting a more practical turn. He finished his war-dance, and after recapitulating the speeches of the others, he plainly said that they were not to give up war; that they were accustomed from their infancy to take the things of others and could not see any reason why they should change their habits. He said, “The foundation of the kingdom is the spear and shield. God has given you the Book and cloth, and has given to us the shield and spear, and each must live in his own way.” To emphasise this utterance, he again danced. We had adopted the plan of replying to anything said when the speaker sat down. Mr Koyi replied, saying that the Book was given to all mankind, and that as we were all the children of God it teaches us that we ought to live in peace with each other. Here I may say that there is no word in Ngoni for “peace.” They now use an imported term,—their own expression which comes nearest the idea being “to visit one another.”

    No new question was raised at that time, but two crucial matters with the Ngoni in those days were brought up. They had been brought up when Dr Laws met the council, and for many a day constituted posers for us. One was the flight of the Tonga to Bandawe, and the other was their desire to have the exclusive right to the presence of the white men in the country. Mr James Stewart in 1879 visited Mombera, and wrote thus—“The next day, Saturday, we reached Mombera; but when I enquired for the chief, I was told he was ‘not at home.’ It was soon evident that he was either designedly absent, or that he simply denied himself. We saw only inferior head-men, who expressed dissatisfaction that we had not come to settle among them, and that they did not understand why we should visit other chiefs before doing so. I have no doubt that they were sincere in their desire to make friendship with us; but an exclusive alliance would only suit them. We heard that they were tired of waiting for us, and intended now to take their own way, which, I fear, means war before long. They have lost both power and prestige within the last two years, and may now be resolving to regain both. I heard later that there are two parties in their council. Mombera and Chipatula and their head-men are desirous of peace and to invite us still to come among them, while Mtwaro and Mperembe wish to keep us at a distance, and to recover their power by force of arms.”

    Ng’onomo asked what I was to do to bring back their former slaves, the Tonga, who had revolted and carried away some of their wives and children, their war-songs, and their war-dances. So long, he said, as we would not restore these, so long must they war to bring them and all other surrounding tribes into subjection, and if I would not in a peaceful way bring back the Tonga people, they would do so by war or drive them into the Lake. It required not a little caution to answer this statement, so as to still the excitement of the crowd of people present by whom such words were applauded. I directed Mr Koyi to say that no doubt they had many questions in which they were deeply interested, but as I had only just come among them, it was scarcely fair to demand of me a means of settling them before I had become acquainted with them and had learned their language.

    My remarks had the effect of drawing a very sensible speech from an old councillor. He said I was only now like a child, unable to speak or walk, and as they did not call upon their children to go out to seek strayed cattle, or give judgments in the affairs of the tribe, so they should not call on me to settle their great matters while I yet eould not speak or walk. That statement turned the discussion into more favourable lines, and although the other question of leaving the Tonga and Bandawe and settling among the Ngoni exclusively was brought up, we were able to satisfy the people without exciting their jealousies, or agreeing to take sides with them against their runaway slaves. Ng’onomo afterwards returned to the war question, and endeavoured to show that their war raids on other people were not a bad thing. He said they were surrounded by people whom he called slaves, and that it was not their desire to kill them, but they endeavoured merely to chase them into the mountains, and when their food and flocks were secured, to say to them, “ Come down now and let us all live together.” It was conquest and not murder they pursued, as they could not bear the idea that any people should point the finger at them, and say, “X” (a click, expressive of contempt). He made an original proposal which was not less impossible for me to carry out. If we would agree to countenance one more raid on the people at the north end who were rich in cattle, and would pray to our God that they might be successful, they would, on their return, give us part of the spoil in cattle and wives, and would proclaim that the Book was to be accepted by the whole tribe. Here there was no place for parrying, and the reply was given emphatically enough that we were not the framers of the words in the Book, but merely the teachers charged to tell all men the words which were God’s and binding on us as well as on them, and that when God said, “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not kill,” we had no power to change the command, and could not in any way countenance their wars. Then Ng’onomo asked if we would shut the Book and not pray against them if they went out. I said I had come to teach these words and could not but do so.

    An interesting statement was made by one old man. He had evidently watched the life and character of Koyi and Sutherland, and considered its bearing on the practical things of daily life. He began by saying they were glad I was a doctor, and hoped I had medicine to make Mombera live long. He went on to speak of other medicine which he thought we possessed of which they had no knowledge. He said, “We see you white people are not afraid to go about all over the country, and you settle among different tribes and become the friends of all. How is that?

    You have medicine (natives think everything is done by medicine as charms) for quieting people’s hearts so that they do not kill you. We cannot do so. We are not even at peace among ourselves. We speak fair words to each other, but that is not how we feel. We have also noticed that your servants are ‘biddable,’ and when ordered to do anything at once do it. It is not so with ours. We tell a slave to do a thing, and he says, ‘Yes, master, I have heard’; but he does not do it unless he chooses. We hope you will give us medicine to make our slaves obedient, and to quiet our enemies.” A better opportunity there could not have been for giving them a little plain instruction, and for putting in a word for schools which had been proscribed since the Mission began. Koyi, whose speech was as clear and pointed as theirs, made good use of his opportunity. He told them we had no medicine in their sense, but the words of the Book were stronger than medicine when taken to heart. He quoted the golden rule, and said, “That’s the medicine for quieting enemies everywhere, and was that which made all tribes the friends of the white men.” Then as to making servants obedient, h.e said the Book had words for both servants and masters. It told servants to be obedient and honour their masters; and masters to be kind to and patient with their servants, and give them their due in all things. He added that our servants were obedient and happy because they were being taught the Word of God, and because they were not our slaves, but were paid their wages regularly. He advised them to try it among theirs, and it would have the same happy results. Then he attacked once more the stubbornness of the people in refusing to allow schools. He said in doing so they were refusing the medicine which they were crying out for. As a native only could, he ridiculed them, and by happy and forcible illustrations made them hesitate in the position they held in refusing to allow schools. He said, “You are like a sick man in distress, who sees others being cured and cries for the same medicine, but refuses it when offered.” One replied by saying, “If we give you our children to teach, your words will steal their hearts; they will grow up cowards, and refuse to fight for us when we are old; and knowing more than we do, they will despise us.” That was met by saying that the Book had a command for children which they must allow to be good, viz., “Honour thy father and thy mother.” They would not be taught anything wrong, for all men are taught to fear God and honour the King. The school question was not discussed further; but no doubt some good was done, and the solution hastened by what had passed, although it was, as we shall see, two years after this ere liberty was given to open schools.

    One other point it was necessary to refer to, as only the district immediately under Mombera was open to the Mission, so I requested leave to go about the country, as my desire was to help all. The districts of Mtwaro, Mperembe, and Maurau, brothers of the chief, were closed to us, not more by the hostility of these sub-chiefs, than by the jealousy of Mombera and his advisers, who desired to have the white men all to themselves, no doubt in view of the riches which were expected to come through them.

    I was advised to stay with the others, as all were not favourable to our presence in the country; and while we would be guarded if in their midst, they could not tell what might happen if we went beyond Mombera’s own district into that of any of his brothers. This was not satisfactory, and as it was probably from jealousy, we pushed for liberty to go about. It was denied by the councillors, who repeated their reasons.

    It was, however, clear in all that was said, that the real object of our presence among them was made manifest. However mistaken their ideas were as to the teaching of the Book, we were understood to be men with a message to be received, and they were honest enough to say they did not want it. No advance on previous liberties was made, but our position as neither wishing to bear rule over them nor to work for their overthrow, but to teach the Word of God, was made plain once more.

    Then came the not very agreeable business of presenting the gift which we had taken for the councillors. There was considerable excitement visible generally, as each was presented with twelve yards of red cloth, a kind much valued by the head-men. As each had his portion presented to him there was an ominous silence for a time, and then a burst of derisive laughter. Some turned it over on the ground as if afraid to handle it. Some got up and measured it. One man took his and flung it among the crowd of warriors. One came over and said he did not want cloth. One only had the grace to thank me. They were reminded that we could not attempt to enrich them with goods, but had merely, according to their custom, brought “something in our hand” as a visible token of the friendship our hearts desired. One replied saying they saw we were not bent on enriching them, but it was good to remember that they had great hunger for various kinds of cloth and beads, and another day perhaps they would receive more. If I had come among them expecting the grace and politeness of civilization, instead of their proud indifference and sovereign contempt for the offering of friendship, my feelings would have suffered more than they did, but I was heartily glad when they rose up to go, and that the wild rumours of their expectations which we had heard for some days, found no more pronounced substantiation than their contemptuous treatment of what I thought was a sufficient gift for the purpose in view. The armed warriors, who appeared to have come as the bodyguard of the head-men, quietly filed out of the kraal and we were left alone.

    Mombera was not present, and the councillors went to his hut to report to him the matters which had been talked over. Mr Koyi was called, and it seems the chief had enquired the reason why war dancing had been engaged in. He was angry at Ng’onomo and told him that the object of the gathering was not to discuss tribal matters with me, but to hear what I had to say. After a little the rest of us were called into the chiefs hut, where Ng’onomo and some of the other councillors were being regaled with beef and beer. The stiffness and formalities of the kraal meeting were absent, and no disappointment was visible. Mombera delivered a long speech bidding me welcome among them, and expressing joy that I was skilled in medicine. He himself was often sick, he said, and doubtless I had noticed that there were few old men present that day, the reason being that they were all dead, and if I could give them long life it would be good. He did not say how many never reached old age because they were killed in battle. If there were any doubts as to the full security of our position in the tribe, they were accentuated when Mombera repeated the warning of the councillors, that I should settle along with the others and not go into other districts. No doubt there was some desire to have exclusive possession of the white men, but it was noteworthy that although word had been sent to all the sub-chiefs to come to the palaver none had come, and none of their head-men were present.

    With too great eagerness, perhaps, I pressed for permission to visit his brother, Mtwaro, at Ekwendeni, saying my desire was to become acquainted with all in the tribe and be of use to all. He and Mtwaro were not on friendly terms at that time, but as Mtwaro was heir-apparent it seemed advisable for the permanence of our work, in the event of Mombera’s death, to become known to Mtwaro and his head-men. Not since 1879, when Mr John Moir visited Mtwaro and had opened the way for others by friendly dealings with him, had anyone communicated with that sub-chief, and he had only once visited the Mission station. His armies were known to be out towards the Lake very frequently, and we all thought an attempt should be made to gain Mtwaro’s influence as Mombera’s had been gained.

    After my statement had been interpreted to Mombera and he had consulted with some of those in the hut, he gave permission to visit Mtwaro and was thanked. He seemed to think that that would soften my heart, and so he plied his begging and his demands for cloth, beads, brass wire, big guns, little guns, gunpowder, dogs, bulls to improve his breed of cattle, needles, thread, and, above all, an iron box, with lock and key, in which to keep his valuables, which he said his wives and his councillors were in the habit of stealing. He said he would come over to see me when I could give him these things. It was hard to take all in good part and be at ease under his gaze over the beer-pot, and gracefully excuse our non-compliance with his overwhelming demands. Nothing but a desire to be a means of blessing to such a chief and tribe, would prove an inducement to live the life and experience which may be said to have begun that day. Forgetting the things not agreeable to flesh and blood, we soon after took our departure, feeling that some advance had been made in the work which we had come to take part in.

    It was one advantage having to deal with a council rather than a single individual, and be continually subject to his capricious mind. As the Ngoni had a settled council who were not without dignity and caution in their deliberations, it was evident they had reciprocated our words as far as they could, as, not being over-anxious to allow us all we asked, they were prepared to make good all they allowed. The occasion was very similar to that on which Augustine came to Ethelbert as the first papal missionary to Britain. When he sent word on landing that “ he had come with the best of all messages, and that if he would accept it he would ensure for himself an everlasting kingdom,” Ethelbert would not commit himself, but answered with caution. When at last a meeting was convened, and Augustine “had preached to him the Word of life,” as Bede says, Ethelbert replied, “Fair words and promises are these; but seeing they are new and doubtful, I cannot give in to them, and give up what I and all the English race have so long observed.” But unlike Augustine, who was accorded the privilege of bringing any one of the people over to the new faith, we were told that the chief and council would first have to be taught, and if they considered our message safe, they would give us full liberty to teach the people.

    It may here be noted how different has been the introduction of the Mission to all the other peoples in Livingstonia. In all the other districts the missionaries were hailed as the friends and protectors of the people. All were subject to stronger tribes, by whom they were constantly harried, or were trying to maintain an independent existence surrounded by their enemies; hence they gladly welcomed the missionary, hoping that his presence would prove their safety from their enemies. In no single case did they welcome him on account of his message; and the trouble in those early days was that he was pestered for medicine, guns and powder to kill their enemies. The Missions in those districts had the preparatory work to do in making the people understand the reason for their presence, just as we had of another kind in Ngoniland. Through the faithful testimony of Messrs Koyi and Sutherland, the Ngoni had by the time of my arrival come to understand clearly what our message really was. They needed not our protection from their enemies, as they were masters of the country for many miles around; and, indeed, their pride would not have allowed them to think that in any way a white man or two could be of any profit to them. They knew our teaching would strike at their sins of uncleanness, lying, war, murder and stealing, and they were, unlike the so-called deceitful, vacillating African, at least honest in their treatment of our words. There was great good in having got their ear so far; and even distinct refusal was far better than ready compliance, to be as readily retracted when occasion arose. It is far better to have to deal with an opposing council of head-men with power than with a chief himself, even although he agrees at the time.

    If before leaving home I received one bit of advice more often than any other from Dr Laws, who had experience, along with Mr James Stewart and Mr Koyi, of the dangerous and trying work of gaining an opening among the Ngoni, it was that I should proceed gently and push nothing beyond what was a wise point. On such occasions as the meeting referred to, the judgment and caution of Mr Koyi were invaluable, and he was of opinion that we should not endanger our position with Mombera at that stage, while not sure that we would be received by Mtwaro. We sent a reply that we had no desire to act contrary to the chief’s wishes in the matter, and that until he could send someone to introduce us to his brother, we would refrain from going. It must be remembered that we were merely in the country on sufferance at that time. We did not even own the site of our house, and were not by any means assured of a permanent residence among them, so that we would not have been acting wisely had we been more anxious to assert our independence, than to improve the, as yet, slight hold we had on Mombera and his councillors. There are three special qualifications necessary in every missionary, viz., grace, gumption, and go. Prayer and the exercise of it will ensure the first; where one may get the second, I know not, but the want of it is accountable for more failures in the foreign field than anything else; and the third, although invaluable, can only be right as the outcome of the former. To spend years among the Ngoni and be denied many liberties may, indeed, be an undignified position for a free-born Briton ; but mere questions of dignity ought not to trouble the slaves of Christ in the work to which they have been called. Little by little, as we shall see, our position was improved among the Ngoni, and the years of apparent unfruitfulness were necessary preparation for the intelligent acceptance of the Gospel. 

    Sunday, November 15, 2015



  • Sunday, November 15, 2015
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below are some izithakazelo (Kinship group praises)  for some nguni or ngoni clans collected from the web. As you may notice some are in Zulu, Xhosa and other nguni languages. You can use to get the meaning of the words. This site has an online zulu dictionary that you may also use to translate the ngoni songs found on this site. Remember that isiZulu, isiNgoni, isiXhosa, siSwati and isindebele are all nguni languages and are therefore mutually intelligible.

    Note: Isithakazelo (plural Izithakazelo)are poems praising important people e.g. ancestors within a Nguni clan. They are the story of a clan. The shortened version is used as a fond greeting of a clan member.

    Zithakazelo zakwaMsimang (now known as Simango in Malawi according to GT Nurse)

    Sdindi Kasiphuki
    Sihlula amadoda

    Zithakazelo zakwa Khumalo

    Abathi bedla, umuntu bebe bemyenga ngendaba.
    Abadl'izimf'ezimbili Ikhambi laphuma lilinye.
    Lobengula kaMzilikazi, Mzilikazi kaMashobana
    Shobana noGasa kaZikode, Zikode kaMkhatshwa.
    Mabaso owabas'entabeni, Kwadliwa ilanga lishona
    Zindlovu ezibantu, Zindlovu ezimacocombela.
    Nina bakwaMawela, Owawel'iZambezi ngezikhali.
    Nina bakaNkomo zavul'inqaba, Zavul'inqaba ngezimpondo kwelaseNgome.
    Nina enal'ukudl'umlenze KwaBulawayo!
    Mantungw'amahle! Bantwana benkosi, Nina bakwaNtokela!

    Izithakazelo zakwa-Dlamini (Nkosi)

    Dlamini Hlubi
    Ludonga LaMavuso
    Abay`embo bebuyelela
    Sidwaba sikaLuthuli
    Wena esingangcwaba sibuye noMlandakazi
    Abawela lubombo ngekuhlehletela
    Nina baSobhuza uSomhlolo
    Umsazi kaSobhuza
    Nina bakwakusa neLanga
    Nina bakwaWawawa
    Nina beNgwane
    Nina besicoco sangenhlana
    Nina beKunene

    ezakwa Khambule

    Nina bakwaNkomo zilal'uwaca
    Ezamadojeyana zilal'amankengana
    Nina basebuhlen'obungangcakazi
    Abadl'umbilini wenkomo kungafanele
    Kwakufanel'udliwe ngabalandakazi
    Nina bakaDambuza Mthabathe
    Nina basemaNcubeni
    Kwakhuz'abantu banifihla
    Nina baseSilutshana
    Nin'enakhelana noMbunda
    Nina bakaMaweni

    'Thina bakwa Mhlongo sithi'

    Nina bakaBhebhe kaMthendeka
    Nina bakaSoqubele onjengegundane
    Nina baseSiweni
    KwaMpuku yakwaMselemusi
    KwaNogwence webaya
    Zingwazi zempi yakwaNdunu
    Yatholakal'onyakeni wesine
    Yabuye yatholakala ngowesikhombisa
    Ngaphandle ke uma ngingatshelwanga kahle ekhaya.

    Izithakazelo zakwa-Ndlovu.

    Boya benyathi!
    Buyasongwa buyasombuluka.
    Mpongo kaZingelwayo!
    Nina bakwandlovu zidl' ekhaya,
    Ngokweswel' abelusi.
    Nina bakwakhumbula amagwala.
    Nina bakwademazane ntombazana
    Nina bakwasihlangu sihle.
    Nina bakwaMdubusi!

    Izithakazelo Zakwa-gumede

    Mnguni! Qwabe!
    Mnguni kaYeyeye
    BakaKhondlo kaPhakathwayo
    Abathi bedla, babeyenga umuntu ngendaba
    Abathi "dluya kubeyethwe."
    Kanti bahlinza imbuzi.
    Bathi umlobokazi ubeyethe kayikhuni
    Sidika lolodaba!
    Wena kaMalandela
    Ngokulandel' izinkomo zamadoda,
    Amazala-nkosi lana!

    Izithakazelo zakwaMabaso

    Mbulazi ,
    wen' odl' umunt' umyenga ngendaba,
    wen' omanz' akhuphuk' intaba

    Zithakazelo zakwaNgwenya

    Ngwenya(South African version)
    zingaba mbili,
    zifuze konina,
    baye babuya
    emangwaneni ,
    bayosala beziloyanisa

    Zithakazelo zakwaZulu

    Zulu kaMalandela;
    Zulu omnyama ondlela zimhlophe.
    Nina baka Phunga no Mageba.
    Ndaba; nina bakaMjokwane kaNdaba.
    Nina benkayishana kaMenzi eyaphunga umlaza ngameva.
    Mnguni, Gumede.

    Izithakazelo zakwa zungu:

    nyama kayishe eshaya ngamaphephezeli
    wena owaphuma ngenoni emgodini,
    wena owakithi le emaheyeni,sengwayo

    I have just noted that some people have been trying to search for the meaning of the word ndabezitha used above and in some Zulu films such as Shaka Zulu below.

    Ndabezitha is the one of the praise and respect words used when the Zulus and other Ngunis want to acknowledge loyalty to a Nguni royalty. Just as in English one would say, 'your majesty or his royal majesty or your royal majesty' to their king, in Zulu and other nguni words you use the praise word ndabezitha. The word is a contraction of indaba yezitha literally meaning 'matter of the enemies'