Sunday, October 17, 2010


A White Missionary's Take On The British War on Maseko Ngoni and Killing of Gomani I

  • Sunday, October 17, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
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  • By Miss A Werner, British Central Africa.

    The Angoni, also called Mazitu, or Mavitu, are an offshoot of the great Zulu nation. It appears that their ancestors revolted from Tshaka at the turn of this century, and gradually fought their way northward, probably incorporating with themselves a great part of the conquered tribes. The name Angoni is applied to a great number of people who are pure Mang’anja, as being vassals of the red Angoni. They have adopted a few Zulu words into their language, and learnt to use the shield and assagai, which, in the wars of the quite superseded the Mang’anja bow, and almost equally so the rubbishy firearms imported by traders I do not propose to trace thewanderings of the Angoni,or the history of their raids. Constant references to them, under the name Mazitu (or Mavitu),1 may be found in Livingstone’s “Last Journals ” and in Youngs “ Search for Livingstone,” and "Mission to Nyasa.”

    But about 1880 or I881, when the Yaos had begun to settle down peaceably, the Angoni (under their chief Chekusi) fell into the habit of making raids across the Shire every year when the crops were ripe. They carried off maize, goats, fowls, everything that was not “too hot or too heavy,” and also all the women and children they could catch-many of whom are now permanently settled in the West Shire country. In 1885, however, the Rev. D. C. Scott, accompanied by Mrs. Scott and Dr. Peden,started on a visit to Chekusi’s kraal,and opened up friendly relations with him. He proved willing, to suspend the raids, and eager that white men should settle in his country.- It was promised that teachers should be sent, but circumstances prevented the fullilment of this promise for several years; and in the meantime stations had been opened at Livlezi and Gowa by the Free Church (Livingstonia) Mission, who, we may remark in passing, had previously succeeded in establishing themselves on a very friendly footing with the old chief Mombera, the overlord of the northern Angoni. In 1893, however (after the death of old Chekusi, and the accession of his son Chatantumba or Gomani, who, by-the-bye, objected to the presence of the missionaries in the immediate neighbourhood of his kraal), a small out-station was established at Ntumbi, two days’ journey from Chekusi’s, under the charge of two ladies and a native teacher or two. The school thus begun has been carried on more or less successfully by a series of native teachers.

    At the very time of the compilation of these notes, “ the Angoni rising,” as the papers called it, was taking place, and afording another example of official mismanagement to use the mildest term. Iam not concerned to defend poor Chatantumba, who was neither a Khama nor a Cetshwayo-in fact, not a model ruler judged by any standard; but I cannot convince myself that the administration took the best way of dealing with the difficulty-“ rising " is a misnomer.

    “It was no such thing” (I quote from an article in the Gentleman's Magazine for July 1897), “ but a  piece of ‘wild justice', rather wildly executed by Chatantumba on his subjects. It was, in fact, a punitive raid, similar to one which, to my own knowledge, took place in April 1894, and for the reason presently to be stated, but more serious in character, since a large number of people were killed. One of the chiefs followers told a missionary (whose house, right in the track of the raid, was left untouched), that Gomani did not wish to harm the white men but he was angry with his people because they had gone to work for the white men at Blantyre, whereas they refused to build houses for him. One who knows the country may plausibly conjecture (taking this in connection with previous occurrences ) that this, being interpreted, really means that some planter or planters had decoyed away a number of Angoni to settle beyond Shire, and that the chief resented this breach of discipline after his fashion. Human life is cheap in those parts, though perhaps not so cheap as it was among us in the days of the Heptarchy. When the news of the raid reached the administration at Zomba, a force of Sikhs and native police under Stewart was sent over; Chatantumba was taken prisoner, and, after some sort of a trial, found guilty of murder and hanged. The official report of these transactions has not yet been made public, and it is impossible to judge without knowing all the details; but one would be glad to know whether Chatantumba fully understood that his ancestral methods of discipline would not be al1owed under British rule. It also seems as if there ought to have been some investigation into his reasons for the raid."2 


    1.The Mang'anja on the east side of the lake prononce v where the Blantyre and West Shire people sound z; thus the former say “vintu"(things), while the latter say “zintu.”

    2.Since the above was written two more 'risings' have taken place and been put down.

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