Showing posts with label Zwangendaba. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zwangendaba. Show all posts

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Notes on the Angoni and Achewa of Dowa District of the Nyasaland Protectorate

  • Saturday, October 30, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Extract from 'Notes on the Achewa and Angoni of the Dowa District of the Nyasaland Protectorate. by A. G. O Hodgson, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 63 (Jan. - Jun., 1933) pp. 123-164.


    1. Geographical Introduction.

    THE Nyasaland Protectorate consists of a strip of land some five hundred miles in length and approximately seventy miles in width, lying around the southern and western shores of Lake Nyasa, which is the most southerly and the third in size of the great East African lakes. The hot, low-lying plain which forms part of the Rift valley rises gradually from an altitude of 130 feet on the Lower Shire River to 1,600 feet at the level of the lake. To the west of this


    Thursday, October 28, 2010



  • Thursday, October 28, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By G. T Nurse , Clanship in Central Malawi pp 50-62 (1978)

    As might be expected, the clan structure of the central Ngoni of Malawi is one which has developed from the system current in the Nguni lands of Natal and Swaziland towards the end of Mfecane, the period of disturbances surrounding the rise of the Zulu power. It was as a consequence of the Mfecane that the two Ngoni migration which terminated in central and east Africa set out from their original homeland. Some of the modifications which have taken place in the clan structure of the Maseko Ngoni have been due to the exigencies of the migration, while others are recognizably the consequences of contact with the Maravi.


    Friday, October 22, 2010



  • Friday, October 22, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Margaret Read, Ngoni of Nyasaland (1956)

    Ngoni clans had a particular role in their political and social organization. These clans had certain characteristics which distinguished them from the clans of the local peoples, and which they had in common with the Nguni group of the South-eastern Bantu. The use of the clan name in address and in thanking for gifts, the strict exogamy in the clans, and the hierarchy of rank among the clans—these were all of southern origin. Mrs. Hoernle,1 writing of the social organization among the northern Nguni, said that the clan was called isibongo, 'a word referring more particularly to the name of the group'. The Ngoni spoke of their clan name as their cibongo, and they generally added 'that is my thanking name'. Dr. Kuper2  used the term clan for 'the furthest extension of kinsmen traced through the father or the mother'. She referred also to the sub-division of clans among the Swazi—a process of fission by which a

    Sunday, October 17, 2010


    The Stabbing of Shaka and Ndwandwe War that Led to the Movement of The Ngoni and Others From Zululand

  • Sunday, October 17, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • by A.T Bryant, a Missionary in Zululand and Natal 

    The evening was come, and brought an agreeable transformation of the scene. The bright variegated gaiety of the day had now become set in a background of jetty darkness, and, lit up by the lurid glow of bonfires of dried reeds, presented a weird and fascinating study in light and shade. It was a serenade in which the great chief was himself taking a part. Suddenly a terrifying shriek rent the air; and the fires went mysteriously out! The multitude was plunged in darkness, and confusion reigned supreme. Shaka the Terrible, Shaka the Divine, had himself been stabbed! Verily now hath come the end for many there present. What shall be done? The gathering wrath must be appeased somehow, else unhappy are they whose misfortune it must be to have to come near the wounded despot; for, says the adage, the wild-beast bites those who approach it. Now, the enemy whom Shaka just at that moment had uppermost in his mind was the Ndwandwe king, Zwide, whose power had not yet been broken and whose adherents, under Sikunyana, were even then threatening the

    Saturday, October 9, 2010



  • Saturday, October 9, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • From: Songs of The Ngoni People by Margaret Read 1937. When describing their songs and dances the Ngoni say " We had many beautiful dances but the best of all were those of inqwala." This took place in February at the time of the first ripening of certain crops, and seems to have a first fruit and fertility ceremony, as well as a general gathering of the tribe. These inqwala songs could be sung only at the time of the ceremony which lasted about one month. Before the inqwala was announced, and after it had been declared closed, no one could sing inqwala songs on pain of death. The ceremony was abandoned so long ago that most of the songs are forgotten, and the meanings of the fragments which are remembered are not at all clear. In this selection the third song refers to the invasion by the Ngoni of the Bemba country, and the fourth to the village of the father of Zwangendaba where the inqwala was danced.


    Thursday, September 30, 2010



  • Thursday, September 30, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Margaret Read.
    Excerpt from 'Songs of The Ngoni People'.

    Praise songs of chiefs and great men are so well known in South Africa that it is unnecessary to explain them at length here. In Nyasaland the Ngoni are unique in possessing praise songs, some of which go back seven or eight generations. These praise songs are today " chanted " on state occasions before the chiefs, and the tradition persists of handing them on. The izibongo, or praise songs proper, belong to a group of songs which have no music but which are " chanted " in a kind of recitative, which only a few people know how to do. Other songs in this group are the izithokozo or thanking names, and the izigiyo which the warrior shouts when coming forward in his own solo dance during the umgubo dance. All people who have any claim to distinction possess izithokozo and izigiyo, but the izibongo appear to be only for chiefs of the royal house and a few other distinguished nobles whose houses in the past were near to, if not actually, royalty.

    There are certain features in these praise songs to which it is worth calling attention in order to make comparisons with the similar group of songs in the south. In the first place, the phrasing and the words of the praise songs of the line of Paramount Chiefs vary in different districts. In Mwambera's country for example, one "pattern" of praise song is heard in Ekwendeni, another in Elangeni, in each the pattern being standardised unless a very brilliant umbongi or praiser added a phrase from his own isifua. In the second place sarcastic or even insulting remarks are sometimes found in praise songs. I am told they were permitted because no one could possibly believe them, "that is, it was, a form of high praise to say ludicrous things about a chief which could not be true. In the third place, some of the praise songs were " telescoped," praises of an earlier chief being included in those of a later one. As however this is the first time any of these praises have been recorded in writing, this " telescoping " may be a fault of the recorder.

    I am including here four sets of praise songs, in three of which there are alternative forms. It is interesting to see what a degree of variation was reached, and it may be possible in comparison with praise songs in the south to find out some principles of composition of these praise songs with their variations. It may be on the other hand that, "the spirit bloweth where it listeth," and isifua must have its way, and eloquence its own poetic licence.

    The arrangement of the sentences will be familiar to anyone who has listened to praise songs. The beginning of each sentence (marked with a capital letter) is on a high note, generally rallentando, and the notes descend to the end of the sentence, and are held again on the last note.

    (I) Ngoni : " Izibongo zikaNgwana1 kaGoqweni "

    Bayethe baba !
    Bayethe Nkosi !
    Bayethe Gumethe !
    Inkosi yelizwe lonke
    Wena umzukhulu kaNgwana, kaGoqweni
    Wena kaSongobe zamakhanda, kuyâmbatha amashoba ezinyamazana.
    Wena wadabuka kwaShaka ebenkundla zitha, amachamani ngesidaba soluthuli.2
    Wena wakwaMdladla uBanjwa, oBanjwa ngaMasokani.
    Umzukhulu kaNaNqongwane3kaGoqweni
    Wena okwenda okumnyama.
    Wena osilo sabantu.
    Wena ingudlangudla4inkunzi yamalanga.
    Owaphuza ubende lwezinkomo.
    Owabekwa ndawonye nezintaba.
    Liyasha, liyasha ungenampendulo.

    English : " Praise of Ngwana son of Goqweni."

    Hail father !
    Hail Chief !
    Hail Gumethe !
    Chief of the whole country.
    You the grandchild of Ngwana son of Goqweni
    You the son of Songobe of the military villages, clothed with armlets of wild animals.
    You who came from among Shaka's people. Shaka who was the milking place of his enemies, the calf skin for the kilt of Lutuli.
    You of the Mdladla who was captured, who was captured of Masokana.
    The grandchild of Na-Nqongwane daughter of Goqweni. You whose marriage had sad omens.
    You the wild beast of the people.
    You the biggest of all other bulls.
    You who drink the blood of cattle.
    You who wast placed together with the mountains.
    The sun is blazing, is blazing, and you do not answer.

    (2) Ngoni : " Izibongo kaNgwana, kaGoqweni noGoqweni."

    Wena owajub' imithi wajub' imiyomo5
    Wena ontethe vuyana wahlom' izinsiba zezintethe.
    Owaya phansi wakhwela phezulu, wayokuthabath' inkwenkwezi yokusa.
    Hamba wena lokhu bakwalakho, uyokuthabatha amashoba ezinyamazana: ezinkomo anombeyebeye.6
    Wena ukumbuyana umyandana wakadeni.
    Kuyehla wayehla ndawonye nezintaba.
    Wena wasel' ubende7bezinkomo.
    Wena waqhamukana naboShaka, uShaka kaMbelebele.
    Wena waghamukana naboNyathi ekaMashaane : eladuma lasibekela.
    Izinkomo ezapheya ngamaganyazana.
    Wena wadabukana8 naboMzilikazi
    Wena wadafiukana naboMpakana kaLidonga
    Wena wadaBukana naBoNdwandwa.

    English: "Praises of Ngwana son of  Goqweni and of Goqweni."

    You who cut the trees and who cut the mouths,
    You the locust, who fixed in your hair the feathers of the locust.
    Who went below, and climbed up, and went to bring the morning star of the dawn.
    You go, since you are rejected ; you go and bring the armlets of wild animals ; those of cattle will be much disputed.
    You who remember the fault of long ago.
    In descending, you descend together with the mountains. You who drank the blood of cattle.
    You who separated from the people of Shaka, Shaka of Mbelebele kraal.
    You who separated from the people of Nyathi the son of Mashobane ; it thundered, it was cloudy.
    Thou resemblest cattle which were finished by wolves.
    You who originated with the people of Mzilikazi.
    You who originated with the people of Mpakana son of Lidonga.
    You who originated with the people of Ndwandwa.

    (3) Ngoni : " Izibongo zikaGomani kaTshikusi."

    Bayeth' nkosi
    Wena umzukulana kaGwaya
    Wena umzukulana kaNgwana
    Umabanda tshembuzi tshenkomo tshinombalo
    Wena owadla muntu lapha kuboNgala.

    English : " Praises of Gomani9 son of Tshikusi."

    Hail Chief
    You the grandchild of Gwaya
    You the grandchild of Ngwana
    One who carries a goatskin shield, because he knows a shield of cow skin brings envy10
    You who ate a man there among the Ngala people.

    (3) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaZwangendaba11 kaHlatshwayo."

    UZwangendaba omnyama ngabomu ophik' eziyakhanya
    Obej' amehlo wabej' imiyumo
    Ophuz' ingazi zamanye madoda
    Indima azilingani nabakwazi kulima
    Ivila elidl' amabele okulinyelwa
    UMcethuli wezigodo nasekhaya uyacethula nakubafo uyacethula
    Owel' UZembezi ngezinyawo
    Bath' UZembezi aluwelwa luwelwa ngezinkonjane zimadada
    Ohlangane ngengwe emahlabeyeni
    Wathi ingwe izongiyamuyeya kanti ingwe izith' ezinye
    Nango, nango, umbonaphi?
    Umbon' emagumeni abonina.

    English : Praises of Zwangendaba son of Hlatshwayo.

    Zwangendaba whose intention it is to be black, whose wings are shining
    Red as to the eyes12 and red as to the lips.
    Who drinks the blood of the other men.
    The plots (which he hoes) are not equal to those of the people who know how to hoe.
    An idle man who eats grain which is hoed for him.
    Clearer of the stumps (which are in his way) ; at home he is clearing them13, and in the enemy country.
    Who crossed the Zambezi by foot.
    They say the Zambezi is not crossed, it is crossed by swallows like ducks.
    Who has encountered a leopard on his left side14.
    He said : the leopard will help me whereas the leopard is some enemies15.
    There he is, there he is, where do you see him ?
    You see him in the fences of his mothers.

    (4) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaZwangendaba kaHlatshwayo."

    UZwangendaba omnyama ngabomu ophike kwakhanya.
    Muka simuke wena owaliwayo
    SingaNtungwa siyishashazi lapha abantu bafa ngokhulaphaya.
    Ngqaba dlan' abantu shiy' izinkomo.
    Ngqaba kuLushwana kwaba uluthuli.
    Nango, nango Bambonaphi ? Bambon' emagumeni abonina. 
    Mathukuthela zaluke namathole.
    Iqili elikhulu elega amaseko ezinyanga.
    Ngenyuko ngaza ngazazu ulubombo.
    Siyenzwa ngenkani inkulu yaManqumayo.
    Uyabona amalembe akuhlalele amalembe angalembel' ukulinywa.
    Wakubon' inkotha wadladlama.
    Wakubon' udonga wafaka unyawo.
    Yena owashaya amanzi ngomshiza kuZembezi.
    Owakhumhul' inkomo zabalunjana.

    English : "Praises of Zwangendaba son of Hlatshwayo."

    Zwangendaba whose intention it is to be black16 who denies it to be light.
    Go away, let us go, you the rejected one.
    We are like a man of the Ntungwa17, a fat one; there the people die as fat ones.
    Ngqaba you must eat people. Leave the cattle.
    Ngqaba son of Lushwana there was confusion.
    There he is, there he is, where do they see him ? They see him in the fences of his mothers.
    One who is angry because the cattle have gone with the calves. 
    His great cunning overcomes the magic stones of the doctors.
    I have gone away until I have seen Lubombo Mountains.18
    We are suffering on account of the great dispute with the Nqumayo19 people.
    You are seeing the hoes which are waiting for you, the hoes which cannot be used for hoeing.
    He saw it, the short grass, he was biting it hastily.
    He saw it, the ditch, his foot slipped into it.
    He who divided the water with a stick at the Zambezi. 
    He who remembered the cattle of the Balunjana.

    (5) " Ngoni : Izibongo zikaHlatshwayo20 kaMagangatha"

    UGubazi ngokwambath' ingubo enzima
    Umanunk' onjengokaLongqola
    Umkhulana ngokubiz' ezizzweni
    'Sandla saphath' inkomo zaphalala
    EzikaNdlembe ngezikaNdlembe wakuboMfekane
    Bathi ubuhlalu kabulingani entanyeni
    Ingani kobodade babo buyalingana

    English: " Praises of Hlatshwayo son of Magangata."

    Gubazi by putting on a black robe
    Who smells like the son of Longqola
    Who is great by calling the tribes
    The hand that touched cattle and they multiplied
    Those (cattle) of Ndlembe, they belong to Ndlembe of Mfekane 
    They say the beads do not fit on his neck
    Whereas on the necks of his sisters they are fitting.

    (6) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaHlatshwayo kaMagangatha."

    UHlatshwayo omfishane anganyatheli ingubo
    Ingani abade bayazinyathela
    Inyama idliwa ngemikwa yamazembe
    Ingadliwa ngezinsungulo ibolile
    Hlatshwayo isihlahla esibenyana kulllatshwayo waMandulo 
    Utshani wentongoza awushi nokusha, usha nyasisitheka usha using' intonteya.

    English: " Praises of Hlatshwayo son of Magangata."

    Hlatshwayo the dwarf one21 who cannot trail his cloth 
    Whereas the tall people trail their cloths
    Meat eaten with knives of axes
    If it is not eaten with forks it is rotten
    Hlatshwayo whose bodily vigour is finished off compared with Hlatshwayo of former times22
    Grass of deep red colour is not burned with burning ; it burns very slowly; it burns drop by drop.

    Below is a video of Ngoni languages praises for Inkosi yamakhosi Gomani IV


    1.uNgwana was leader of the Maseko group of Ngoni when they left the South. He is the great-great grandfather of the present Paramount Gomani.

    2. The meaning of this phrase is very obscure and is just a guess.

    3. Na is the honorific prefix for important women in Gomani's country, taken from Chewa.

    4. This is obscure too but the meaning is said to be " grazing,"

    5. Probably imiyonzo yempi = advance guard of the army.

    6. Armlets of cattle would involve taking cattle, someone's property, and would cause dispute. Wild animals no one can lay claim to.

    7. Ubende is really cooked blood, but I am told that it is used here poetically for uncooked blood igazi.

    8. I am not sure whether ukudabuka is used here in its meaning of " to originate " or " to break away." Either is common usage.

    9. This was the father of the present Paramount Gomani.

    10. In dividing a cowskin for making shields a more honoured person receives the- right hand side. Hence disputes arose when chiefs gave skins for shields A goat skin is not divided

    11. Leader of the Jere group when leaving the south. Great grandfather of the present Paramount Mwambera.

    12. He was said to have blazing eyes like a man who smokes hemp.

    13. Refers to his way of getting rid of rivals and those suspected of witchcraft.

    14 The vulnerable side.

    15. A possible reference to Basa who killed Zwangendaba's wives.

    16. This may be a reference to the well-known black skin of the Jeris, sometimes jeered at by certain lighter skinned families.

    17. Considered to be a superior people.

    18. Meaning quite obscure uLubombo (= Lubombo Mts.) is said to be fontanel 

    19. Zwidi Nqumayo was Paramount Chief of the Ndwandwe; even the Jeres were under him.

    20. Was father of Zwangendaba

    21. He was known to have been a dwarf.

    22. A reference to his alleged impotence.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010


    Explorations In The Country West of Lake Nyasa

  • Wednesday, September 22, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author(s): R. I. Money and S. Kellett Smith

    Source: The Geographical Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Aug., 1897), pp. 146-172 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

    IN the spring of 1895, an expedition left England for the purpose examining and exploring certain territories of the British South Africa Company north of the Zambezi. Command was held by the late Dr. A. Moloney, formerly of the Stairs expedition to Katangaland, and there accompanied him nine white men, including in their number a surveyor, a geologist, a surgeon, and prospectors. Disembarking at Chinde, on the East African coast, and proceeding up the now well known Shire river route, the expedition landed at Bandawe, on the west shore of Lake Nyasa. Here preparations were at once commenced for the inland march.


    Friday, September 17, 2010



  • Friday, September 17, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author(s): Margaret Read
    Source: Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Oct., 1936), pp.453-484 Published by: Edinburgh University Press

    Before I made my first camp in an Ngoni village, many Europeans had said to me, 'There are practically no Ngoni left today. They are all hopelessly mixed with other tribes. None of them keep to the Ngoni customs any longer. Their chiefs are no good.' From the doorway of my hut I saw people coming all day long to the Paramount Chief, behaving towards him with profound respect, bringing him presents, working for him. His children formed a special group in the village, easily recognizable by their bearing and their manners. Old indunas came to instruct me, as they had instructed chiefs in their day, on the duties of a ruler, and the code of Ngoni laws. Old warriors in war dress came and danced by the cattle kraal and sang praise songs. Courts were held with scrupulous regard for order and justice. Other chiefs came visiting from distant parts with their retinues, and were received ceremonially. It soon became apparent that here was the centre of a political state, whose head was invested with prestige and authority over a wide area, and where behaviour to the Paramount and to every one else was strictly regulated by custom, and as strictly observed. These were Ngoni, and they and their fellow Ngoni in other areas1 for the next ten months introduced me to the Ngoni people. The European assertion, that they no longer existed as a people, they laughed at, and proceeded to demonstrate that the contrary was true.

    The Ngoni are found to-day scattered over four East African territories. The largest groups are in Nyasaland in the districts of Mzimba, Dowa, Fort Manning, Dedza, and Ncheu. In Northern Rhodesia they are in the Fort Jameson and Lundazi districts bordering on Nyasaland. Another section is in Portuguese East Africa on the South-West border of Nyasaland. Under other names there are Ngoni settlements in Tanganyika Territory. The present divisions of the Ngoni are due partly to European frontiers, partly to the fact that more than one party of them came up from the south, and partly to divisions among the Ngoni during the period of settlement.


    Thursday, August 19, 2010


    Ngoni Politics and Diplomacy 1848 - 1904 (part 2)

  • Thursday, August 19, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • B. Pachai, Professor of History, University of Malawi, 1970

    In the period covered in this article there were six different rulers and regents functioning at different times with varying degrees of success in the political life of the main Ngoni hosts in the north and south.28 After 1875 those in office had to contend in their external relations with three important influences, viz., indigenous and neighbouring peoples, missionaries, and the advent of British administration. Of these the first powerful impact came from the Scottish missionary factor represented in the work of the Livingstonia and Blantyre missionaries. In 1878 Dr Laws and Mr James Stewart visited Chikusi where they were kept waiting for four days before Chikusi would see them, an experience which Dr Stewart was to live through when he visited Mbelwa the following year. The British Consul, Hawes, on the other hand,lead a pleasant experience at Kujipore when he called on Chikusi in 1886. The Ngoni chiefs kept strict protocol in their dealing with Europeans. Where this was not respected by the visitors, as it happened in the case of the Chiwere Ndlovu Ngoni of Dowa district, the consequences were very serious. Dr Laws, who was kept waiting for days by Chikusi, was surprised when Jumbe came out of his village to meet him half-way at Nkhota Kota in 1879;29 but this is understandable when we consider that Jumbe was saddled with internal disaffection led by his headman, Chiwaura, and external threats from the Yao. The Ngoni were in no hurry to seek political alliances with Europeans.


    Wednesday, August 18, 2010


    Ngoni Politics and Diplomacy 1848 - 19041 (Part 1)

  • Wednesday, August 18, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • B. Pachai, Professor of History, University of Malawi, 1970


    By 1904 the Ngoni of Malawi were widely distributed through a large part of the country with main and subsidiary settlements of both the Jere and Maseko communities or tribal clusters. These settlements had a number of common characteristics. The chiefs (with few exceptions) could all claim linear political descent from those who had led them through most of the way to the chosen land; they were now under British protectorate rule ; each main settlement had an administrative system with central authority, executive authority, military and judicial authority, all of which were subsequently modified to suit the protectorate government from time to time; each had started off with little more than a simple kinship organization with leadership provided by a determined individual of a well-known clan fleeing for safety and security with a hard core of kinsmen; each tribal cluster had to work out its own immediate political salvation during the period of dispersion or at the point of permanent settlement. The difference between these Ngoni and those of the Northern and Southern Nguni was that political evolution in the case of the former was based on trial and error tempered by a transference of 'home' patterns of government far removed in both space and time. Things not only happened quickly; they happened very far from `home'; they happened, too, without precedents at first. Before political patterns and social adjustments could evolve, external intrusions brought about compelling side-effects. In the end a political system emerged. Hammond—Tooke has defined a political system broadly 'as the system of power-distribution in a society'.2 In looking at this power-distribution in the Ngoni society of Malawi a number of propositions constitute a good starting point.


    Sunday, August 15, 2010


    Songs Of The Ngoni People (Lullabies, Umsindo and Mthimba songs)

  • Sunday, August 15, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Margaret Read, 1937


    Nearly 120 years ago the Ngoni left their homeland in the South during the upheavals of Chaka's wars. In Nyasaland where the majority of them settled, they began to mix with the local tribes, preserving certain Ngoni institutions which they had brought from the south, to which they clung tenaciously as proof of their political and social superiority over their neighbours.1 Predominant among these exclusive Ngoni institutions were their songs and dances. The musician listening to the phrasing, rhythm and harmonies of Ngoni music knows that here is something of rare and distinctive beauty. The linguist studying the words of songs recognises the old Ngoni language, closely akin to old Zulu and Swazi. The social anthropologist watching the dancing and singing can see an expression of the " national" spirit of the Ngoni, and watch how social distinctions mark off the true aristocrats from the former slaves, the latter being excluded from taking part in the dance.


    Wednesday, August 11, 2010



  • Wednesday, August 11, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author: Gerhard Liesegang
    Source: African Historical Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (1970), pp. 317-337
    Published by: Boston University African Studies Center

    The area adjacent to the Portuguese possessions of Lourenco Marques, Inhambane, Sofala, and Rios de Sena was affected after July 1821 by the wars and migrations which had started in South Africa a few years before.1 At least four groups moved into the area under consideration; one of them, the Gaza Nguni under Sotshangane, continued to remain in possession of a part of it after 1839, when the other three had left, dominating an area where, before 1820, more than fifty independent political units had existed.

    The purpose of this paper is to discuss the written evidence on these migrations as contained in Portuguese sources, most of which are administrative records,2 though these are not as rich as might be supposed. They hardly ever contain the names of the leaders of the migrating groups, and none of the terms applied to their followers (Mazitis, Landins, Massitis, Mabzites, Vatuas, etc.) is applied exclusively to any one group of invaders. It is therefore impossible to reconstruct migration routes on the basis of the administrative records alone. Only if we take the scraps of recorded oral tradition and personal memories,3 is


    Monday, August 9, 2010


    Tentative Chronology of The Ngoni, Genealogy of Their chiefs and Notes

  • Monday, August 9, 2010
  • Samuel Albert


    THESE tentative notes relating to the Ngoni are the result of many years of research amongst the natives in the Eastern Province of N. Rhodesia, with whom I have been in constant contact, firstly as a Government official and secondly as a friend. I have received the greatest assistance and courtesy from the Paramount Chief, Mpezeni Jere II, and I am further indebted to A. K. Jere, a son of old Chief Kapatamoyo Jere, without whose knowledge, assistance and tactful handling of the old indunas these notes and genealogy would never have been completed.


    (1) Zongendaba (Zwangendaba, Uzwangendaba) Kumalo, son of Hlatshwayo of theNgoni tribe and his wife, Mquamache Nzima, was born near St. Lucia Bay in 1780 circa.

    Zongendaba, when a young man, appears to have shown great promise as a military leader. Hlatshwayo, his father, and Ziwide, uncle of his wife, Loziwawa Nqumayo, appear to have been close neighbours and friends, and with other local clans for some time resisted Tshaka. The date of Hlatshwayo’s death is not known, but Zongendaba broke away from the district or tribal area with a large following, after the second attack by Tshaka on the Ndwandwe Tribe, whom the Ngoni were assisting. Mzilikazi, a younger member of the Kumalo, after this defeat served Tshaka as an Induna for approximately two years, during which time his bravery and leadership, under the eye of Tshaka, brought him promotion. Zongendaba and Gwaza Tole broke away with a followingin the year 1823 ; Mzilikazi followed towards the end of the year 1825.


    Tuesday, July 6, 2010



  • Tuesday, July 6, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author: P. H. Gulliver, 1974
    wangoni of Tanganyika

    Before he became a professional linguist, Wilfred Whiteley was employed in anthropological research by the then Government of Tanganyika in the Southern Province of that Territory (1948-51). In 1949 he was requested to investigate the customary law on chiefly succession in the Njelu Ngoni chiefdom of Songea District, where dispute had arisen over the appointment of a new chief. In 1952-3 I was asked to continue and to widen those inquiries, both as part of a general anthropological survey and because a succession dispute had developed in the other Ngoni chiefdom in the same District. Whiteley had left a brief memorandum and a few notes which I was able to use as a starting- point. Some of the resulting data have been published elsewhere (Gulliver, 1954, 1955, and 1971). It is fitting, however, to return to those materials in memory of my old friend and colleague, and as a reminder of his sustained interest in social anthropology.


    Monday, July 5, 2010



  • Monday, July 5, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By J. M. Winterbottom, B.Sc., Ph.D., Department of Native Education, Northern Rhodesia Aug, 1937.
    From Drop Box
    Mpezeni Ngoni warrior

    The rival claims of Mpezeni and Umbelwa to the paramountcy of the Angoni have never been decided to the satisfaction of those who are most deeply interested in the matter- the Angoni themselves. Thanks to the work of Dr. Elmslie,1 Dr Fraser2 and the Rev. T. Cullen Young,3 the history of Umbelwa's section of this tribe, and, with it, his claims to the chieftainship, are pretty well known and even Mr. Lane Poole4 has been content to follow them in his account of the tribe. The credit for unravelling Mpezeni's claim belongs to Mr. D. G. Lancaster, whose paper (in the press) on chronology and genealogy I have been privileged to see in manuscript. The story is told, from Umbelwa's point of view, simply and sufficiently in Midauko, a vernacular book published by the Livingstonia Mission (1933, pp. 135-136); and from Mpezeni's view- point in Maikol Jere's unpublished account, for which I am indebted to Mr. L. B. van der Walt, of the Dutch Reformed Church Mission, Tamanda, at which station Maikol Jere is an evangelist.


    Saturday, May 29, 2010



  • Saturday, May 29, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below is an eye witness account of the installation of Inkosi yamakhosi Gomani III in 1966. Another important piece of history that we dare not forget. Enjoy

    Author(s): G.T NURSE

    Only two persons in Malawi are entitled to be saluted, Bayete! On cold geographical grounds it is surprising that there should be so many. The eldest traditions of the Bantu speak of slow movements of people from north to south, west to east, less commonly east to west; only in comparatively recent and rare instances, from south to north. The sudden northward irruption in the second quarter of the last century, of Kalolo into the headwaters of the Zambesi, and that subsequent and lesser extension of theirs in the company of David Livingstone which ended in the assumption of a handful of minor chieftaincies in the Shire valley, were remarkable enough; but the convulsion which sent whole brave regiments of Zulu and Swazi warriors to extinguish what remained of the empire of Monomotapa, to establish a hegemony over the Tumbuka, to halt the Yao, to cleave the Marabvi in two and to set up outposts as far from their starting point as central Tanganyika, may not unworthily be compared with certain of the volkerwanderungen, so pregnant with consequences, of the dark ages of Europe.


    Wednesday, April 7, 2010


    Inkosi Mtwalo of Northern Ngoniland in Nyasaland

  • Wednesday, April 7, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By W. H. J. Rangeley

    This article is based entirely on information given to the author by numerous Africans, with the following exceptions:

    (1) The site of the battle between Zwide and Shaka is no longer remembered by the Ngoni and is quoted from "Olden Times in Zululand and Natal" by A. T. Bryant. Bryant says that Nxawa was one of the Mbekwane clan. The Ngoni say he was Nqumayo. Bryant is more likely to be correct. So also quoted is the route east of the Lubombo hills. The Ngoni merely record that they went north to the lower reaches of the Limpopo river. Bryant states (chapter 44) that Zwangendawa was "but a commonplace squire at home". The Ngoni agree that he was of humble birth but insist that he rose to be General of Zwide's army. The fact that Zwide gave him two daughters in marriage would indicate that Zwangendawa was a man of importance. Bryant states that Zwangendawa clashed in battle with Soshangane (chapter 44) With heavy losses on both sides. The Ngoni admit heavy losses in battle against Nxawa, and the names of many who died are remembered to this day, but they deny any clash with Soshangane. There is, however, evidence that there was a minor clash with Soshangane, according to Ngoni now dead.


    Monday, March 29, 2010


    Some Oral Traditions From The Maseko Ngoni

  • Monday, March 29, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Ian Linden

    University of Malawi

    THE MIGRATIONS that resulted from the conquests of Shaka Zulu and the disintegration of the Ndandwe Empire in the early 19th century have been subjected to extensive historical analysis. But where a study of the Maseko Ngoni of the Dedza district of Malawi might be expected there is a surprising gap. The tendency to treat Ngoni states as a whole, with each paramountcy an expression of the "Ngoni social system", has meant that in the past smaller groups, like the Maseko, have been simply assumed to illustrate principles of organization more impressively displayed by larger groups, like the Northern Ngoni. Now that the importance of differences between Ngoni states in their relationships with subject tribes, fission of segments, proximity to missions and trade routes, communications between paramounts and local indunas, is emphasised by historians no single state can be taken as paradigm. Rather than seeing Ngoni states in the context of the unfolding of general principles derived from the idea of the "martial society", increasing attention is being given to the unique circumstances in which the different refugee bands of the Mfecane found themselves. As a result the myth of the all-conquering Ngoni, dear to the hearts of the first Europeans in Malawi, has become increasingly suspect.

    In the sense that the northwards migration of the Ngoni from South Africa is attested to in Portuguese documents of the time, the Maseko cannot be said to have a pre-colonial history. However the problem of tracking this migration is similar to that of a physicist following electrons through a cloud-chamber; only when they collide with some other body can their position and direction be inferred. The Maseko did come into collision with a number of Portuguese settlements, but, as the settlers, fighting for their lives, rarely took any interest in the genealogy of their assailants, and as there were many different hands of refugees, this evidence is not very helpful. In large measure the early history of the Maseko 1825-1870 can only be reconstructed by a critical assessment of oral traditions.

    In this first article it is proposed to present what little oral history there has been collected from the Maseko and to show how much information can be sifted from these sources. The two available sources are interviews conducted by the anthropologist, Margaret Read, with Ishmael Mwale, treasurer to Inkosi Gomani II, between 1935-1939,1 and interviews conducted by a planter, Mr. Manser-Bartlett, who lived in the Ntakataka area between 1920-1969, with Nyathei, regentess for Abraham Kachindamoto, between 1898-1911, and with her husband Kautsiri.2

    The value of these testimonies above any that could be collected today lies not simply in their dating from the 1930's, but in their being collected before written histories of Malawi became available to the public: the informants are unlikely to be incorporating material of a secondary nature taken, for example from Ntara or Chibambo.3 The two branches of the Maseko, at Ntakataka and Dedza have, moreover, been separated since the climax of the civil war between Chikusi and Chifisi in 1891-1894. Testimonies from the two regions provide a useful cross-check on the influence of local factors on distortions and embellishments of the narrative.

    1. Ishmael Mwale. Treasurer to Gomani II recorded by M. Read.

    "Nqaba, son of Mbekani. made war on Shaka, but was defeated and retreated to Swaziland. Then Ngwana said 'If you run away from Shaka. he will trouble us, so I am going to leave' . . . . In the middle of the darkness Ngwana left together with Nqaba. They came to the country of Nancekwani at Mauwa and fought with the people. They defeated the four chiefs there and conquered the country. Ngwana went straight to Ulozi to the village of Mamba, father of Lewanika. He destroyed the land of the Lozi and died there . . . . When Magadlela left Ulozi he went to the country of Ndunduwali and from there to Nyika. He arrived at Cidima Mbirasweswe and there Zwangendabaa found them. There was fighting between Magadlela and Zwangendabaa and many people were killed and they did not know who they were because it was night. When Magadlela ran away he made for Golongozi where Nqaba was, and explained to him about the war. They mobilized the army to follow Zwangendaba. When they found him they destroyed many of his men. Somfuya and other brothers of Zwangendaba were killed. When they returned front the war they went to Cikwanda. There they found Gaza and fought with him and were defeated. Magadlela and Nqaba ran away. Nqaba took a friendly farewell because there was hunger .... Magadlela allowed him to leave and went straight to the country of the Makombe. They conquered it and came to Nyungwi and conquered them too. When they wanted to cross the Zambesi they made medicine and beat the water with a stick and separated it. All the army crossed and reached Kalumbi. They fought there and Mgoola took care of the chieftainship. Mgoola came with all the army to Ntumba and caught many Ntumba people. In Ntumba country Mputa entered the chieftainship."

    la. Praise poem to Ngwana, son of Goqweni, collected by M. Read.

    The last verses:

    "You who separated from the people of Shaka. Shaka of the Mbelebele kraal

    You who separated from the people of Nyathi, the son of Mashobane; it thundered, it was cloudy

    Thou resemblest cattle that were finished by wolves.

    You who originated with the people of Mzilikazi,

    You who originated with the people of Mpakana, son of Lidonga

    You who originated with the people of Ndandwe.'

    2.Nyathei and Kautsiri, regentess and her husband 1898-1911. notes of interviews recorded by Manser-Bartlett c. 1930.

    "Gassa chief. N'gawa chief (Transvaal) made war. People got tired of Ngawa (click) because he kept calling them out to dance ligubu and refused to allow them to marry. They went to see Par. Chief Gassa and asked him if they might go away to find war elsewhere and gain experience but had secretly made up mind to clear out to get land and wives for themselves. Chose Ngwana (Maseko) as their chief (son of N'gabe) -came to a river which they called Sawe when N'gwana died (land of Avenda) -all together at this time and fought and conquered the Avenda. Came to the country of the Maungwe, conquered them -who shall be the better? -quarrelled and parted- Jere to the West, Angoni East. Kafalamazani- Chuoko pa Nyambewo to Zambesi. Zambesi was in flood. Witch doctor took medicine, put it on stick and struck the water. River divided and the people passed. This side of the river conquered the Amalabvi, came to where the Nkondosi joins the Shire to the country of Mboola (Achikunda chief) and Kanyinda (Achikunda). By the time they had reached Maungwe country Chidiaonga was old enough to take over from his elder sister who acted as regent on N'gwana's death. Turned North to the country of the Antumba at Neno and settled. While there Sosala, son of Nankumba (Malawi) came to Chidiaonga at Muira (P.E.A.) and asked for his friendship. Here the people got tired of Chidiaonga because he made them shave the forward lock of hair and was cruel to them—so they deposed him and put Mputa in his place although he was still very young. Sosala offered to lead them up the East side of the lake to a country where there was cattle. The Angoni had none at the time--trekked to Ncheu. Banda; find only a few villages, Samara, Mpingangila (at that time there was no Mponda—he had not left Mataka's). Made a treaty of friendship with Mpingangila and crossed Shire on his canoes; crossed at Makandanji's to Chindamba's (present Malunda) and along the side of the lake to Makanjila's. Fought and conquered him and seized his cattle. Went to the country of the Matengo where we staved--gave Sosala some cattle and he came back. Stayed some time fighting the Matengo and built a village near a mountain called Ntapa-tapa--this was North of Songea. Then a fighting party looking for new country came from Nzongendaba. Agreement was reached about the division of country and there was no war. Mputa started a war with the Abena and during the fighting was killed. Chidiaonga was appointed chief but decided to leave because he did not want to stay where his brother had been killed. Mputa was cremated on the bed of the Rovuma. Mputa had seized cattle from the Ajere and Matengo and when they heard that Chidiaonga was going to move they got together in the early hours and raided him. He ran away as he was surprised and unprepared-fled to the East through the Yao country to the coast-Haruba, Mwanjira, Koloke to Liuli where they were told by the local natives not to sleep on the beach as the tide was coming in all the Angoni were surprised at this phenomenon. They returned through Yao, Makua and Anguru chiefs, Maonda, Mabaka, Nkanjila, Mzozozera - proceeded to Blantyre chasing out the Yao and a general war took place covering the country as far as Namwera. Chidiaonga made his headquarters at Chinamvu while his warriors swept through Kawinga's and fought with Jaliasi. During the war Mkata was the big chief at Mangoche. When the war was finished they moved to Domwe."

    2a. Anonymous story in Manser-Bartlett notebooks.

    "Chaka kept this particular tribe purely as warriors refusing to allow them to marry—refused to allow them even to kill cattle for themselves. So they agreed amongst themselves to send an nduna to Chaka to ask permission to make a raid and having obtained this permission not to return. The first to leave were the Jere under Nzongendaba and then some months after left the Maseko under Magazilla but became suspicious and sent an impi after them and a battle took place at Sojevana. An Ngoni killed Chaka's nduna. They travelled through the country of the Avenda and Makalanga and so came to the country of the Maswina. Then they went into the country of the Makombe and from there to the country of the Nyungwe and Achikunda. After taking the Makalanga they came up with the Ajere near Bulawayo and fought and parted. The Ajere proceeded North and the Angoni to Salisbury and so to the country of the Aswina. They crossed the Zambesi to the country of the Akapako and followed the Mawe river to another stream, the Nkondosi, rising near Sangano. Then they followed the Livelanji river to the country called Tambo (people Ambo)--crossed the Nkame river to Nyape and went to the country of the Ntumba, Ncheu. Stay for two years. Sosala appeared with buffalo droppings to make them believe there were good cattle and they go North — cross the Shire at Mpingangila and skirt the foothills around Malindi—move on to Kalanje where they fight the Yao (Chief Gwaza is from Kalanje). Continue to Mbamba Bay in the country of the Matengo and settle at Ntapa-tapa hill. Heavy fighting with a scouting party from Ajere (Zule Kanchenche-pfungo Gama). Zulu remains a vassal of Mputa. Soon after Mputa decides to fight the Abena and he was killed in this raid and burnt on the Rovuma at Lichiningo—the people stayed to make beer and dance ligubu. Then the Ajere rebelled and attacked during the night. The Maseko fled following the Rovuma to the sea at Liuli- arrived back at Chilwa and fought Nkanjila and Kawinga -to Chiradzulo. Then moved on to Njowe near Matope and went to Domwe."

    3 Genealogies from M. Read and Manser-Bartlett notebooks.

    An evaluation of these stories requires some knowledge of the probable bias of informants. Perhaps the most predictable is a tendency to convey an impression of unity and homogeneity where none in fact existed. There can be little doubt that from their origin the group of people now called the Maseko Ngoni were extremely heterogeneous in composition. Throughout their migrations the assimilation of captives formed the basis of their society. The presentation of Maseko history as a unified history of a clan is therefore artificial.

    It is instructive that an analysis of these stories does reveal a number of confused strands of tradition, products of the diversity within Ngoni society of incorporated groups. More particularly the two branches of the Maseko may be expected to use oral history to bolster their claims in relation to their subject peoples and to each other. So it is important to bear in mind that the Ntakataka branch is the product of a break-away movement by followers of the son of a former regent, while the Dedza branch can truthfully claim continuity with a line of paramounts going back as far as, and perhaps beyond, Mputa.

    Praise poems and songs provide a useful yardstick for the measuring the reliability of non-formal genealogies. In Ngoni society, with its migrations and assimilation of alien groups, popular stories can become distorted in a short space of time. Praise poems are more trustworthy; as a formal tradition relying on rhyme and rhythm for effect, entrusted to "Umbongi", official praisers of the paramount, the likelihood of major distortions over a period of less than one hundred years is remote. As far as accidental distortion is concerned the poem for Ngwana son of Goqweni provides the most reliable evidence for the origin of the Maseko, but, as a piece of functional history, belonging to the paramount, it may quite intentionally purvey a spurious impression of continuity and nobility of ancestry to the listener.

    There has clearly been some conflation of Ndebele, Shangaan and even Makololo traditions in the non-formal accounts. The reason for this conflation may either be that elements from all these groups became associated with the Maseko on their travels, so bringing their own traditions into the common pool, or that the Maseko merely met members of these groups early in their migrations and incorporated parts of their traditions into their history. It would be impossible to say with any accuracy when these contacts were made or when a particular group joined the Maseko. Temporary alliances were made between different parties and many battles fought between 1825 -1835. At any time a given band might be in alliance with any other around a camp fire, or victoriously incorporating fresh batch of captives: in every case there would be an opportunity for additions to he made to what ould be increasingly a common pool of stories.

    The origin of the Maseko during Mzilikazi's secession from Shaka after 1822 finds confirmation both from the poem and Ntakataka accounts. The tradition of a secret decision not to return to Shaka made as a result of his prohibition of marriage and personal assimilation of cattle, is the classic story of the secession of Mzilikazi's regiment. Ngwana would be a member of Mzilikazi's regiment who left with his fellow clansmen c. 1825. It would be difficult to disprove the contention, though, that Ngwana merely took with him fellow members of his age-set who later came to justify their position in relation to captives in terms of kinship, forming a spurious "royal clan". Mzilikazi's followers only amounted to about 300 people so Ngwana's hand must have been very small indeed and might possibly have been a few related families.1

    From references to "N'gawa" and "Nqaba" in all stories -both attempts at rendering the Zulu click in Nxaba- Nxaba and Ngwana appear to have met and formed a temporary alliance. Documentary sources would suggest that this alliance was formed in the area of Delagoa Bay where Shoshangane, Nxaba and Zwangendaba were raiding and forming alliances of convenience.5 Bryant refers to a battle between Mzilikazi and Nxaba c. 1825 after which Nxaba moved eastwards, so it may have been during this period that the alliance between Nxaba and Ngwana was struck.6 By way of support for the idea that the hand under Ngwana moved east, Elmslie mentions another battle between the Maseko and Zwangendaba in the Delagoa Bay area.7

    From the clan names to be found around Dedza (the Ndau in particular) it can be concluded that the Nxaba/Ngwana band captured Venda people and moved north from the Transvaal. From the fact that Ngwana and Nxaba then crop up in widely separated areas it must be assumed that the alliance broke up; Ngwana raided in the Zimbabwe area While Nxaba was further to the east. Raids by a "Musese Nyana" possibly Ngwana arc still remembered in the Zimbabwe area.8 The accounts of Ngwana's death on the "Sawe" (Sabi river) and, from the Dedza account, on the "Ulozi" are not as contradictory as might first appear. "Ulozi" is a plausible corruption of "Urozwi", a name that would be given to the major riser in the Rozwi area of Zimbabwe. i.e. the Sabi river."

    "Maswina" being a derogatory name for the Shona people, both accounts are in agreement that the Maseko moved north-east into Mashonaland; the "Nyika" of Mwale's story should then be read as "Manica". This movement might easily have been caused by a disastrous encounter with Zwangendaba's rearguard. Between 1831-1833 Vila Manica was attacked a number of times; this gives a probable date for Nxaba's and the Maseko's stay in Manicaland." Finally if "Golongosi" is taken to be "Gorongosa" in the Barwe district of Mozambique there seems no reason to question Mwale that the Maseko met Nxaba again after they had attacked Vila in successive years.

    The alliance between Nxaba and Ngwana was renewed in order to eliminate threat posed by Zwangendaba. Both bands moved west to locate their common enemy. By this time the Maseko party was led by "Magadlela" (Mwale), "Magazilla" (Nyathei) -- both attempts at rendering the click in Mgidla whom Bryant gives, interestingly enough, as a relative of Nxaba.11 The attack on Zwangendaba's Jere and the death of Somfuya are corroborated in Chibambo's vivid account of the same battle from Jere oral traditions. As a result Zwangendaba withdrew to the safety of the north-bank of the Zambezi south of Zumbo on November 19th, 1835, a date that can be fixed accurately owing to the occurrence of a solar eclipse.12

    Further proof for the presence of both Nxaba and Mgidla in this area is given in a diary entry made by Livingstone from Zumbo itself: "Zumbo. January 16th, 1856. The last of the population withdrew suddenly on learning of the approach of the Caffres under Changamara, Ngabe and Mpakana".13 It will be recalled that "Mpakana" was a name found in Ngwana's ancestry in the praise poem; Bryant also tantalisingly gives an "Mbekane" as father of Nxaba.14 It seems reasonable to suppose that Mgidla might have used this title.

    With the Jere put to flight the Maseko appear to have moved back again eastwards to the area of north Barwe where they might have had a settlement on the Mvira river (Muira in the Ntakataka accounts). On their return they passed through Chioco (Nyathei's "Chuoko") and reached NYUNGWE, a name used both for the town of Tete and the tribe in the area. Between 1836-1838 there is documentary evidence of Ngoni raids on the prazos around Sena; Mgidla and Nxaba would be the only groups in the area.15 In about 1838 Shangaan traditions record a battle between Nxaba and Shoshangane.16 This pressure from the south by Shoshangane's raiding parties provides an explanation why the Maseko moved north across the Zambezi the following year.

    Much of the confusion in both narratives surrounding the person of "Gaza" or "Gassa"---both, of course, Shoshangane ---might be explained by supposing that, as a result of attacks by Shoshangane, Nxaba was put to flight and his band dispersed, some going to the Shangaan, others going to the Maseko. Liesegang has recorded a story of a group defecting from Nxaba to the Shangaan almost identical to the Ntakataka accounts of a group leaving Nxaba. The Ntakataka accounts would thus represent a strand of tradition brought in by defectors from Nxaba. this would also provide an explanation for the genealogy giving Nxaba as the father of Ngwana; Ngwana's sonship would merely have been an expression of the relative importance of the two leaders. Ngwana might in fact have been , at the beginning, little more than an important induna under Nxaba.

    The fate of Nxaba is equally confused. According to Bryant he reached Barotseland only to die in a trap set by the Makololo.17 This is supported by a reference in Livingstone to an "Ndebele" raid on the Makololo led by "Mpakana".18 Mwale's account also brings in the Lozi area in his obviously misplaced reference to Lewanika. The only equivalent to be found in Kautsiri's story is a strange reference to the Angoni being warned about the tide at "Liuli". Now the Angoni were well acquainted with the sea and tidal movements in the Indian Ocean are not impressive. It is remotely possible that this "Luili" is a corruption of "Lealui" and the sea, the flood plain in Barotseland, where a large area is covered with water during the rainy season. The Maseko are known to have had some contact with Livingstone's Makololo porters, during the Trans-Shire raids of the 1880s from whom they might have got these stories. It is hard to think of any other way for such traditions to cover the immense distance between Dedza and Barotseland.

    Whatever the details, the origins of the Maseko are placed in the Ntakataka traditions from Nyathei, in the context of an event connected with Shoshangane, while in the Mwale and anonymous accounts their beginnings are linked with Mzilikazi or Shaka. Each tradition gives an aspect of the truth, for after their encounter with Shoshangane the Maseko crossed the Zambezi at the Lupata Gorge, south of Tete, to begin a new chapter in their history distinct from Nxaba. There are two clues to dating their crossing as 1839: firstly a statement by Nyathei recorded by Manser-Bartlett, that the Maseko were only a few months behind the Jere when they finally- moved north. It is known that the Jere stayed in Nsenga country on the north bank of the Zambezi for about four years, so their departure date would be late 1839.19 Secondly there are Portuguese records which mention "landeens- crossing the Zambezi in 1839.20

    Mgidla died shortly after this date and the regency was taken over by an elder sister, Mgoola, until Mputa was old enough to rule. The route north can be followed from the list of tribes conquered: Achikunda, the vassals of the Portuguese along the Zambezi, Ambo, further to the north and, around Ncheu, the Ntumba. Predictably the Ntakataka source tries to squeeze in Chidiaonga, the father of Chifisi, as paramount for a period in order to give credence to the Kachindamoto-Chifisi line over the Gomani-Chikusi line. The narrator is then faced with the difficulty of disposing of Chidiaonga to make way for the traditions associated with Mputa at Songea.21 The discrepancy between the genealogies Nxaba/Ngwana versus Goqweni/Ngwana might equally represent an attempt by the Ntakataka branch to play down the importance of the house of Mputa by supporting a popular genealogy against the "royal" one.22

    The movement of the Maseko from Ncheu to Songea is picked up in Chewa traditions collected by Ntara.23 The Maseko and Chewa versions are virtually identical: Sosala, the Kalonga, lured the Maseko across the Shire at Mpingangila near Fort Johnston c. 1846. Mputa trekked north along the east side of the lake in search of the promised rich cattle country. Both traditions further agree that Sosala and his Maravi accompanied the Ngoni to Songea to return later with a present of some cattle. It must therefore be assumed that their relationship was an alliance rather than that of a subject tribe.

    Apart from minor details, explicable in terms of a Maseko attempt to present their years at Songea in the noblest light, the Maseko stories for this period co-incide well with oral traditions collected from the Ngoni in Tanzania. Shortly after their settlement near Songea in 1850 two Jere segments led by Zulu Gama and Mbonani appeared around the north end of the lake. Mputa successfully attacked them and Zulu was roasted to death as a punishment, while Mbonani died shortly afterwards. After an interval two sons of Zulu, Hawai and Chipeta, roused the neighbouring Nindi, Bena, Pangwa and Ndendeuli tribes to revolt.24 The Maseko were defeated and Mputa killed. According to custom he was cremated where the Lichiningo river enters the Rovuma and Chidiaonga took over as regent for Chikusi.

    The movements of the Maseko after this are dificult to determine. Without field work in Mozambique it would be impossible to say whether the Maseko did move eastwards towards the sea and then swung round in an arch, or, what is more probable, retraced their steps and fled back south into Malawi.

    On reaching the Shire Highlands in the 1860s the Maseko come into Yao oral history.25 Settlements were made near Mulanje and Matope before they were finally lured by Sosala again into the crossing the Shire from where they moved north to settle on Domwe mountain c. 1870.

    It would be tempting to analyse these migrations in terms of some internal nnecessity of the Ngoni martial way of life. But it is too obvious that these great treks of the Maseko were not some northwards goldrush for cattle and captives, far less the triumphal march of a victorious army. Almost all the movements of the Maseko can be correlated with external threats. From 1825 onwards it is possible to give a list of threats with their consequences:

    (1) Fear of Shaka's army-move north-east into the Delagoa Bay area.

    (2) Presence of powerful bands under Zwangendaba and Shoshangane-form an alliance with Nxaba and trek northwards.

    (3) Make contact with Zwangendaba's rearguard--flee north-east to Manica and form a second alliance with Nxaba.

    (4) Successful battle against Zwangendaba c. 1834-return to the Barwe area and continue raiding. possibly from a settlement on the Mvira river.

    (5) Shoshangane's raiding parties defeat Nxabe --cross the Zambezi in 1839.

    (6) Find the Ncheu area already devastated by Zwangendaba and the route north blocked. Promise of rich cattle country to the north-form alliance with Maravi and move round to the east side of the lake and proceed north.

    (7) Settlement at Songea threatened attack Zulu and Mbonani and win.

    (8) Attacked by subject tribes under leadership of Hawai--- flee south again.

    (9) Settlements in the Shire Highlands but Yao presence gets stronger-move to Matope.

    (10) Yao chieftains still a threat-- move and settle at Domwe, at the extremity of Mpezeni's raiding territory and in good cattle country.

    This bald cause-and-effect catalogue exaggerates, of course, the passivity of the Ngoni. It does, however, emphasise the important point that their failure to form any permanent settlement before 1870 was not entirely a choice of their own making. Neither were the early relations of the Ngoni the blitzkrieg affair sometimes portrayed. According to the relative strengths of forces around them they went in for alliances quite as much as assimilation. A suitable alliance of 'subject' tribes against them, as occured at Songea was, moreover, enough to defeat them.

    In the next article the forces ranged against the Maseko during their permanent settlement at Domwe will be examined. An attempt will be made to show that the colonial period from 1870-1900, as well as their early history, found the Ngoni as much the victims of circumstance as the mighty warriors of missionary mythology.
    Wife of a Mozambican Ngoni chieftain in 1936

    References and notes

    1. Read M., The Ngoni of Nyasaland, Oxford University Press, 1956.

    2. Papers presented to the library of Chancellor College, 1969.

    3. Ntara S. J., Mbiri ya Achewa, Limbe, Malawi Publications, 1965 and Chibambo Y. M., My Ngoni of Nyasaland, 1942, London, United Society for Christian Literature.

    4. Lye W. L., "The Ndebele Kingdom South of the Limpopo River", J. Afr. History, Vol. X, No. 1, 1969.

    5. Warhurst P. R.. "The Scramble and African Politics in Gazaland", Zambesian Past, p. 47, ed. Stokes E. & Brown R., Manchester University Press, 1965.

    6. Bryant A. T., Olden Times in Zululand and Natal. Longmans, 1929. p. 424.

    7. Elmslie W. A., Among the Ngoni, Edinburgh, Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier. 1899, p. 19.

    8. This and subsecuent references were supplied to me by Dr. G. Liesegang of Kola University to whom I am deeply indebted for details of Portuguese records.

    10. Warhurst, The Scramble, p. 48.

    11. Bryant. Olden Times, p. 280.

    12. Lancaster G. D.. "Tentative chronology of the Ngoni", J. Royal Anth. Soc., 1937, XVII. p. 78.

    13. Schapera I.. Livingstone's African Journal: 1853-1856, Chatto & Windus, 1963, p. 375.

    14. Bryant, Olden Times, p. 424.

    16. ibid.

    17. Bryant. Olden Times, p. 424.

    18. Scharer-a L. Livingstone's Private Journals, Chatto & Windus, 1960, p. 20.

    19. Lane-Poole E.H.The Native Tribes of the Eastern Province of Northern Rhodesia, Lusaka. 1949. p.6 and Fraser D., Wining a Primitive People, London, 1922, p. 312.

    21. Mputa's death and cremation on the Lichiningo River is a fixed point for all narratives.

    22. It is interesting that today the Kachindamoto's area go so far as to say that Chikusi and Chifisi were brothers with the same father.

    23. Mara. Mbiri ya Achewa. p. 30.


    Thursday, March 4, 2010


    The Zwangendaba Succession

  • Thursday, March 4, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • C. J. W. Fleming
    IN order to appreciate all the niceties of the Zwangendaba succession it is necessary to go back and look at the ancestry of this legendary potentate. He was the son of Hlachwayo, an induna of the powerful Ndwandwe chief, Zwide Ncumayo, who occupied the country to the north of the Black Mfolozi River in Northern Zululand. There is here, as there often is in other places, some confusion over tribal names.' Basically all the peoples in the coastal belt from Delagoa Bay to the Great Fish River were of Nguni stock but there were many subdivisions among them and many tribal names. Very often these names stemmed from the designation of the locality from which the people hailed. This appears to have been the case with the Angoni for they are often called Swazi, apparently because they came from a district called Uswazi in their original homeland near St. Lucia Bay.2 Because of this they are often confused with the Swazi of present day Swaziland, but this is wrong for it seems that there is no direct connection between the two groups except that they were both of Nguni origin. They probably derive their other name of Angoni from the wider tribal name of Nguni. The Angoni's closest associates in Zululand, where they hailed from, were the Ndandwe, their overlords, and the Kumalos, later to be known as the Amandebele, who were also at one time the subjects of Zwide Ncumayo. Their southern neighbours were the Mtetwa and the Zulus, who, to start with, were an insignificant group living alongside the Mtetwa. However this was all changed in the opening decades of the nineteenth century when Shaka Zulu, a scion of the house of Senzangakona Zulu, first of all seized the family chieftainship, then that of Dingiswayo of the Mtetwa, his erstwhile benefactor, and then proceeded to subdue all the neighbouring tribes in Zululand. All the conquered people afterwards came to be known as Zulu. Very early on Shaka turned his attention to Zwide Ncumayo and a protracted struggle followed. Zwangendaba like his father was one of Zwide's indunas and was reckoned to be one of his most successful generals in the fights with Shaka. In 1819 however Zwide's armies were finally defeated at the battle of the Mhlatuze River and the broken remnants and many women and children fled northwards and eventually collected, together with many other refugees from Shaka's reign of terror, in the country to the south of Delagoa Bay. Among them were Sochangane, an Ncumayo who subsequently usurped the Zwide chieftainship, and Zwangendaba and many of their followers.


    Monday, October 12, 2009


    Ngoni praises for M'mbelwa (Rangeley papers from Society of Malawi)

  • Monday, October 12, 2009
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below are Ngoni language praises for Inkosi yaMakhosi M'mbelwa of Mzimba district in Malawi. As any student of isiZulu would quickly notice, there are here and there some words which appear to be of Tumbuka language origin interspersed in a few sentences. However the very existence of Ngoni language praises, almost a hundred years after the Ngoni left Zululand, is very commendable and incredible indeed. Thanks to the Society of Malawi for preserving this piece of history as collected by Late WHJ Rangeley,a former colonial Administrator in Nyasaland (present day Malawi).

    Bayede Nkosi -Ngu Mbelwa ka Zwangendaba- Uzwangendaba ka Hlachwayo- uHlachwayo ka Magangata- uMagangata ka Magalela- Hamba sihambe siye eswazini - Lapha kwafa abakhulupheleyo - Wake wabona indaba ibebezelwa nomntwana waswebeleni.- Ingane abadala zibakohliwe - Wafika wanyangaya wafulelwa no uchani wezindhlela Bathi umungoni wakithi woima kuhle ulungisa abangoni bamandulo - Umuchiza owumunyama wadhla inkomo zikangani - Wabeke iso njengo nkomo - Hau Hau Zinduna - Makosanyane at gijimani siyokucala zindaba - kepha yena agijima apange Hawini -Uchani wontenteya ungachi - uyakucha ku Injenjeni - Inkosi iphuma kwao Ekwendeni - Ukwenda kumunyuma - Ulugcagca lungasuti kusuti umoya - Ukwenda kupumi Elangeni - Ilanga lika ngcingca - Inkosi ingumachwila - Yachwila zinkomo zakuwo - Kadi zimuka na mabuto aseMtenguleni - Umuzi wakwao kwa Ntuto - Ongu ka Soseya wakwa Ndwadwa - BAYETE NKOSI (copyright Society of Malawi. All rights reserved)

    Compare the above praise recorded probably in the 1940s with the video clip below of a modern day praises to Inkosi yamakosi M'mbelwa in 2008. Apologies for the low volume which makes it difficult to follow the praises. This was due to the microphone not being near enough.