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.


    Tuesday, March 16, 2010


    A Mzimba Ingoma Song Lamenting the Removal of Inkosi Chimtunga Jele in 1915

  • Tuesday, March 16, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • In 1915 when a British official tried to raise men to serve in the much-feared Carrier Corps in the East African campaign of World War I, the Ngoni Paramount Chief Chimtunga forbade it. For this, he was removed from office and banished to the Southern Province, and DANO was applied to Ngoni country for the first time, reducing the chiefs to little more than assistants to the District Commissioner for mobilizing labour and collecting taxes. Before this event unlike other chiefs the Ngoni was at par with the District Commissioner based on the agreement that resulted in the annexation of Ngoniland into the British Protectorate in 1904. In the 1970s people still recalled this shattering event in an ingoma song:

    Inkosi Chimtunga Jere
    Chief Chimtunga Jere

    Bambeke egcekeni
    Has been publicly humiliated!

    Inkosi yelizwe!
    The chief of the land!

    Sibabaze hee!!
    We make it known!!

    Sibabaze hee!!
    We make it known!!

    Elizwe liyoneke .
    The land has been made rotten.

    Sibabaze hee!!
    We make it known!!

    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.


    Thursday, October 15, 2009



  • Thursday, October 15, 2009
  • Samuel Albert
  • Nc'wala Ceremony, Zambia is one of the most colorful festivals celebrated in Zambia. Nc'wala Ceremony, Zambia is mostly celebrated by the Ngoni tribe. The Ngoni people reside in the eastern edge of Zambia which is close to Chipata. The Ngoni people who are the inhabitants of Zambia did not stay there from before. Initially they stayed in South Africa. When they shifted from there, they won many victories over other tribes. The Nc'wala Ceremony, Zambia is held to celebrate the glorious deeds of the tribe. The ceremony starts with the tasting of the first fruit of the year by the chief of the Ngoni tribe.

    This is followed by much singing and dancing. There are speeches that are given by the members of the community. There is also a grand feast laid out for the entire community.

    Nc'wala Ceremony, Zambia is celebrated at the end of February every year. It is a big traditional party. The dancers dance to the rhythmic beats of drums. They engage in repetitive movements with the beat of the drums. It creates a unique atmosphere of music and motion. The people of the tribe are dressed in leopard skins and they carry accessories like clubs, shields and feathers.

    A bull is killed and the chief of the community drinks the blood of the animal and the celebrations start. The members of the Ngoni tribe then rush at the dead animal and tear at the carcass and cut out chunks of the meat.

    Nc'wala Ceremony, Zambia is designed to bring the members of the community close to ach other. It strengthens the bonds among the members of the community.


    Wednesday, October 14, 2009


    Some Old Newspaper Cuttings on the Ngoni of Malawi and Zambia

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2009
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below are some newspaper cuttings on the Ngoni of Malawi and Zambia. They specifically mention the Mpezeni Ngoni of Zambia and Maseko Ngoni. They date from the 1890s. I obtained them from the Society of Malawi. Copyright Society of Malawi. All rights reserved.
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni
    From Drop Box


    Tuesday, October 13, 2009


    Appointment of Mswati Gomani as Inkosi yamakosi Gomani V

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2009
  • Samuel Albert

  • This was the Appointment of Mswati Gomani, son of Late Inkosi yaMakosi Gomani IV as Inkosi yamakosi Gomani V. The ceremony took place during the burial ceremony of Inkosi yamakosi Gomani IV at Lizulu, Ntcheu, Malawi. In accordance with Maseko Ngoni customs Mswati is standing on the fresh grave of his father. This symbolises the transfer of power from the dead Inkosi to the new Inkosi. What a colourful ceremony on this tragic day when the Ngoni buried their Ngwenyama yelizwe. May the Good Lord be with our new chief (Umkulumqango makabe naye). Bayethe Nkosi!!

    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.


    Ngoni Pictures - Some Old Ngoni Photos from Society of Malawi

  • Samuel Albert
  • Below are some photos that I have sourced from the Society of Malawi on the Ngoni people during the early period of the British occupation of Malawi. The captioning is from the Society and has largely been kept intact except in a few cases where I have added a few words for clarification. Copyright Society of Malawi, all rights reserved.
    Chikuse, the Angoni King of the Maseko Ngoni in Central Nyasaland(present day Malawi). Mentioned in Montague Keith's 'Far Interior'.
    From Drop Box

    Angoni Warriors at King George V's Coronation celebrations, Zomba, Nyasaland (present day Malawi) 1911.' From the Brown Estate.
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni

    Angoni man and child. Copied form a postcard by A.J. Storey
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni

    Postcard: 'Angoni Natives.' Reverse reads: 'Issued by African Lakes Corporation, British Central Africa and 45 Renfield Street, Glasgow. Inland 1/2d, Foreign 1d.' Apparently, if this was sent to a foreign address, there could not be any text written on the back, except the address.
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni

    C. 1896. Msukasuka, an Angoni Chief, with some of his wives and followers. Angoniland, British Central Africa. Copyright J. Gillespie Watson, Aberdeen
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni

    Angoni boys Dance of Death.' Fort Johnston. W.H. Stansfield. WWI
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni

    Troop of Angoni Dancers who came to the Coronation festivities of King George V at Zomba, 1911. Descendents of the Zulu who raided Nyasaland 50 years ago.' This photo came from the Brown Estate and was not captioned. Frank M.I. Johston in 1983 bought Arthur H. Walker's album and this same photograph was in it, captioned as above.
    From Some of the Earliest Pictures Of The Ngoni

    Coronation Day, King George V, 1911. Angoni Tribesmen resting after having given a Royal Salute (Zulu Style) in the presence of H.E. the Governor, Sir William Manning, on the Gymkhana Club grounds at Zomba. From the Estate of Henry Brown.
    From Drop Box

    Chief Zlangea, Commander-in-Chief of the Angoni forces. Probably during the war with the British.
    From Drop Box

    Group of Angoni Chiefs
    From Drop Box

    The halt at the frontier Village of Angoni-land
    From Drop Box

    Chief Kafisi, Angoni Tribe
    From Drop Box

    Angoni women
    From Drop Box
    Copyright Society of Malawi, all rights reserved.


    Thursday, October 1, 2009


    Some Late WHJ Rangeley Correspondences on Angoni (Courtesy of society of Malawi)

  • Thursday, October 1, 2009
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below are some letters I obtained from the Society of Malawi in Mandala House in Blantyre that should be of interest to those studying Ngoni history and language

    10th December 1952.

    Dear Rangeley,

    Many thanks for your long and interesting letter. I have questioned an old and intelligent Ngoni named Yakobe, aged perhaps 75 or 80. I did not prompt him in any way but merely asked questions and was impressed by his ready and intelligent replies. I believe he knows the truth of the matter. If Chidiaonga settled at Domwe in 1871 that would be about the time of Yakobe's birth and he would have got his information from his parents or others who had first hand knowledge of the matter.