Saturday, June 18, 2011


Zulu King Dingane's Attack on Lourenco Marques in 1833

  • Saturday, June 18, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  • Source: The Journal of African History, Vol. 10, No. 4 (1969), pp. 565-579
    Published by: Cambridge University Press

    IN 1855 J. William Colenso wrote that he believed that one of the first British settlers in Natal, Henry Francis Fynn, regarded 'the memory of Shaka, notwithstanding his great cruelties, with some respect, and considers him to have been a man of spirit and genius, and not merely a brutal and abominable despot, like his brother Dingaan. He thinks that his severities were, in a manner, almost necessary-like those of Napoleon or Robespierre, to maintain his power.'1

    In a recent paper Felix Okoye2 pointed out that Dingane's 'brutalities' make sense if we accept the same frame of explanation proposed by Colenso for Shaka's actions. Dingane had to deal with problems different from Shaka's, among them those caused by the presence of Europeans living atPort Natal. It would also be somewhat off the mark to regard Dingane's reign as only a period of decay. At least until 1835 the Zulu were still expanding northwards into the area inhabited by the Tsonga. It is even possible that Manukuza Soshangana, king of the Gaza Nguni or Shangana, who is reputed to have sojourned in an area north of the Save river probably between 1836 and 1838,3 left the Limpopo area where he had been living before in order to be less exposed to a Zulu attack.

    Dingane's attack on Lourenco Marques should be seen against this background of Zulu expansion, though the events themselves may be interpreted as a reaction on the part of some Tsonga chiefs and the Zulu king himself to the actions of one particular governor against whom and whose personal dependents their attack was directed. In so far as the hostilities were directed against one person or one group of Europeans only, there is a parallel to Dingane's contemplated attack on Cane in 1831 and to the assault on Piet Retief's and other Boer groups in 1838.

    The main outline of the events described below is known, as they have been treated by A. Lobato, J. D. Omer-Cooper and J. J. Teixeira Botelho, whose accounts differ from that advanced by Theal, who underrated the importance of the Zulu in the area of Lourenco Marques and ascribed to the Gaza Nguni more importance than they had before i840.4 The emphasis therefore is on the social and political conditions between 1829 and 1833.

    Fig. i. The shaded area shows the approximate northern limit of the area inhabited by peoples paying tribute to Dingane in 1835. -- - Modern international boundaries. Ch., Chirinda; Ma., Mamalungo; Mach., Machichongue;MF., Mafumo; M., Magaia; MV., Mavota. Less-known political units only shown for the neighbourhood of Lourenco Marques.

    In 1829 Lourenco Marques was little more than a fortified trading post. A garrison was maintained by the Portuguese government to prevent other European powers from taking possession of Delagoa Bay, but this hardly restricted the activity of British, French and American ships coming to trade.

    The trade was of two kinds: (a) to obtain foodstuffs and (b) to obtain export goods. Export goods consisted of ivory, hippopotamus teeth, rhinoceros horns, slaves, ambergris, etc. (Slaves were important for Lourenco Marques from about 1825 to 1831. They were exported mainly to Brazil and French territories.) Foodstuffs were needed chiefly for the garrison, and consisted of cereals (maize and millet), cattle and (for the crews of European ships) also vegetables. The Africans exchanged these commodities for brass bangles (manilhas de pescofo or m. de mao), beads (several varieties) and cloth (mainly dark blue cotton).5

    It seems that before I826 most of the supercargoes of the ships visiting Delagoa Bay purchased either directly from chiefs and African traders, who were not controlled by the Portuguese, or from the garrison. Governors and officers were trading on a large scale. There was probably only one European who lived on trade alone. To obtain the necessary trade and European consumer goods, many of the Europeans at Louren9o Marques had fixed trade partners in Mozambique or on Brazilian ships. The system of trade changed a little when a trading company, which had received a monopoly for the ivory trade of Delagoa Bay, established a 'factory' at Louren9o Marques in 1826. As it purchased directly from the Africans, it competed with the garrison. This competition had its repercussions in government records.6

    The population which was living inside Portuguese territory in 1829 may be divided into three sections:

    (1) Government personnel, including soldiers, civil servants and their respective retinues of slaves and servants. Two or three Europeans, principally engaged in trade but probably independent from the company,could also be included here.

    (2) The company agent and other employees (probably three to seven Europeans and a number of slaves of the company).

    (3) The African population living in the territory controlled by the governor (three or four hundred at most).7

    It is about the first section that we know most, since the existing records are government records. It is difficult to decide if the neighbouring chiefs were aware of the fact that the Portuguese government had attributed different functions to the first two sections. Perhaps the individual differences and the fact that the exponents of both were Europeans and interested in trade blurred the distinction. The first section was certainly the larger. In I830, for example, it consisted of eight officers, 73 soldiers (many of them natives), and several civilians.8

    The structure of the population was different from that of Inhambane, the next Portuguese settlement up the coast, and also from that of Port Natal, a settlement of British traders founded in 1824. At Inhambane there was a comparatively large civil population made up of Christians and Muslims dependent on trade and subsistence cultivation. Inhambane also possessed a municipal organization equal to that of other small Portuguese towns, something which did not exist in Lourenfo Marques. A common feature with Louren9o Marques was the nearly complete absence of Indian traders from Diu and Gujerat (Banians), who probably did not begin to arrive until about 840. At Port Natal there were no agents of any European government. The traders staying there with their African retinues did not live together, and they only united when special issues were at stake.

    The size of the native population subject to the Portuguese depended partly on the activity of the governors. In the nineteenth century they nearly always exerted some kind of suzerainty over part of Mafumo, the chiefdom in which the fort was situated. The other chiefdoms near Delagoa Bay (Maputo, Tembe, Matola, Moamba, Mavota, Magaia-see map) were not subject to the Portuguese in 1829.

    Relations with Moamba and Maputo, and probably also with Magaia,had been mostly friendly. Between Mafumo and Mavota, and consequently also between the Portuguese and Mavota, there had been military engagements in i8I3-4.9 In 1824 the governor, Miguel Lupi de Cardinas, was killed in Matola with some 45 soldiers after attempting to conquer Mavota,which had been tributary to Matola. The remaining Portuguese had to enlist help from Tembe against Matola.10 On the arrival of Cardinas's successor, Schmid von Belliken, the fighting ended.11 Peace with Matola seems to have been maintained until 1830, or so long as the governors did not revert to the policy of expanding the Portuguese territory.

    The type of government of these chiefdoms, or small states, was a kind of monarchy. They would come into Vansina's category of 'regal kingdoms', as it seems that most of the district chiefs belonged to the patrilineage of the chief or king.12 Probably none of these states had more than 15,000 inhabitants, possibly often much less. The more powerful and able of these chiefs exerted some kind of hegemony over their neighbours. Sometimes they even tried to incorporate the territories of weaker neighbours into their own chiefdoms; for example, the chief of Matola attempted to take over Mavota and part of Mafumo in I833-4.


    Some years before 1829 a major change had begun to take place in the political structure of South East Africa. In the course of this process, which has received considerable attention from historians in recent years,the Zulu state under Shaka expanded very quickly.13 When Shaka became king in about 1816, he was the head of a small vassal state of the Mthethwa. When he was assassinated in I828, he was the ruler of the larger part of Natal and of some adjoining territories. Shaka's wars appear to have been the reason why several groups, probably numbering a few thousand each,left northern Natal in about 1820. From oral tradition it is evident that three or four groups passed not very far from Louren9o Marques, but the names of only two of these are to be found in contemporary reports on Delagoa Bay. In Portuguese letters from Lourengo Marques there is also information that one group-hitherto unidentified-attacked chiefdoms in the vicinity of Louren9o Marques (among them Tembe, Matola, and Moamba) in July 182I and even menaced the Portuguese settlement itself. The invaders were pacified by presents of beads and manilhas.14 It is possible that they belonged to either Soshangana's (Manukuza's) or Zwangendaba's Nguni, who were to come into contact with members of W. F. W. Owen's expedition in the following year.15 These two groups lived for a few years not far from Lourenco Marques, and probably collected tribute in Tembe and neighbouring chiefdoms. In about 1824 or 1825 Zwangendaba, who already in I822 had been located a little north of Soshangana, moved to what is now the northern Transvaal, and in 1835 he crossed the Zambezi.16 Soshangana, founder of the kingdom of the Gaza Nguni, continued to live south of the Zambezi. In about 1827 he moved on to the Limpopo,17 probably in order to avoid being too close to Shaka's territory.

    Shaka, king of the Zulu, was known in Maputo in 1823. H. F. Fynn, who visited chief Makhasana of Maputo in that year, recorded that the chief had 'only lately' offered his daughter Shishaka to Shaka for '55 bullocks. He [i.e. Shaka] refused to give that price and sent a small band of Orentonts [Nguni, in this case Zulu] to take her by force, which however they did not accomplish.'18 The missionary, Threlfall, who visited Makhasana in September of the same year, did not mention this incident, but stated that he met some of Shaka's subjects in Maputo.19 I assume that Shaka did not yet dominate Maputo at that date, though he may have intended to show his superior power by refusing to pay for Makhasana's daughter. But both Maputo and Tembe were probably his tributaries when his troops suffered a reverse in a battle against Soshangana on the banks of the Nkomati in 1828, at about the same time as he was murdered.20 Jose Antonio Teixeira, who then governed Lourenco Marques, reported that it had not been touched by the wars among the natives, but that he had had to pacify Makhasana and Soshangana with saguates (presents or tribute).21 This, incidentally, seems to be the earliest of the surviving Portuguese references to Soshangana, written more than
    six years after he had been met with near Lourengo Marques by members of W. F. W. Owen's expedition. There is silence concerning trade between Shaka and the Portuguese22 and concerning exchanges of embassies between them. This may be because the trade belonged to the private sphere of the governors and most embassies were about trade, but in addition one has to take into account the fact that only a small fraction of the letters written by the governors has been preserved. This lack of evidence could indicate that contacts with Shaka were less frequent than with his successor Dingane, whose name appears several times in Portuguese documents. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that, in an account of the Nguni invasion mainly based on oral tradition collected about seventy miles north of Lourenco Marques, Dingane's name does not appear at all, though Shaka's does.23 Possibly Shaka's wars were subsumed under those of Dingane.


    On 6 October 1829, little more than a year after the death of Shaka, Dionisio Antonio Ribeiro succeeded Teixeira as governor of Lourenco Marques.24 He had occasion to send an official embassy to Dingane when, two months after his arrival, on 10 December 1829, some Portuguese arrived from Dingane accompanied by people sent by the Zulu king. The Portuguese had wanted to go from Sofala to Mozambique by boat, but had been shipwrecked at Port Natal. There they had been well received by one of the British settlers, who had also accompanied them to Dingane as an interpreter.25 Ribeiro immediately sent a present as thanks for the good reception.26 The Governor-General at Mozambique did the same some months later, and addressed a letter to the serenissimo Reis dos Vatuas-Tingane.27 According to Ribeiro, this second present, which was accompanied by another to be conveyed to the Englishman at Port Natal who had helped the shipwrecked travellers, was refused by Dingane, who said that the beads were big and not small like those an independent Portuguese trader at Lourenco Marques, Nascimento28, had sent, apparently at about the same time. Ribeiro reports that Dingane then transmitted a message to Louren9o Marques that he should become his tributary 'as all the other kings' of the area. He should send a saguate like Nascimento, otherwise
    he would come with his people and make Nascimento governor. Ribeiro wrote to the Governor-General that he answered by showing the messengers artillery and giving them two cannon-balls and two cartridges, saying that these were the finest beads he had to pay tribute with. Dingane was said to have answered by sending seven head of cattle, saying that he had been misled by Nascimento.29

    The report on the bad reception of the presents, Dingane's message, etc., is dated 30 October 1830. The presents themselves had been sent between 21 May and 15 June.30 By 21 July, those who had accompanied them had not yet returned. But at that date Ribeiro had already suggested that the Governor General should force Nascimento to retire to Mozambique.31 At the beginning of August, when Dingane asked Ribeiro to become his tributary and threatened to make Nascimento governor, Nascimento fled on a French ship.32 It may be that Ribeiro's description as well as Dingane's final answer were influenced by these circumstances. In any case, Dingane's offer to make someone else governor is quite interesting, as it is what seems to have taken place three years later. The offensive present of cannon-balls and cartridges did not pass unnoticed, as it was mentioned when Ribeiro was executed three years later. But for the time being there was no sign of a worsening of relations between Dingane and the Portuguese governor.33

    From December 1830 until May 183I the Portuguese, aided by African allies, made several expeditions against a son of the chief of Matola, who governed Mavota, and also against the chief of Matola himself. In January 183I there were even one hundred men from the 'king of the Vatuas' among the allies.34 Although the name of this king is not given, it seems probable that it was Dingane, for in July Ribeiro wrote in a letter givinginformation on St. Lucia Bay:

    ... Dingana had already had for a very long time a war with a certain king of that place. The said Dingana, however, could never win. He therefore sent to ask me for help to beat the aforementioned king. In consequence of his having offered himself promptly when he knew of the war which I had with the king of Matola, I decided that it was my duty to help him in identical circumstances and sent him 5 soldiers and 5 negroes, good marksmen from this settlement, provided with powder and balls. This was sufficient for Dingana to win...within two days....35

    In April 1832 Ribeiro received the tribute of corn from the chief of Matola which had been agreed upon in 1831.36 In January 1832 the Portuguese flag had been hoisted in Magaia. Before July of that year, Ribeiro had also conquered a small territory between Mavota and Magaia, Libombo, and hoisted a flag in Chirinda.37 In April of the following year the Portuguese flag was hoisted in Moamba.38 It seems that this was done without warfare and that the expeditions against Mavota, Matola, and Libombo between December 1830 and July 1832 were the only wars Ribeiro made on his neighbours. The agent of the trading company reported later that Ribeiro had these flags hoisted, having been assisted in some way by Soshangana, king of the Gaza Nguni,39 who lived on the Limpopo River at this time (see map). If this were true, it could account for later difficulties with Dingane, as Soshangana was not on good terms with the Zulu king. Ribeiro himself does not mention Soshangana in any of the letters which are now in Lisbon. But as these letters do not contain any evidence on the relations between Dingane and Ribeiro during the latter half of 1831 or in I832 either, the account given by the agent of the trading company, Nobre, may be regarded as reliable. From his account,which is the fullest which exists on the death of Ribeiro, it can be inferred that Ribeiro sent a present or tribute to Dingane in 1832,40 but no details are given as to when and how relations between them worsened. They were already bad in May 1833. On the 28th of that month he asked the government at Mozambique to send a saguate to Dingane

    that might not happen what has happened this time, that he, not satisfied with the saguate I had sent him, immediately sent order to all the kings of this region to close the ports and not allow anybody to come and sell anything to this fort.

    He sent a sample of the beads used by Dingane, big manilhas and dark cloth, and explained

    ... the negroes now have very critical eyes; they were accustomed to the abundance, which existed in the times of the slave trade; the answer they give is that the white people always have money and don't want to give it to them.41

    Perhaps Ribeiro only describes one aspect of his difficulties with Dingane, as the slave trade with Brazil had become illegal in February 1830, and Nathaniel Isaacs, who visited Lourenco Marques in 1831, declared that trade depended entirely on the export of ivory.42


    Two months later, on 26 July 1833, a Zulu army accompanied by auxiliaries from Matola and Maputo appeared in front of Lourenco Marques and burnt some of the native villages nearby. Two days after this it received a large present for Dingane from Ribeiro and retired. Troops from Matola, however, continued the hostilities (mainly, it seems, against natives of Mafumo). In September, about forty days after the Zulu army had retired, a warning came from chief Makhasana of Maputo advising Ribeiro to leave Lourenco Marques. The Zulu had arrived in Maputo and had sent to Tembe, Matola, Magaia, Chirinda, and Moamba for auxiliaries in order to make an attack on the Portuguese fort. Ribeiro retired to Chefina Island, about ten miles east of Louren9o Marques. Nobre, the factor of the trading company, who was against leaving Louren9o Marques, and some soldiers were left in the settlement. On 17 September, eight days after the warning given by Makhasana, the fort-but not the houses of the company-were sacked by the Zulu. Nobre had persuaded the soldiers not to offer resistance. He also gave a saguate and asked for and
    received ten Zulu to protect him from the Zulu auxiliaries.

    Ribeiro stayed three more weeks on Chefina Island and left on 7 October in a boat, because on the same day Zulu troops had taken up positions on the mainland opposite Chefina, and his allies from Mafumo and some soldiers had fled. According to Nobre's detailed report, Ribeiro wanted to go to Magaia and from there to Soshangana (whom he had invited toattack Matola43), but was driven to the coast by bad weather before he got there. Three of Ribeiro's men were killed, and he himself captured, taken to Lourengo Marques on the 12th, and executed on the following morning.

    Nobre says that the Zulu leaders had already told him on 16 September that they had orders from Dingane to kill Ribeiro. He also reports that before the execution a speech was made to the governor and to all present with the following content:

    This governor will die because of his treachery and tyranny-for having usurped the land of the King Dingana and [of] Machacana, made war on him without motive, sent his people to Mozambique..., having had flags hoisted in the lands of those kings without their consent [and] under the force of arms, [and] sent powder and ball to King Dingana.44

    During the next ten months, Nobre, who after the sacking of the fort was the only one able to dispose of a large amount of trade goods, acted as governor, though he would not have been acceptable to the government in Mogambique. From October to July he sent six embassies to Dingane and received eight from him. Usually more than 35 days passed before the envoys sent to Dingane returned with an answer. From March onwards, the Zulu leading the embassies were not the same as the two who had led the war. One of the Zulu leaders of the troops which had attacked Lourengo Marques was said to have been executed by Dingane.45

    The fact that Nobre had taken over the functions of the governor was reported by Ribeiro's successor Vasconcellos in October 1834 in the following words:... Machacane and the Vatuas [Zulu] had entrusted this agent with the government...46 Nobre says that he insisted on two occasions that the Government and the company were different institutions, but it seems that these protests had no effect.47

    The British trader, Henry Francis Fynn, who had visited Dingane's kraal probably in May 1834, and met there two Portuguese subjects, largely supports Nobre's account of Ribeiro's death:

    During my visit to Dingaan, I had some conversation with two Portuguese soldiers from Delagoa Bay. I was very much surprised to hear from them that their Governor Deneis [Dionisio Antonio Ribeiro] was put to death on May last [sic] by a commando from the Zoola chief, and the present Governor was named Newburg [Nobre]. After hearing the whole of the circumstances, I determined on questioning Dingaan, having doubts as to the possibilities of his putting to death a governor who had fort and soldiery under his command, and including, if true, how improbable it appeared that another governor so directly after the occurrence should be on such amicable terms with Dingaan as to send him presents of brass and beads, for which purpose the soldiers had come. On my questioning Dingaan,he shewed evident symptoms of surprise, and asked who were my informants;
    and when I acquainted him appeared much to regret I had gained the intelligence: After a few moments' consideration, he told me, almost in the same words as the two soldiers, that he had sent to the Governor to demand a quantity of brass, which was refused him, under an appearance of his having none. Dingaan knowing he had brass [i.e. manilhas], sent a force to put him to death. But the Governor, having previously heard of the force coming, proposed giving 100 large bangles to pacify his anger. The force returned with the brass, but on their arrival at Dingaan's he ordered them immediately to return and fulfil his former orders, when they succeeded in putting him to death.48

    A little less than a month after Fynn's account had been published in Grahamstown, another European trader, Collis, wrote a somewhat differing account at Port Natal:

    ... in my relations with the king of the Zoolahs, he shows every disposition to continue upon the most friendly terms, and is determined to punish all those that ran away from him last year, and circulated reports, tending to alarm the white man. He has executed two, since my return, for this offence. In my dealings with him, he has acted with the greatest fairness, and has supplied me with 4,000 lbs of the very finest ivory.. .and swears he will not, in future, deal with any other; I have so happily hit his taste, as to beads and cloth...

    And then, turning to Lourenco Marques: 'The governor (Dennis), a Swiss [sic], has been assassinated by the Captain second in Command. An attempt was made to induce me to believe that he was killed through the influence of Dingaan; but this was said, merely to intimidate me...'49

    Fynn's report about Lourengo Marques had been published at a critical moment. Dingane, Collis and another trader, Cane, were trying to convince the governor of the Cape and the South African public that rumours circulating in the previous year that Dingane contemplated an attack on Port Natal had been unfounded, and that he desired 'to continue on friendly terms with the white people'.50 By his account Fynn showed that this rumour had some foundation. Though Dingane's friendly disposition in I834 cannot be questioned, there is not sufficient evidence to support Collis's report that the governor had been assassinated by the second in command (or by Nobre). In June 1835 two envoys of Dingane stated at Lourenco Marques that Ribeiro had been killed by Nobre and Machakane of Matola.51 But this statement was made more than a month after the Portuguese there had begun to collect evidence against Nobre. It is also inconsistent with the fact that Machakane was a vassal of Dingane and in the presence of Zulu52-would hardly dare to attack a trading post not entirely unimportant to Dingane. There can be little doubt that the Zulu king gave orders for Ribeiro to be killed, but denied this later in order to create a more friendly climate when dealing with Europeans. It is possible that Dingane acted on the initiative of Machakane of Matola, and was well informed about the internal dissensions among the Portuguese.

    Okoye has drawn attention to the fact that Dingane always tried to avoid conflict with the Europeans in general, perhaps contrary to what they expected. Also, in the case of Ribeiro the Zulu limited their hostilities to his interpreter, two soldiers who were caught with him, and the soldier who had brought the cannon-ball and the cartridges to Dingane in 1830. The fact that some Zulu were especially commissioned to kill this soldier too53 indicates that the motive Fynn mentioned in his report (Ribeiro's refusal to send a present when he had the means to do so had to be punished) was only a minor issue. Dingane may have wanted to punish someone who on several previous occasions had acted too independently. He certainly knew that there were two rival groups in Lourengo Marques. Unfortunately nothing is known about Nobre's and Machakane's relations with Dingane before the Zulu troops took possession of the fort in September 1833. It cannot be excluded, therefore, that one or both of them gave information to Dingane convincing the Zulu king that Ribeiro was disloyal.

    Fynn's and Nobre's reports would suggest that Dingane regarded Ribeiro as his subject and simply acted accordingly, placing less importance on his being white than the Europeans did.

    In the published accounts which are based on oral tradition there seems to be no reference to Dingane's attack on Lourenco Marques. This may be of methodological interest. Was the attack an insignificant incident in the eyes of the Zulu, or was it something which Bryant and others came
    to know about but did not publish because it would contradict Theal, who had stated that Soshangana had been the author of the attack? (Theal's version had been available since 1896.54)


    From October I833 to March I834, Machakane of Matola, whose troops had done most of the fighting, was collecting the fruits of the victory. He put several of his sons in charge of Mafumo55 and frequently sent some ivory to Nobre, exacting much more than its value in return. According to Nobre, the chiefs of Tembe and Maputo had informed Dingane of Machakane's requisitions before he did so himself. In March he asked for and received five Zulu to protect him from Machakane's extortions. In April Dingane ordered communications, including trade, between Matola and the Portuguese to stop. (This is a parallel to the measures taken against Ribeiro in May 1833.)

    On 9 June 1834, Nobre was informed confidentially that Dingane was planning a war against Machakane. The chief of Matola was to be attacked from two directions; one of the armies was to cross from Tembe to Lourenco Marques in Portuguese boats. At the end of June, Matola was in fact attacked. But as the chief and the population had fled to Moamba, and the invading troops, composed of contingents from Maputo and Tembe and a number of Zulu,56 retired after some seven days, there was not much fighting. A consequence of Machakane's defeat was the revision of his recent territorial arrangements. His sons who had been in charge of Mafumo had fled with their father. The chief of Mafumo, who with his people had found refuge in Magaia, was now called back in the name of Dingane by some of the Zulu.57

    On 21 August 1834, Ribeiro's successor, Dario Rodrigues de Vasconcellos, arrived at Lourengo Marques, where he had already stayed in 1829 and I830. Two days after his arrival, an embassy came from Dingane, asking for the saguate (present or tribute). It was explained that owing to
    the current difficulties of the Portuguese government (the civil war, which the constitutionalists had won, had only ended a short time before) saguates could not always be given. The embassy returned before 9 October, demanding about five times as much as had been given by Nobre in September I833.58 In Lisbon there is no document stating how much was actually paid to Dingane's envoys. In the following year another saguate was requested.59

    In 1834 the Zulu were firmly holding the whole northern shore of Delagoa Bay and probably most of the chiefdoms south of the Nkomati.60 But it seems that they never advanced much farther. One reason may have been that the Swazi shook off Zulu rule in 1835 or 1836 61 The Swazi (and, of course, the Boers) occupied the attention of Dingane from 1836
    onwards. Lourenco Marques was apparently only menaced again by Zulu in 1847.62 By then, however, the Zulu had lost the northern shore of Delagoa Bay. But south of it, in Tembe and Maputo, they retained some influence until 1879, the year Cetshwayo was attacked, beaten and exiled. In Cetshwayo's time the Zulu still maintained diplomatic relations with the governors of Lourenco Marques, and received from Maputo a 'tribute of cat and monkey skins, dark cloth or zuartes, manilhas and even money'.63


    The reasons for Dingane's attack on Lourenco Marques in 1833 may have been (a) the policy of expansion pursued by governor Ribeiro, which Machakane of Matola and perhaps Dingane himself may have tried to check, (b) lack of caution in treating Dingane, (c) perhaps also inability to meet Dingane's demands (this may have been due to economic difficulties after the partial breakdown of the slave trade in 1830), (d) the fact that Ribeiro probably maintained relations with Soshangana (which has been stressed by Lobato). Dingane seems to have regarded the governor as one of his subjects, although the Portuguese did not regard themselves as his subjects but as depending on Mozambique.

    In the period I830-1838, the Zulu seem to have been more important for LourenCo Marques than any other Nguni group, as they were dominating many of the territories near it. In that period the Zulu empire included people of a language different from that of the majority, who do not seem to have been integrated into the Zulu nation through the national regimental system in the same way as Nguni groups subjected by the Zulu. In 1831-4 Zulu armies fighting near Lourenco Marques consisted of a few hundred Zulu warriors assisted by groups of auxiliaries (probably totalling 2,000-3,000 men) furnished by the local chiefs.

    The Zulu king did not take sides permanently. In 1831 his men fought with Ribeiro against Matola, in 1833 with Matola against Ribeiro, and in 1834 with the Portuguese against Matola. A short account of the trade system, of the population of Lourenco Marques, and some data on Nguni migrations are also given in order to provide a background for the article.


    1. John William Colenso, Ten Weeks in Natal: A journal of a first tour of visitation among the colonists and Zulu Kafirs of Natal (Cambridge, 1855), 224.
    2. Felix N. C. Okoye, 'Dingane: a reappraisal', J. Afr. Hist. x, 2 (1969), 237-52. I am indebted to Professor J. D. Fage for sending me an advance copy of this article and for some constructive criticism on an earlier draft which also benefited from helpful comments from Dr Shula Marks and Mr David Hedges. I also have to thank Janet Hinshaw and Peggy Luswazi for correcting my English.
    3. cf. A. Grandjean, 'L'invasion des Zoulou dans le sud-est Africain,' Bull. de la Soc. Neuchdteloise de Geogr. xi (I899), 75-7; G. Liesegang, Beitrdge zur Geschichte des Reiches der Gaza Nguni im sidlichen Mofambique, 1820-1895 (Koln 1968), 51-2.
    4. Alexandre Lobato, Quatro estudos e uma evocadao para a historia de Lourenfo Marques(Lisbon, 1961); John D. Omer-Cooper, The Zulu Aftermath (London, 1966), 43; J. J. Teixeira Botelho, Hist6ria militar e politica dos Portugueses em Mofambique de 1833 aos nossos dias (Lisbon, 1936); G. McC. Theal, History of South Africa from 1795 to 1872, v, 3rd ed. (1920), I28-40.
    5. cf. Lobato, Quatro Estudos; [Henry Francis] Fynn, Delagoa Bay, in Theal, Records of S.E. Africa, II, 479-488; Francisco Santana, Documentaf do Avulsa Mofambicana do Arquivo Historico Ultramarino, I (Lisbon, 1964), 902, II04; Nathaniel Isaacs, Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa, ed. L. Herrman (Cape Town, I936-7), II, 280-3. When Isaacs visited Delagoa Bay in June/July I83I, he found II ships there, most of them American whalers.
    6. Lobato, Quatro Estudos, 123-8, Santana, Documentafcdo, I, 202-4, 215, 268, 535, 572 and passim; Lisbon, Arquivo Hist6rico Ultramarino (A.H.U.), Mo9. Cxa 77, X. Schmid v. Belliken to GCG, 2I July 1826. Portuguese government staff in East Africa was still at that time generally paid with cloth supplied by the government, and mainly used it to trade with. Guns or muskets, a staple of the trade with the Makua in northern Mo9ambique, do not seem to have been in demand at Lourengo Marques at this time.
    7. For a contemporary description see Santana, Documentaao, I, 1IO4, I Apr. 1829. It seems that the number of the company's employees dwindled, perhaps for reasons of economics, from seven in 1829 to three in 1833.
    8. Santana, Documentafdo, II (1967), 417.
    9. Arquivo Hist6rico Ultramarino, Lisbon (A.H.U.), Mo9. Cxa 57, G. Ramos to GCG Abreu e Menezes, 2 Dec 1813; Cxa 58, Ramos to Menezes, 20 June 1814. The people of Mafumo were assisted by Colela of Moamba, whose father seems to have had the same dominant position which Machakane of Matola held over chiefdoms near Louren9o Marques from about 1823 to 1830.
    10. W. F. W. Owen, Narrative of Voyages to Explore the Shores of Africa, etc. (London, 1833), II, 21-3; Theal, Records, Ix, 41, 46-8 (Whitworth to Nourse, 29 Apr. 1824, information derived from the Rev. Threlfall). Cardinas died on 23 Febr. 1824. Lieutenant Antonio Pedro Teixeira, who had taken over the command after Cardinas's death, was killed in Tembe before his successor Belliken arrived.
    11. A.H.U. Moc. Cxa 75, G. Schmid v. Belliken to GCG, 22 Mar. I825; cf. Lobato, Quatro Estudos, I 6. The description of these events in M. V. Jackson Haight, European Powers in South-East Africa (1796-1856), I96, is not quite correct.
    12. J. Vansina, 'A comparison of African kingdoms', Africa, xxxII (I962) 332. For a definition of 'state' see J. W. Garner, Political Science and Government (New York, 1928), 52. Evidence on the structure of chiefdoms is to be found in H. A. Junod, The Life of a South African Tribe (London, 1927), I, 409-10.
    13. Cf. Omer-Cooper, Zulu Aftermath, 27; Leonard Thompson, 'Cooperation and conflict: the Zulu kingdom and Natal', in: The Oxford History of South Africa, I (Oxford,1969), 336 seqq. for a summary of the explanations proposed until 1965.
    14. Lobato, Quatro Estudos, Ioo-3. The invaders were not Swazi as Lobato supposed. It is also possible that they belonged to an army sent by the Mthethwan king.
    15. Owen, Narrative, I, 93-5, 142-4.
    16. Owen, Narrative, I, 142; E. Gottschling, 'The Bawenda', J. Roy. Anthr. Inst. xxxv (1905), 366; J. A. Barnes, Politics in a Changing Society (London, I954), 3.
    17. C. A. J. Teixeira, 'Descripcao dos Rios da Bahia de Lourenco Marques', Arquivo das Colonias, II, no. 8 (1918), 64. 
    18. Fynn, Delagoa Bay, 482.
    19. S. Broadbent, The Missionary Martyr of Namaqualand (London, I857), 83.
    20. Isaacs, Travels and Adventures, I, 229; II, 19-21; Gardiner, Narrative of a Journey to the Zoolu Country in South Africa Undertaken in 1835 (London, 1836), 90; Teixeira, Descripf ao, 64. Owen, Narrative, I, 263, says '...with Matchakany [Machakane of Matola] was a messenger from the Zoolos... 'describing a visit in August 1823. I take this to refer to Soshangana's or Zwangendaba's Nguni as on p. 271 of the same volume.
    21. Santana, I, 932, I Apr. I829. Saguate is a word of Indian origin.
    22. But there are British sources on the trade between Shaka and the Portuguese, e.g. Isaacs, Travels, I. 59.
    23. A. Grandjean, L'invasion, 75, 79; A. C. Myburgh (The Tribes of the Barberton District, Pretoria, I949, 108) seems to be the only recorder of oral tradition mentioning the activity of Dingane in the hinterland of Lourenco Marques.
    24. Lobato, Quatro Estudos, 120-44; Santana, I, 940; II, 626.
    25. The interpreter was Henry Francis Fynn (cf. Isaacs, Travels, II, 10-12).
    26. Santana, II, 229-31, 7I4. 
    27. A.H.U. Cod. 1425, f. 6, 29 Apr. I830; Santana, II, 425.
    28. Anselmo Jose do Nascimento had already been in Lourenco Marques in 1823 (Lobato, Quatro Estudos, 107), was met with by the British in Matola (Owen, Narrative, I, 262 seq.), and served as an interpreter when Owen drew up his treaty with Makhasana of Maputo in 1823. By 1830 he was the owner of a ship.
    29. A.H.U. Mago 14, G. Ribeiro to GCG Brito, no. 38, 
    30. Oct. 1830, summarised partly in Santana, II, 439. 30 Santana, II, 425.
    31. Ibid. 434-5.
    32. Ibid. 438. Ribeiro's envoys had returned on 6 August.
    33. The soldier who had brought this present was killed three years later. (Santana,I, 224).
    34. A.H.U. Maco 23, G. Ribeiro to GCG, no. 51 (probably from 15 May I83I); Ribeiro had also got the help of the chiefs of Magaia, Chirinda, Moamba, and Tembe. In March the chief of Maputo had apparently planned to help Matola, and Ribeiro boycotted trade with him (Maco 23, letter dated 15 May 1831, without number). In the end of July peace had been made with Matola and negotiations opened with Maputo (Santana, II, 949-50).
    35. A.H.U. Maco 23, G. Ribeiro to GCG, 29 Aug. I831, no. 57. Ribeiro also says that Dingane had also asked the British for help, but that they did not turn up. This is not quite true (cf. P. R. Kirby, Andrew Smith and Natal (Cape Town, 1955), 72; Okoye, 225, footnote 3 I). Okoye also describes the action Dingane had planned earlier that year against Cane, and the origin of the bad relations between Dingane and the British traders.
    36. Santana, I, 182.
    37. Ibid. 181.
    38. Ibid. 212.
    39. Ibid. 224. This is on page 53 of an account entitled 'A Guerra dos Reis Vatuas vizinhos de Louren,o Marques em 1833'. This is a MS report, certainly written before 1839, describing the events in L.M. between 26 July 1833 and io July I834, and now in Maco i A of Moc. in the A.H.U. Lobato identified its author as Antonio Jose Nobre,the agent of the company (Lobato, Quatro Estudas, p. 130).
    40. Page 2 of the MS.
    41. Santana, I, 209.
    42. Isaacs, Travels, II, 282.
    43. Santana, I, 223-4.
    44. Santana, I, 223, p. 51 of MS.
    45. The leaders of the troops were 'Sumisso' and 'Naniia' or'Nandiia'. (Nobre's MS report, pp. 39, 50). Sumisso's death became known on 5 Feb. I834. He was said to have kept some of the spoils of the war for himself (ibid. pp. 59-60). From March onwards, Seduto and his brother Machanfana were transmitting Dingane's orders.
    46. A.H.U. 2a seccao, Mo9. Pasta i (1834-5), Pegado to Margiochi, 17 February 1835, no. 9, incl. no. I: G. Dario Rodrigues de Vasconcellos to Governo Provizorio, 8 Oct. 1834.
    47. Santana, I, 224 (pp. 54 and 61 of MS).
    48. Grahamstown Journal, III, no. 134, 7 Aug 1834, from a letter dated Umzimvubu, 27 June [I834]. Fynn probably spoke to the soldier, Jose Antonio Banadaque, and a slave of the company. Conversation may well have been conducted in Zulu. (Fynn's letter is reprinted in J. Stuart and D. McK. Malcolm, The Diary of Henry Francis Fynn, Pietermaritzburg,1950).
    49. Grahamstown Journal, iii (1834), no. 146, 9 October from a letter dated Port Natal,3 Sept. 1834.
    50. Okoye, 229.
    51. A.H.U. MoC. Maco IA, Marinho to Bomfim, x6 Nov. I840, incl.: 'Acontecimento do dia 3 de junho do corrente anno [18351' written 5 June 1835.
    52. That Zulu were present is repeated by Ribeiro's successor Vasconcellos: A.H.U. Pasta I (I834-5), Pegado to Margiochi, no. 9, I7 February I835, incl. reports dated 8 and 9 Oct. I834. Hewetson, who accompanied the Zulu missionary, F. Owen, wrote from Delagoa Bay on 20 May I838, 'Dingaan, the Zoolu tyrant, attacked this place, and killed the late governor, about five years ago' (Missionary Herald, Cambridge, Mass., xxxv (1839), 110).
    53. Santana, I, 224-5 (page 57 of Nobre's MS). He was killed on 22 Nov., forty days after Ribeiro's death.
    54. Theal, The Portuguese in South Africa
    55. (London, 1896), 258, 279. Nobre, MS, p. 67.
    56. A contingent from Magaia was expected too but did not come forward. The troops which took possession of Lourenco Marques in I833 were called together in the same way (Santana, I, 222, 226; Nobre, MS 15, 66-68). 
    57. Santana, I, 226 (Nobre, MS, p. 69).
    58. Dingane wanted 2,691 'manilhas de pescoco' and 1,500 packages of beads 'of their kind' (A.H.U. Mo9. Pasta I, I834-5, Pegado to Margiochi, 17 Feb I835, incl. no. 2 letter from Vasconcellos and Soares.) In Sept. I833 Nobre had given 522 manilhas and 200 packages of beads. (Santana, I, 221.)
    59. A.H.U. Mo9. Maco IA, Marinho to Bomfim, i6 Nov. I840, incl. 'Acontecimento do dia 3 de junho do corrente anno [I835]'.
    60. Teixeira, Descripcao, 64.
    61. In 1835 the Swazi or Unguani were still tributary to the Zulu (Gardiner, Journey, 167-8). In 1836, 1837, and 1838 the Zulu were fighting against them; in I840 the Swazi killed Dingane. (Miss. Herald, xxxIII (I837), 121; xxxvi (1840), 385, 503; Bryant, Olden Times in Zululand and Natal (London, 1929), 32I-4).
    62. South African Archival Records, Transvaal, no. i, Notule van die Volksraad etc. Deel I, 70-I. Wars between Zulu and Swazi had apparently only begun again in 1846 (cf. South African Arch. Records, Natal, no. 2, 7I-2, 100, 121, I22, 132, I4I-2).
    63. Augusto de Castilho, O districto de Lourenco Marques no presente e no futuro, 2nd ed.(Lisbon: Mattos Moreira, 1881), 46.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011


    Zulu Folk And Praise Poetry

  • Thursday, June 16, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below are Zulu folk or tribal poems. The first time I read Zulu traditional poems they reminded me of the Ngoni people's poems. The Ngoni original language called ngoni is actually in most respects closer to Zulu than other Nguni languages. See Songs of the Ngoni people for ngoni poems and see the striking similarities in structure and words. The ngoni left Zululand and Swaziland during Shaka Zulu's mfecane and now reside in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania.
    Author(s): H. I. E. Dhlomo
    Source: English in Africa, Vol. 4, No. 2, Literary Theory and Criticism of H. I. E. Dhlomo(Sep., 1977), pp. 43-59
    Published by: Institute for the Study of English in Africa, Rhodes University


    Life is rhythm. Our birth and death, the very throb of our hearts, the arts of sightand hearing, observe this law of rhythm. In Nature, the coming and the going of theseasons, of migratory birds, of hibernating creatues, of ocean tides and of plants and the heavenly bodies, tell the same story.

    In this paper we shall consider Zulu folk or tribal poetry; the poetry of our forefathers,of the soil and the soul of the country ; poetry composed by humble men who,according to western standards and ways, were ignorant, uncultured, wild men. I shall claim and do claim that their compositions were real and essential poetry for they observe with sure and artistic instinct this universal law of rhythm. But poetry, one ofthe highest achievements of the human soul and heart, is more than that. It must employ a measured rhythmic language, poetic diction, show contemplative and creative imagination, and use images, sounds and thoughts that arouse and sublimate the emotions.

    We have a rich and varied store of this folk material. It adorns the folk tales, accompanies the dances, and is connected with many war and peacetime observances. Unfortunately it has not been systematically collected and preserved, and is dying out with the disintegration of tribal society. I would suggest that these tribal compositions be collected into one volume prefaced with a critical essay on their nature, classification and quality. My own findings lead me to classify Zulu folk poetry as follows.

    1 - Semi-narrative, biographic praise poems.

    These include :

    (a) Poems of persons.

    Owavela ngesiluba,
    Phakathi kwamaNgisi nama-Qadasi.
    Inkonjan' edukel' ezulwini;
    UNowelamuva wa-OShaka.

    (b) Poems on Animals and Birds.

    Phondo luyingewishi,
    Mathifiza njengesidunu
    Ndlela zimnyama kobahlabayo,
    Bolokodlela, nkunzi emdwayidwa;
    Makhonya kusobele amavaka.

    (On a bull).

    Ungqwashi lobomvu!
    Isithuthukazi esinamakhizana ekhanda!

    (On a bird).

    (c) Poems on Things.

    Lind' amazibuko,
    Thabisa amashinga.

    (On a stick).

    (Guardsman of the river fords,
    Joy of adventurers reckless!)

    2 - Nature Poems.

    These are included in, and form part and parcel of, the laudatory poems to persons. (Where the writer finds an existing translation, he uses that, and where he doesn't he gives the original Zulu and his own translation below.)

    The greenness which kisses that of a gall bladder!
    Butterfly ofPhunga, tinted with circling spots,
    As if made by the twilight from the shadow of mountains,
    In the dusk of the evening, when the wizards are abroad.

    3 - War Songs.


    Oye oyeye!                                                                      
    Khethani amagwala,                                                         
    UNomahlul'ingonyama wadla.                                           


    Asihambe sihlaslele,                                                       
    Inkani iphelile;                                                                
    Wavizwa ngobani                                                           
    Ukuthi inkani iphelile?                                                      
    Wavizwa ngobani                                                           
    Ukuth ' inkan'iphelile ?                                                   


    Siyayishisa indlu kaQolwane,                                       
    Kasenzi manga, kasenzi manga.                                   
    Wazonda, wazonda!                                                    
    Oyeyiva wo!
    Siyayishisa indlu kaQolwane.                                       


    Waqeda izizwe.                                                        
    Uyakuhlaselaphi na?                                                 
    Hho! Hho! Eya ehhe!                                               
    Wahlula abafo,                                                        
    Wahlula izizwe.                                                       


    Waqedaqed' izizwe!
    Uyakuhlaselaphi na?
    E! Uyakuhlaselaphi na?
    Wahlul' amakhosi,
    Waqedaqed' iziwe!
    Uhlaselaphi na?
    Uhlaselaphi na?
    E! E! E!

    (Oye oyeye! seek out the cowards, the lion conqueror strikes. Come, let's march into battle; no more the time for boastful arguments. What, sayest thou the time for boastful arguments is over? Begone! Who told the news that wranglings have ceased? The house of Qolwana set we on fire. We make no jokes, no lies tell we. He is full of hate, full of hate. Oyeyiya wo! Come, see us set aflame the house of Qolwana; On whom will you make war, if you wipe out all the nations thus? . . . you who defeat the foes and conquer the nations. If you wipe out the nations thus, on whom will you make war. Yea, what will you do? You have subdued the kings; you have iped out the nations. Where and what next, Conqueror?)


    Wednesday, June 15, 2011


    Shosholoza Song Lyrics and video

  • Wednesday, June 15, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below are the lyrics  and video of the famous South African Zulu song 'Shosholoza'.  According to wikipedia the song is originally a Ndebele song from Zimbabwe.

    Shosholoza, shosholoza (Moving fast, moving strong)
    Ku lezontaba (Through those mountains)
    Stimela sphuma eSouth Africa (Train from South Africa)
    Wenu yabaleka (You are leaving)
    Wenu yabaleka (You are leaving)
    Ku lezontaba (Through those mountains)
    Stimela siphum' eSouth Africa (Train from South Africa) 


    Some Zulu Customs And Traditions 1911

  • Samuel Albert
  • Author: L H Samuelson
    Source: Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 10, No. 38 (Jan., 1911), pp. 191-199

    BY the courtesy of the author, we are enabled to publish in the Journal some extracts from a forthcoming work on "Zulu Customs and Folklore," by Miss L. M. Samuelson, of Durban, Natal. Miss Samuelson is the daughter of a Norwegian missionary who was stationed for many years in Zululand,and the sister of Mr. S. O. Samuelson, till recently Under-Secretary for Native Affairs in Natal. Having lived among the Zulus from childhood, she is exceptionally familiar with their language and customs, and the book she is about to publish promises to be of unusual interest.

    UKUKALEL 'AMABELE.(Praying for the Corn.)

    I think that a description of an old Zulu custom which is now slowly dying out may be found interesting. It is generally observed at the season when the mealies and mabele (kafir corn) are coming into flower.

    The Zulus believe that there is a certain Princess in Heaven, who bears the name of Nomkubulwana (Heavenly Princess), and who occasionally visits their cornfields, and causes them to bear abundantly. For this princess they very often set apart a small piece of cultivated land as a present, setting little pots of beer in it for her to drink when she goes on her rounds. They often sprinkle the mealies and mabele with some of the beer, for luck to the harvest.

    There is one day appointed specially for girls, when they go out fasting on to the hills, and spend the whole day weeping, fasting, and praying, as they think that the more they fast and weep, the more likely they are to be pitied by the princess. On that day they have to wear men's clothing (umutsha) made of skins, and all men and boys are to keep out of their way, neither speaking to them nor looking at them.

    They start very early, as by sunrise they must be by the riverside, ready to begin praying and weeping.1

    Digging deep holes in the sand, they make two or three little girls sit in them, and fill them in again, till nothing but their heads is left showing above ground. There they must remain, weeping and praying for some time. Girls about six years old are generally chosen for this purpose, as they cry the most (rather from fright than anything else), and so are most likely to catch the ear of the heavenly princess.

    When the older girls think the poor little things have done their fair share, they help them out and let them run home.

    The big girls then go to the mountains and weep; after that to their gardens, round which they walk screaming to the heavenly princess to have pity on them and give them a good harvest.

    After this they sprinkle the gardens with beer, and set little pots of it here and there for the princess. About sunset the ceremonies are over, and they all go back to the river to bathe, after which they return to their homes and break their fast.

    Any girls refusing to join with the others on Nomkubulwana's day, would lose caste, unless prevented by illness. Ofcourse Christian girls are not expected to join, this being an entirely heathen rite.

    The Rainbow, Lightning and Eclipses.

    The Zulus believe in a glorious being whom they call the Queen of Heaven, of great and wondrous beauty, and the rainbow is supposed to be an emanation of her glory. This "Queen of Heaven " (Inkosikazi) is a different person from the Heavenly Princess, to whom the young girls pray regularly once a year, as described above.2

    Some believe that there is a gorgeously coloured animal at the point where the rainbow appears to come in contact with the earth, and that it would cause the death of any who caught sight of it.3

    The natives, as a rule, are very superstitious about the lightning; if it has struck anything they say "the heavens
    did it," they dare not speak of it by name. A person killed by lightning is buried without ceremony, and there is no mourning for him; a tree which has been struck may not be used for fuel; the flesh of any animal so killed is not to be eaten; huts which have been injured by lightning are abandoned, and very often the whole kraal is removed. Persons living in such a kraal may not visit their friends, nor may their friends visit them, until they have been purified and pronounced clean by the doctor. They are not allowed to dispose of their cattle until they also have been attended to by the doctor, even the milk is considered unclean, and people abstain from drinking it.

    An eclipse or an earthquake foretells a great calamity, and natives are terrified whenever an eclipse takes place. The defeat of the Usutu by Uzibebu a few days after an earthquake, which was felt all through Zululand in 1887, naturally confirmed them in the belief that it is an evil omen.

    Rain Doctors.

    In common with other backward races the Zulus have faith in the power of the rain-doctors to make, or to draw, rain, and also to prevent it from falling. The Zulu kings generally kept rain doctors, but as when these men did not make enough rain to please their royal masters, they were in danger of being fined or even put to death, they were obliged to invent a good many excuses for their failures. The most common was, that they felt sure somebody was practising witchcraft, that is to say, putting pegs dipped in medicine into the ground, or tying knots in the grass on the mountain-tops and sprinkling them with medicines; either of which proceedings would stop the rain. Then the king would send messengers round the country commanding his subjects to find out where pegs had been driven in, or knots tied in the grass, and the owner of the kraal in whose neighbourhood this was found to have been done was liable to be killed or fined, at the king's discretion.

    In a dry season people were constantly in fear of this happening, for they knew that any who wished to injure them would drive in pegs near their kraals and then report them to the king for having done it.

    Cetshwayo once had a rain-doctor of whom he thought a great deal; but one year when there was a terrible drought he lost faith in him, and then someone accused him to the king of having wilfully prevented the rain from falling. Ofcourse this made his majesty furiously angry, and he ordered the unfortunate man to be killed and thrown into the river,together with his hut and everything he possessed. No sooner was this order carried out than the rain fell in torrents. Such is the story told by the natives, but I cannot vouch for the truth of it.4

    The Zulus used to consider the Basuto rain-doctors the best of any, and the king sometimes engaged some of them to come to Zululand when rain was wanted. One year a large number of them arrived, laden with roots and other medicines,from Basutoland. Some carried calabashes filled with liquids, which were rolled about on the ground at the cattle kraal, to bring thunder, and bundles containing charms to bring lightning and rain were stuck upright in the ground. These performances went on for some weeks, until at last the rain came, and the Zulus were satisfied that it was caused by the hard work of the Basuto doctors. These men were kept well supplied with beef and beer all the time they were in the country, and handsome presents were given them, when they left it to return to their own land.

    Ukuqwanjiswa Kwempi. (The doctoring of an army.)

    This was a most important ceremony among the Zulus while they were still under their own rulers. The natives of Zululand, as all who know anything of their history will admit, were the bravest and most warlike of the coloured races, and were always ready to fight for their king and country. They never shirked their duty as soldiers, they were all trained to arms from boyhood, and felt it a disgrace not to go out against the foe whenever called upon to do so.

    The ceremony of Ukuqwamba was invariably performed when there was to be war, and was supposed to make the men both brave and invulnerable.

    A proclamation went forth to all the men, in the word "Maihlome" (Let them arm), and in a very short time the whole manhood of the nation mobilised and proceeded, fully equipped for war, to the chief kraal of the sovereign, encamping within a short distance. No women were permitted to come near; all supplies of food or other necessaries being brought by men or boys specially deputed for this service. The army, having assembled at its rendezvous, was then formed into a crescent, and the national war-doctor marched up in all his war-paint, when a very wild black bull was brought in, seized by some warriors selected for the occasion, and held down by them, while the doctor killed it by a blow with his axe on the nape of the neck. Meanwhile a large fire was lighted, and kept up while the beast was being flayed. Then its flesh was cut into long narrow strips, which were roughly roasted in the fire under the superintendence of the doctor, rubbed with a powder made of various roots and herbs and portions of the skins of lions and other fierce animals, and tossed up into the air among the soldiers, who had to catch them in their mouths, bite off a piece, and pass the rest on, till everyone had had a mouthful. Any piece which might chance to fall on the ground was left there.

    The doctor's attendants now brought him vessels full of a liquid composed of various medicines pounded and mixed with water, and the doctor sprinkled the warriors with it, shouting the while "Umabope kabope, Umabope kabope"(let the Mabope tie up, that is, concentrate the strength of the army).5 All were now ready, and without farther delay set out to fight. The "tshela " (tela) or sprinkling was repeated in case of a reverse, but not the killing of a bull.6

    The whole body was now drawn up in a crescent, representing the two horns of a bull about to thrust at the enemy, while the central part represented the face of the bull, which would drive them away.

    The war-doctor brings with him all the things required for carrying out the rites I have described, namely, an axe with a sharp point, a knife, the different medicines, and the sprinkler. This should be made of the tail of the gnu, or if this cannot be obtained, the tail of a black bull is used. All these things the doctor keeps in his own possession, carefully wrapped up in a mat.

    The whole of these ceremonies were gone through just before the Zulu War of 1879, and in addition to this the fighting men partook of a medicinal charm which was to repel the enemy (Intelezi yempi).

    We must not forget the women-folk who were left behind. Married women always wear a skirt made of ox-hide, the hair having been scraped off. In ordinary life, the upper edge of this is rolled outward, round the hips, but during war, they turn the roll inside. The young girls throw ashes over their bodies, a sign of mourning, as wearing sack-cloth and ashes was among the Hebrews. The old women take their brooms and run along the roads sweeping with them, thus indicating that they would make a clean sweep of their enemies in all directions. This they call Ukutshaluza.

    Women also drink similar medicines to those taken by the men, but the preparation of them is somewhat different. A big fire is lighted outside the kraal, and a pot containing a number of roots possessing magical properties is put on, and left to simmer slowly till next morning, when the fresh milk of a cow is added, to whiten it. This is supposed to bring good luck. When it is ready, all the women and children sit round the pot, dip their fingers in it, and lick off the mixture. This is the Ukuncinda, or ceremony of sucking. After this, a cow is slaughtered for them to eat. Then they begin to sweep, smear the floors of their huts with cow-dung,and make all tidy. This is evidently to prepare for the return of the soldiers. Beer is made, and snuff ground, and all the snuff-boxes filled up, so that nothing shall be wanting.

    The Zulus "fight and die"; there is no turning back, no retreating-for that only means death in the end, an inglorious death instead of a glorious one. Any who turned back would be killed by order of the king or chief. This was the law of the country in war-time.

    When attacking, the whole body of men made one big rush forward, shouting their clan name or war-cry, "Usutu!" or "Mandhlakazi!"7 &c., as the case might be.

    On camping out for the night a watchword was always agreed upon, unknown, of course, to the enemy, and to every passer-by they cried "Who goes there? " their own people, on giving the word, being allowed to go safely on their way. This, of course, is the same procedure as would be followed among other nationalities.


    Before giving a description of an Inkatha I must explain that it is not at all the same thing as the ordinary grass pad for supporting burthens on the head which goes by that name.8 The inkatha now described is a larger thing, made of certain fibres which are very strong and binding. The doctor specially deputed to make it knows exactly what fibres to use. He makes it in secret, sprinkles it with various concoctions, and finally winds the skin of a python round it, as this reptile is considered the most powerful of animals, coiling itself round its prey and squeezing it to death, as it does.When the Inkatha is finished all the full-grown men as well as the principal women of the tribe are summoned, and are sprinkled and given powders of various dried herbs to swallow. The men then go down to a river and drink certain mixtures, bathe in the river, and return to the kraal where the Inkatha is made. They are then sprinkled a second time, and return to their homes.

    After this the Inkatha is handed over by the doctor to the chief's principal wife, and entrusted to her and to two or three others, to be withdrawn from the common gaze. It is taken great care of and passed on from generation to generation as part of the chief's regalia. The Inkatha is looked upon as the good spirit of the tribe, binding all together in one, and attracting back any deserter.

    The king or chief uses it on all great occasions--more especially on those of a civil nature. For instance, when a new chief is taking up the reins of government, the Inkatha is brought out of its hiding-place, a circle is formed by the tribe, and it is placed on the ground in the centre. The new chief then, holding his father's weapons, stands on the Inkata while he is being proclaimed by his people. After this it is carefully put away again.

    In case of the king being taken ill the doctor seats him on the Inkatha while he is "treating" him (elapa). It is also used in a variety of other royal ceremonies, and is looked upon as more sacred than the English Crown. It is, in fact, the guardian spirit or totem of a Zulu tribe. Yet, strange to say, the Courts are so ignorant of native laws and customs that nothing was known to the Judges of the Native High Court as to the existence of the Inkata, in a very important case9 recently tried there, when it was what might be termed the very essence of the case, and gross injustice resulted from this ignorance.



    1. Cf. an account-of this custom (umtshopi) in Colenso's Zulu Dictionary, p. 614. A similar observance, intended to avert disease, is described by Mrs. Hugh Lancaster Carbutt, in the (South African) Folk-Lore Journal for January, 1880 (Vol. II. p. 12), as follows: "Among the charms to prevent sickness from visiting a kraal, is the umkuba or custom of the girls herding the cattle for a day. [Umkuba means "custom," it is not the name of this particular rite.] No special season of the year is set apart for this custom. It is merely enacted when diseases are known to be prevalent. On such an occasion, all the girls and unmarried women of a kraal rise early in the morning, dress themselves entirely in their brothers' skins [i.e. skin kilts-umutsha], and taking their knobkerries and sticks, open the cattle-pen or kraal, and drive the cattle away from the vicinity of the homestead, none of these soi-disantherds returning home, or going near a kraal, until sunset, when they bring the cattle back. No one of the opposite sex dare go near the girls on this day, or speak to them."-We have reproduced the passage in full, as the periodical which contains it is now very scarce. It should be noted that at ordinary times it would be contrary to custom-indeed, highly improper, if not sacrilegious-for any woman or girl to approach the cattle-kraal, to say nothing of herding the cattle. The idea is, no doubt, to compel the assistance of the Unseen by some flagrant outrage on decency, actual or threatened.--ED.
    2. The rainbow is called utingo lwenkosikazi, " the Queen's bow." See Callaway, Nursery Tales and Traditions of the Zulus, p. 193. Utingo, however, is not "a bow " in our sense (at any rate not in current Zulu speech) but a bent stick or wattle, used in making the framework of a hut. It is difficult to ascertain anything about this inkosikazi; but we believe the Zulu women sometimes hold dances in her honour on the hills.Mr. Dudley Kidd (The Essential Kafir, p. 112) seems to have confused her with Nomkubulwana, who, as Miss Samuelson expressly tells us, is not the same person. It is not clear whether she is identical with the mysterious being called " Inkosazana," of whom the late Bishop Callaway says : " The following superstition ... appears to be the relic of some very old worship" (Religious System of the Amasulu, p. 253).She was supposed to appear, or rather to be heard speaking (for she was never seen) in lonely places, and predicted the future, or gave directions which had to be obeyed by the people. "It is she who introduces many fashions among black men. She orders the children to be weaned earlier than usual. . . . Sometimes she orders much beer to be made and poured out on the mountain. And all the tribes make beer, each chief and his tribe; the beer is poured on the mountain; and they thus free themselves from blame. . . . I never heard that they pray to her for anything, for she does not dwell with men, but in the forest, and is unexpectedly met with by a man who has gone out about his own affairs, and he brings back her message."-ED.
    3. The Congo people believe the rainbow to be a snake (chama) as do the Yorubas(Oshumare). See Mr. Dennett's,At the Back of the Black Man's Mind (p. 142), and Nigerian Studies (p. 21),--ED,
    4. This story scarcely seems to be consistent with Cetshwayo's character, He was certainly a sceptic as regards witchcraft,--ED,
    5. Umabope is explained in Colenso's Dictionary( p. 333)as "a climbing plant with red roots, bits of which are much worn about the neck." A note adds :--" The root is chewed by Zulus when going to battle, the induna giving the word 'Lumani(bite) umabope!' which they do for a few minutes and then spit it out again, saying' Nang' umabope' (here is the umabope). The notion is that the foe will be bound in consequence to commit some foolish act." (The verb bopa means," tie.")
    6. The nearest translation that can be given in English of the word Ukuqwambawould be "Talisman," and "Ukuqwanjiswa kwempi" may be rendered " The consecration of an army."
    7. Usutu is the name of the royal clan to which Cetshwayo belonged-Mandhlakazi being the house of Zibebu.-ED.
    8. The word seems to be almost universal in the Bantu languages :-Nyanja, nkata; Luganda, enkata; Swahili, kata ; Suto, khare. What is most curious is that, so far away as the Gold Coast we find an indication of ceremonial usages connected with this article. See this JOURNAL for July, 1908, p. 407. The Fanti word for it is ekar, which may be a merely accidental resemblance, or may point to a fundamental identity of roots in the West African and the Bantu languages.Possibly the root idea of -kata is " something coiled or rolled up," and this may be the only connection between the head-pad and the charm. The Baronga (Delagoa Bay) have a similar tribal talisman called mhamba which is a set of balls, each containing the nail-parings and hair of a deceased chief, kneaded up with the dung of the cattle slaughtered at his funeral, and, no doubt, some kind of pitch to give it consistency. These balls are then enclosed in plaited leather thongs. The custom of thus preserving relics of dead chiefs is found elsewhere : the Cambridge Ethnological Museum possesses a set of the "regalia" of Unyoro, which would come under the same category.--ED.
    9.  Rex v. Tshingumusi, Mbopeyana and Mbombo. 1909.


    Lizulu : Inkosi yamakhosi Gomani's Market 1938

  • Samuel Albert

  • With our main problem of the standard of living in view it is necessary to set certain limits to this discussion of the market of the Paramount Chief Gomani. I shall therefore begin with a survey of the present methods of trading in this area and their relation to the former types of distribution, referring to the factor of price as an incentive to marketing. I shall then describe the market at Lizulu in terms of the area served, the people concerned, and the goods exchanged; and discuss the relationship of the Paramount Chief Gomani to this institution which he created. Finally, I shall endeavour to show how the market reflects the standard of living in this area and how it has proved to be an important link between political development and the welfare of the people.

    Types of trading in this area. We saw how in the pre-European days the large-scale economy of the Ngoni meant that the aristocrats, who were also the wealthy, were continually accumulating goods and redistributing them, thus achieving a certain equalisation of consumption at least of necessities. Artisans made goods to order for the 'big houses' and received rewards of food and clothing. A certain amount of inter-village trading of 'industries' went on at the same time,especially after the Ngoni had brought some peace to the land and made communications safe Today the existence of scarcity and surplus is met by trade, of which there are three main forms. There is village or inter-village trading, which as we saw, can include both a hawking of goods or going directly to the producer. Few days pass in a village, especially if remote from a market when some kind of trading transaction does not take place. The villages on the sides of the main road maintain a constant sale of fruit, flour, other food-stuffs, and until recently beer,1 to the passers-by. The traffic on these main roads is very heavy at all times of year, and this roadside trading is a marked feature of the district. Formerly travellers would have been entertained by the 'big houses'. Today men returning from the south and therefore supposedly wealthy, are expected to buy their provisions.2 Now and then I have seen men from the north going south with only a small quantity of flour in a goatskin packet being fed in roadside villages, on the plea that once they get into Portuguese East Africa they will have a very thin time.

    The third form of trading today takes place in the markets. There are regular produce markets at the European Bomas, occasional, small markets at cross-roads, but none in this area to compare in size or importance with that held weekly at the Paramount Chief's village of Lizulu.There are also organised seasonal markets for the buying of cotton and tobacco, but none of these takes place in the Ngoni Highlands.

    All the transactions, whether in the villages, at the roadsides, or in the markets, may be either by barter or cash sale. The interaction of economic and social interests is seen clearly in the way in which the prices of goods are settled. They are seldom, if ever, determined on strictly economic lines, that is, solely by the operation of supply and demand. In the Paramount Chief's market prices are regulated by his authority according to the seasonal variations of supplies. In village trading there is a socially accepted equivalence of goods for goods, as, for example a cooking pot or a basket for the amount of maize it will hold. Bargaining and arguing often take place but sooner or later the social factor comes into play, and the buyer and seller arrive at an agreement by which neither feels defrauded and both are content. The economic motive of gain in the form of a definite reward is clearly the incentive for selling anything. Equally the reputation for generosity is a social asset, as it was in former days. Any kind of goods which can be measured by a little more or less such as beans or maize must always be measured on the generous side. If there is no evidence of generosity the other partner in the transaction will say, 'Ha! you Indian trader ', which is equivalent to skinflint and cheat.I have watched scores of these transactions both in the villages and in the market. Nowhere could it be said that there is a purely commercial attitude' about trading. If the seller is a clever talker with ready wit he may coax the buyer into giving a little more but equally this advantage may be on the side of the buyer. Buyers and sellers both frequently exhibit a disdainfully aloof attitude towards the goods, and it is certainly true that some individuals dislike the necessity of trading while others find in it an oulet for wit. Cheating and profiteering are regarded as anti-social acts, and a person with such a reputation is avoided.3 These forms of trade and the motives which influence buyers and sellers we will now consider in common with the market at Lizulu.

    Description of the Market. The village of Lizulu is on the main road running north and south through Nyasaland. Dominating the village is the Paramount Chief's long brick house in its tree shaded courtyard, and beyond it the new circular court house designed and built by himself. From this court house you can count a dozen villages perched on the sides of the hills. To the south side of the village is the market-place flanked by three Indian stores on the main road on one side and on the other by a few huts to accommodate travellers arriving over night.

    If you walk into the market about 8 a.m. on a Saturday, in the month of October, you find it already humming with activity. On the side nearest the main road are the sellers from Portuguese East Africa chiefly women with maize, vegetables, and other food-stuffs. On the far side,4 round the ant-hill where the men like to congregate5,are the people from the lake shore country, mostly men, with building materials' such as bamboo and bark rope, and with village industries such as reed mats, baskets of bamboo and palm fibre, wooden spoons and hoe handles. Here are the fish sellers, also men and boys, with smoke dried and fresh fish which they have carried up the two escarpments from the lake during the night. Round the trees in the centre is the 'meat stall', where butchers are cutting up the carcasses each on its skin, arranging small portions for sale, and hanging large pieces on the trees. In little groups, arranged according to their wares over all the remaining space, are the women selling grain vegetables, fruit and pots, chiefly in small quantities taken from their own storehouses or gardens. In and out, stepping round the sellers and their wares,now bending down to talk, now sitting to drive a bargain walk the buyers and the onlookers, clustering most thickly round the butchers' section, which attracts people as much as flies. Here will be found the men who are cattle owners and have slaughtered a beast to provide them with needed cash. They generally use a 'butcher' to cut up and sell the meat. He gives the money at the end to the owner, who pays him 2s 6d.for his services.

    As the market fills up the buzz of conversation gets louder and deeper, and in the little knots of people talking everywhere, it is hard to sort out the buyers from the Sellers. The Indian stores on the edge of the market are thronged with would-be purchasers, choosing, fingering, talking price, watching the salesman measure the cloth, going to the tailor on the veranda to get it made up. The whole scene is one of great activity, cheerful bargaining, orderliness, and good burnout. Quarrels and angry voices and fights are unknown. 'Is it not the Chief's market? And must we not respect him.'

    In a changing scene such as this it is not easy to count heads, but there are generally 500-600 people at any one time in the market-place during the cold weather, more in the hot weather, and fewer in the rains. The area served is roughly 15 miles east and 15 miles west 10 north and 10 south from Lizulu. People come from the villages below the escarpment to the east and from the Portuguese lands to the west thus focusing in one centre all the Ngoni country with its diverse climatic areas.

    Kinds of goods sold, the regulation of prices, and collection of market dues Of the goods brought to the market one quarter perhaps are village industries, three quarters food-stuffs. The scarcity of building materials in the Highlands makes a ready sale for bamboo and bark rope especially in the house building season after the harvest. There is always a steady demand for baskets, mats, wooden spoons, and small sieves. This supply is greater in the cold weather 'because the men like to sit round their lire in the talking place making these things'. Baskets for carrying maize are plentiful just before the harvest, and wooden hoe handles just before the rains when the hoeing season begins.

    On most market days, except in the rains, one to three beasts are disposed of and one to two pigs. The meat sells for about 25s. to 30s.per beast and 5s. to 6s. per pig. The amount of fish brought in varies, but it is always quickly sold out, and the total, in 1d. lots, is about 10s. to 15s. worth

    The food-stuffs, other than meat and fish, consist of maize and millet, 'relishes', that is, peas, beans, and ground-nuts; quantities of greens called 'turnip'; European vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, and cabbages; sweet potatoes, yams, and cassava; and sugar cane and fruit according to the seasons, mangoes, pawpaws, bananas, peaches, &c. The people In the low level country always have yams and bananas, and those from the Portuguese country maize and beans. Hence a scarcity of staple food like maize in one area will be met by supplies from another, and the same is true of standard relishes like beans.

    The unit of price in terms of money is 1d., kobidi. Most portions of vegetables, fruit, cereals, meat, and fish are arranged in pennyworths.The price for bananas, for example varies from 8 a 1d. to 15 a 1d., for yams from 4 to 8; sweet potatoes from 6 to 12. These seasonal variations in prices are regulated by the Paramount Chief on information given him about shortage and supplies in different parts of his territory.As prices are fixed by his authority, there is no haggling over price only over the amount put into the given measure. A woman selling millet at 1d. a basinful will be urged by a buyer to put more in until the basin is heaped up and running over. Protesting all the time she will go on adding minute handfuls as the buyer says, 'Tiye, Tiye! (come on! come on!), until the cloth round the basin has a circle of overflowing millet. The woman gathers it up and hands it over with a sigh and a laugh, and the onlookers say, 'She has a good heart. She is not a 'mwenye', the derogatory name given to Indian traders.

    In and out through the people goes a little man with a grizzled head and a khaki uniform followed by a lad with a sack. Into the sack go an odd banana, a yam or two, handfuls of maize, bits of sugar cane, small fish, while the official collects a penny here and there from the craftsmen, and 1s 9d. per beast from each butcher. This is the 'customs officer', collecting the Chief's dues from all the sellers at a fixed rate x which they give willingly. The Chief gets a considerable amount of foodstuffs from this 'custom', which are put away in his storehouses,and a few shillings a week in cash dues.

    Other facilities Provided at Lizulu. When people come to Lizulu to buy and sell they find other facilities there. The Paramount Chief's office in his new court house has a postal section where stamps can be bought and letters sent and received. Permits for selling beer, and marriage certificates, both introduced by him, can be bought here. Friday, the day before the market is court day, that is, the day for the Appeal Court at the Paramount Chief's, and for the ordinary court at the near-by village of the Sub-Native Authority. News and gossip from the rest of Nyasaland and from farther south is exchanged when the mail lorries arrive with their load of passengers. The Paramount Chief, his wife his officials, and the Sub-Native Authority and his officials, walk in and out of the market, and are accessible for greetings and petitions. Normally the Chief can only be approached through his izinduna, and his wife through her attendant women. The ordinary people who seldom have cause to seek them out are gratified at being able to see and greet the Paramount Chief and they speak warmly of his condescension at walking among them thus freely.

    Paramount Chief and his market. The Paramount Chief is 'owner' of the market in the same sense in which he is called the 'owner' of the country. It is a recognition that the market depends on him because he set it up, he regulates it, and he receives custom from it as he receives tribute from the country. It takes place in his village, where people come also for court cases and for dances,and at New Year and on other occasions. Thus the people associate the residence of the Paramount Chief with legal assistance, economic facilities for exchange, and social recreation. Ngoni tradition of the correct relationship between the Paramount Chief and his people.

    The market further shows an important transition of the economic function of the Paramount Chief in former days to a new form today. We saw how in pre-European days the Paramount Chief had a monopoly of ivory which he traded to the Arabs for cloth and then distributed the cloth to his relatives and officials; and that he showed the same type of generosity in giving away war loot. This role of distributor of goods which were highly valued was allied to that of provider of food and meat and beer, and he was thus regarded as the one who satisfied the needs of his people. Having no Arab cloth or war loot to distribute in these days, the Paramount Chief organised a market where by exchange of goods people could satisfy their needs. The reciprocal relationship between Chief and people shown in the old days by tribute and military service on the one hand and gifts and food on the other has also its counterpart today. The people at the market pay custom and keep the peace and accept his ruling of prices. The Chief gives facilities for exchange, fixes a just price and walks about among them The personal relationship between the Chief and people is thus based on the old ideas, but take shape in new forms

    This analysis of the market shows, as did the institutions of cattle keeping and agriculture that economic activities are closely related to political and social organisation. It is, moreover, a proof in modern form of the organising ability of the Ngoni leaders to meet the needs of their people. We shall now summarise the chief ways in organization of the market is related to raising the standard of living in the area served by it.

    The market and standard of living: Even without the data of a quantitative assessment of food eaten, it is evident from observation that the existence of the market both equalises consumption and increases it. Local scarcity of essential foods such as beans is met by exchange in the market, and the display of foods like meat, fish, fruit,and vegetables is an inducement to purchase them. A great many households in the neighbourhood of the market buy a small regular amount of meat and fish every week It is common to meet women setting out in the early morning with a basket of grain or beans on their head and to see them returning about noon with the same basket full of a bundle of entrails, some sun-dried fish, and perhaps some bananas or mangoes. Whether those purchases represent an actual increase of the quantity of food consumed, or only more variety, that is, less porridge but a better relish it is very dicult to say. But the 'lure of the shop window ' in the display of varied foods in the market certainly excites the ambition to have a more varied diet.

    The steady demand at fixed prices for food-stuffs, and especially for 'industries', acts as a direct stimulus to production. Some of the semi-educated youths lounging about the villages jeer at such spare-time occupations. 'A man's work', they say, _ is to earn wages, not to make things.' At the same time the incentive of profit is a strong one, and a maker of good baskets can get from 3s. to 5s. a week in the market. The profits from sales represent an added purchasing power and hence the possibilities of an increase in the standard of living

    We can therefore conclude that the market does affect the standard of living by equalising consumption in that area, and that it is also instrumental in raising the standard of living by stimulating production. The part played in the market by the Paramount Chief shows how economic progress and political development can be allied. The Paramount Chief is using his old power for new ends, or rather for a new method suited to changing conditions, thus promoting the welfare of his people. Hence we do not find in the market and its working any of the tension or instability or resistance shown in attempts to improve agriculture and cattle keeping. In this institution the old and the new are in unison and not in conflict.

    1. The sale of beer on the rosin roads was prohibited because it to too many motor accidents. There is now a 3- mile limit which is somewhat elastic in its interpretation.
    2. It is getting quite usual to find eating-houses at the chief stopping-places where tea and scones and more solid food can be bought.
    3. on the other hand, in the cotton and tobacco markets it is considered quite justifiable to cheat the European traders, who are invariably looked upon as profiteers.
    4. The sellers coming from a distance take up sites in the market place nearest the place at which they arrive, i.e. those from the west on the western side , and so on.
    5. In old days chiefs sat on an ant-hill with their officials below them.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011


    Maseko Ngoni: Cattle As Security For Religious Ritual

  • Tuesday, June 14, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  • by Margaret Read, 1938.

    In this last respect which is least apparent to the European, as he seldom, if ever, sees ritual performed in times of sickness or of general calamity, such as drought, and the Ngoni are reluctant to tell outsiders about their religious rites. I was fortunate enough to be in a village where an important old lady was taken ill. The diviner was consulted announced that prayer must be made to the spirits of the great chiefs from whom the old lady was descended. In a deathly silence, in the dim light before dawn, a few men and a few cattle were gathered by the kraal. The prayer rang out to the spirits:

    O thou Gumede!
    O thou Mputa!
    O thou great chief!
    Here is your beast.
    That your child may be healed
    Look on what is yours.
    May you remain well1
    And your child recover.
    We do not know,
    We do not know.
    If you say that she will die,
    She is yours, this child of yours.
    It is your affair2
    As for us, we long that your child may recover
    If she dies, this child of yours,
    We can only speak your names
    We cry to you for her.

    Beasts and men faced south-east, in the direction whence the ancestors came. The chosen beast was watched while the prayer proceeded. It pawned the ground with its feet, and finally lay down with its back to the south east. The spirits had 'refused'; they had turned their backs, and would not help because they saw someone with a white face, of the tribe who snatched the ngoni cattle long ago3. But following day (when the white person was securely hidden the same ritual was followed, and during the prayer the beast urinated. That was a sign of the spirits being willing to accept a sacrifice. They  had answered through the cattle. the beast was killed with one thrust of a spear, falling as it dies facing south east. In the house of the sick woman where the ritual vessels to the spirits were kept meat was offered in those vessels to the spirits, and they were praised and asked to accept it.

    The meat and the sick woman were sprinkled with the juice of the gall bladder. That evening , when the spirits had "tasted" the meat, it was cooked and eaten by the invalid and her relatives and other important people.

    This rite which I saw and have described here in outline was closely parallel to other sacrifices in times of sickness and drought. The grouping  of a few great people by the kraal where everyone else stayed  silent in their houses and not even a dog barked nor donkey brayed; the signs of response or refusal by the spirits; the form of prayer; the killing , the offering of meat to the spirits, and the final eating; the use of ritual vessels whose presence in the hut4 signified the guardianship of the spirits-all of these are repeated in every form of supplication to the spirits.

    All the aristocratic Ngoni, are buried in the skin of a beast newly killed on the day of the burial. Thus the dead bodies are finally associated with a dead beast whose flesh is eaten by the mourners, and the spirits of the dead speak to their living descendants through the living cattle. This is the basis of the statement that cattle are and essential link between the dead and the living.

    Nearly a hundred years have passed since the Ngoni first came into the area after crossing the Zambezi and losing all their beasts save two in the tsetse fly belt5. But the horror of the time, when it seemed there would be no more cattle to be the ritual link between them and the Spirits, is vivid still, and old men speak of it with bated breath even though it is only tradition to them. Until they followed Sosola's doubtful lead6 and crossed the Lake to Songea they had to use sheep for ritual purposes. Inspite of the fact that sheep than and now play an important part in the Ngoni ritual, they were inferior to cattle. It was only the shadowy hope of renewing their herds if they trekked farther which tore them temporarily from Domwe, the country they had set their hearts on, and impelled them towards still further travels and hardships for another quarter century. For they were uneasy lest the Spirits to whom they they always said, 'Heres is your beast' would ignore  the silly sheep, and failing to see their cattle, might turn their backs on their descendants forever7.

    Herein, I think, lies the determined resistance of most of the Ngoni to take up land and settlements where no cattle can live. Other tribes may be able to invoke their ancestral spirits forund their graves or by some tree or mountain sacred to the Spirits. The Ngoni, perhaps because of their wanderings, have no such links with any particular places in the land and they declare the sites of graves are unimportant because they bear no relation to the habitation of the Spirits and the ritual for making prayers8. It is definitely by means of cattle that the ritual must be performed which can assure the help of the spirits. I have been in areas where the Ngoni have lost all their cattle through tsetsefly. There they show uneasiness and suscipicion, which can be partly accounted for by the loss of this security in religious ritual. Forced to use the despised goat, they descend to the level of the conquered tribes. Morever, the loss of security and consequent fear of witchcraft can be seen in their turning desperately to all kinds of magical resources scorned by the real Ngoni9.


    1. Muhlale kahle, the usual greeting.
    2. Indaba yakho
    3. Reference to the removal by the British troops of about half the herds after the Ngoni war of 1896.
    4. It was the privilege of the 'big woman' to 'guard the spirits' by keeping in their huts the ritual vessels for sacrifing. Thus these 'big houses' which were the huts for economic organisation were also the focus points for religious ritual
    5. This is the accepted tradition.
    6. Sosola , a Chewa chief, was anxious to move the Ngoni out of his area, so he sent them a parcel of dung, saying 'there is more where this came from.' Actually it was buffalo dung, but the Ngoni took the bait and crossed southern end of Lake Nyasa not finding any cattle, however, until they reached Songea.
    7. This is the substance of my conversation on this subject with accredited informants.
    8. These Ngoni cremate their paramount Chief and other notables, men and women, are buried on the edge of the cattle kraal.
    9. "For we know that these things [i.e. witchcraft and magic] cannot cause the life of man to fail nor can they preserve it but they are all worthless and therefore to be despised (From a Ngoni text on magic used by the conquered tribes)


    Saturday, May 14, 2011


    Ngoni Rebellion 1898 -1899

  • Saturday, May 14, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  •  In the late 19th Century Britain began to probe into Central Africa, both from the Indian Ocean through Portuguese East Africa and northwards from Southern Rhodesia. The motives for entering the region around Lake Nyasa, (declared the British Central African Protectorate in 1891 but later called Nyasaland and now named Malawi), were a mixture of public concern about the ruthless practices of Arab slavers as exposed by Doctor David Livingstone and other Scots Missionaries, and more pragmatic reasons of trade and commerce. In those days the British government frequently saved overseas costs by licensing trading companies to explore and develop new territories. These trading companies often possessed rather different principles and priorities than those of Doctor Livingstone, and very often local Chiefs and their tribes were taken advantage of by unscrupulous traders. In British Central Africa the African Lakes Corporation, an organization headquartered in Glasgow, was the dominant trading concern from 1884 until the Protectorate was declared in 1891.

    Living in an area of Northern Rhodesian land lying just west from the border and approximately level with the southern end of Lake Malawi was a tribe of Zulu descent that had migrated northwards from southern Africa. This tribe, the Angoni, had established and maintained itself here by conquest as its military skills and organization were superior to those possessed by its neighbours. Angoni warriors were organized into regiments and they carried a heavy stabbing spear, smaller throwing spears, a club or axe and an oval hide shield for protection. Angoni villages were not fortified but were located in hilly sites that were difficult to

    Thursday, April 7, 2011


    Marriage and Family in the Dedza District of Nyasaland

  • Thursday, April 7, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author: Lucy P. Mair
    Source: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol.81, No. 1/2 (1951), pp. 103-119
    Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and


    The Dedza District of Nyasaland has a population of 140,000. Within it seven Native Authorities are recognised, two Ngoni, three Cewa and two Yao. As will readily be imagined, members of the three tribes are not neatly sorted out into the appropriate Native Authority areas. The Ngoni are inextricably intermingled with the Cewa, with whom they intermarried from the time of their arrival as conquering invaders in the latter's territory; for practical purposes they are distinguishable from them today only by the fact that they follow the rule of patrilineal succession. In Dedza District a Ngoni village is one in which a considerable proportion of the men claim to be Ngoni; some can still make good the claim on the ground that they were born before the Ngoni left Domwe, in Portuguese East Africa, at the turn of the century. The Cewa were invaded also by the Yao, and the present boundaries of Yao and Cewa are those laid down when the territories of " Principal Headmen" were defined in 1924. There are groups of Yao villages unider Cewa chiefs and vice versa. Within a mile or two of the court-house of the Cewa N. A. Kaphuka there are a group of Yao and a group of Bisa villages, both established before the days of effective British occupation. Today there is some immigration into Dedza of Ngoni from the densely populated neighbouring District of Ncheu; some of these obtain land from Cewa chiefs. One might expect the result to be a bewildering variety of family structures and marriage laws. In fact, however, in this district of mixed population a more or less homogeneous custom appears to have evolved.