LIFE: What A Journey with CHARLES CHISALA
I HAVE warned these Ngoni people to stop challenging the Bemba to golf contests, but they don’t seem to listen.
Once again, as the Zambia Daily Mail reported on Wednesday August 30, 2017 the Bembas vanquished the hapless Easterners last Sunday.
Again, the Bembas subdued their tribal cousins and erstwhile bitter enemies to win the 2017 annual golf tournament at Chainama Hills Golf Club in Lusaka.
Such contests have become a permanent fixture on Zambia’s golf calendar.
The Bemba reaffirmed their demographic advantage by drawing members of their team from Luapula, Muchinga, Northern and Copperbelt provinces.
There was even a rumour that at least two golfers were ‘imported’ from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The northerners beat the unrepentant rodent eaters 476-417 to retain the trophy during the 18-hole tournament.
As expected the Ngoni were not willing to admit that the Bemba were just too clever for them.
They had to find a ridiculous scapegoat for their defeat.
Their team leader, Welani Chilengwe, was reported to have shamelessly climbed the highest hill around screaming at the top of his voice that they were going to file a petition in the Constitutional Court.
Chilengwe accused the innocent Bembas of employing monkey tricks to win the contest when the truth is that it was actually his team that had employed dirty rat tricks, which did not work.
He should have blamed his weak ‘warriors’ who seemed not to know the difference between a steel golf club and a wooden camutunga (knobkerrie), which they used alternately to hit golf balls.
I am reliably informed that the Easterners also sought the services of a human hyena who, however, refused to accept the huge reward they dangled in his face.
The ‘flying hyena’ explained that his witchcraft only works during the night, and the golf tournament would be held in broad daylight.
Who are the Ngonis and their nemesis, the Bembas? Where did they come from?
According to my little knowledge of African history, Ngonis are descendants of the militant Zulu tribe of Kwazulu Natal in the south-eastern part of South Africa, who migrated in the 1840s during the tribal mayhem referred to as Mfecane.
Originally, they were Ndwandwes ruled by King Zwide, who was later defeated by Nguni chief Shaka.
Shaka became king, established tyrannical rule and merged the Zulu and Nguni sub-tribes into one large ethnic group called Zulus.
However, the Nguni broke away and migrated northwards under the leadership of Zwangendaba, one of King Shaka’s field commanders.
They moved from Natal to Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and finally Tanzania between 1820 and 1840.
Along the way they changed their name to Ngoni.
The Ngoni broke into two large groups – the Maseko and Tuta Ngoni.
They settled on the eastern side of Lake Nyasa (now Malawi) at Songea and on Ufipa plateau, in eastern Zambia and southern Tanzania.
The Ngoni were fierce, highly tactical professional warriors with advanced military knowledge and skills.
Their preoccupation and source of livelihood was war.
They were later to meet another powerful, war-loving tribe from the North-east called Bembas (AbaBemba), who were also professional and highly skilled warriors.
Like the Ngoni, the AbaBemba also lived off the spoils of war and were shrewd traders who had perfected the art of bargaining.
The beginning of their migration is traced to the 15th Century from Kola, where they lived under the vast Kongo Kingdom of Mvemba (pronounced as Mubemba) a Nzinga, whose official title was Mwene Kongo (owner of Kongo) covering Angola, Congo Brazaville and Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to Wikipedia shortly after the death of Mwene Kongo VIII Mvemba a Nzinga (Alfonso Mubemba) in 1543, the first ancestors of AbaBemba violently rebelled against the Portuguese’s imperialistic advances that were tearing down the foundations of the Kongo Kingdom.
As a result of the bloody revolt the ‘rebels’ broke away from the Kongo Kingdom, went to the east and became an integral part of the Luba Kingdom in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo (Tanguy, 1948).
Another rebellion against the imperialistic Portuguese, incited and led by the newcomers (rebels), erupted in the Luba Kingdom in the 17th Century.
The insurgency led to another eastward movement of a breakaway group that would later be known as aVemba or AbaBemba (children or people of Mvemba).
“From the Luba Kingdom, the ‘rebels’ were led by two of Luba King Mukulumpe’s sons, Nkole and Chiti (Mushindo, 1977; Tanguy, 1948),” Wikipedia records.
The war-hardened AbaBemba warriors’ vast experience in advanced hybrid warfare (they employed both conventional and commando-type tactics), bravery, strength and sheer ingenuity backed by their possession of and ability to use guns, including a canon, enabled them to effectively halt the north-eastward advance of the hitherto all-conquering Ngoni decades later.
After crossing the Luapula and Chambeshi rivers, skirting and crossing Lake Bangweulu they spent some time at Chulung’oma in Luwingu before finally settling down and establishing their headquarters at Ng’wena village in Mungwi district.
This is the same place where they fought the mother of all battles with the Ngoni in which there was no winner or loser.
The AbaBemba later embarked on a brutal expansion of their kingdom and influence under Chitimukulu Mwinelubemba, their paramount chief, driving the Lungus, Tabwas and Mambwes out of their land using their military might and war experience.
They also harassed the peaceful and hard-working Namwangas, plundering their cattle and farm produce at will.
Over the years the AbaBemba have grown into an extensive tribal group with over 13 matrilineal sub-groups known as ‘Bemba-speaking tribes’ sharing the same ethnic and cultural origins and values in Northern, Muchinga, Luapula and Copperbelt provinces.
Their rebelliousness, militancy and courage were later to influence the civil revolt against the abusive capitalists running the copper mines on the Copperbelt.
The civil defiance spread into a full struggle for independence to the rest of the then Northern Rhodesia (The African Proletariat and Colonial Capitalism, Dr H. Meebelo, UNZA).
The traditional headquarters, elaborate governance system, succession processes and social structures of the AbaBemba remain intact to date.
These two tribal groups, the Ngoni and AbaBemba, share such a rich history that they should continue living in peace through their cousinship and social events.