Features

Luangwa’s heritage structure an eyesore

ALEX NJOBVU

Lusaka

IT IS unfortunate that the structure that was erected on the exact point where the Ngoni people under King Zwangendaba on the banks of the Zambezi River in Luangwa are believed to have crossed into Zambia on November 19, 1835 is an eyesore.
The Ngoni people are an ethnic group living in several southern African countries that include Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa.
The Ngoni trace their origins to the Nguni and Zulu people of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
Luangwa is one of the few areas in Zambia that has several heritage sites that have the potential to attract tourists if they are properly managed and marketed.
The structure where the Ngoni people entered into Zambia on the Zambian side is dilapidated and no one seems to care to rebuild it. The structure is always covered by tall grass and the place is muddy making it difficult for people to view the site properly.
Despite the area located about 13 metres from the main road and the Luangwa Council lodge, the area is now a bush and trees are competing to completely cover the black structure, which has started losing its colour. It is deserted and has become home to wild animals such as birds and snakes.
The National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) has a lot of work today, they may have built the structure at the point where the crossing took place but the area is now an eyesore.
The Ministry of Tourism and Arts, too, this is their baby, let them do something to attract tourists.
The Ngoni people themselves should come on board and build modern structures where people can rest as they remember the great migration.
The Ngoni, who are some of the most educated and richest men and women in Zambia should know that there is no future without history, let them come together and do something to the structure.
It would be interesting to see the Ngoni people coming together in numbers and going to Luangwa every year on the eve of Nc’wala traditional ceremony for a boat cruise on Zambezi River before proceeding for N’cwala traditional ceremony in Chipata.
Paramount Chief Mpezeni himself can lead this group that can go to Luangwa days before the N’cwala ceremony is held to view the place where the Ngoni people entered into Zambia and lead his people on the boat cruise on Zambezi River in remembrance of the Ngoni warriors who crossed the crocodile-infested Zambezi River.
Even today when you go to the harbour at Feira, you find young men that ask for as little as K50 to take you on a boat cruise on the Zambezi River, where the Ngoni people entered into Zambia. I have personally been on this trip with my family several times and it is refreshing. Let us promote tourism in Luangwa and remember the rich Ngoni culture.
It is amazing to take a boat cruise on the confluence of the Luangwa and Zambezi Rivers especially when the two water bodies’ are flooded.
For people that may not know, Feira was probably the first European settlement in Zambia. Luangwa district is blessed with a lot of heritage sites, remember this was a trading Centre for slaves, the iconic explore David Livingstone passed through Feira.
The Portuguese first settled on the opposite bank of the Luangwa at Zumbo in Mozambique around 1720, in order to trade with tribes such as the Bwila people.
Luangwa, Kanyemba and Zumbo are the three main towns that form the border area where Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet. Chikunda is the main language spoken in the three towns while kwacha is used in the three countries.
Luangwa, which is mostly forested although there is massive development taking place now includes multiple hills and wild animals. The area is home to Zambezi escarpment, which stretches through the Lower Zambezi National Park.
The district is thought to have been the earliest settlement of Europeans in the country, known then as Feira, before 1964. It has rich history, and is home to two liberation places, Kavalamanja and Kakaro villages.
The Catholic Church activities are believed to have started at a place called Kapoche in Luangwa and structures built by the Europeans settlers are still standing to date.
There is also a giant Baobab tree at the Boma, where selling of slaves was done and another giant baobab tree down at Mwavi village in Chitope where you find hundreds of human skulls, these were witches, who were condemned to death and thrown into a big hole in the Baobab tree and left to die. In the local dialect, the giant tree is called Chafwiti.
Apart from that, the crossing of the Ngoni people fleeing persecution from legendary King Shaka of the Zulu was done at the confluence of the Luangwa and Zambezi Rivers.
Hundreds of women, children and the elderly drowned while attempting to cross the Zambezi River. It was obviously a terrifying moment for the group as some of them were eaten by reptiles such as crocodiles. There was an eclipse of the sun too.
Obviously, the Ngonis were frightened with what they saw in the sky as they thought the gods were not happy with them after they plundered people’s properties along the way. As many as over 1,000 Ngoni people are believed to have entered Zambia from South Africa.
The group passed through Swaziland and Zimbabwe. They crossed the Zambezi River at the confluence with Luangwa River at a place called Zumbo.
During the migration the Ngoni people lost their language and part of their culture. They left their wives behind as they could not manage to follow their husbands, who married from the tribes they conquered along the way. Their children learnt their mothers’ tongues, not the Zulu language which is spoken in South Africa.
All the Ngoni people should therefore seriously consider coming together and improve the infrastructure where their ancestors entered Zambia.
Let them modernise the area so that the country can attract tourists from around the world.

The author is Zambia Daily Mail senior sub editor.



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