Mmegi Online :: The evolution and apex of the Bakalanga State of Butua (PART IV)
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Last Updated
Wednesday 21 August 2019, 08:57 am.
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The evolution and apex of the Bakalanga State of Butua (PART IV)

Archaeological research has helped much in reconstruction of the organisation of the state of Butua.
By Staff Writer Wed 21 Aug 2019, 12:37 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The evolution and apex of the Bakalanga State of Butua (PART IV)








What generally lacks among many people is information on the Mambo rulers. We know, for example, that the Chibundule dynasty ruled over the Bakalanga State of Butua starting from AD1450. The capital of the state was based at a beautifully decorated stone walled town of Khami and that Mambo's seat was based here. Governors, through which the Mambo ruled far any parts of the state of Butua, lived in regional centres such as Domboshaba, Thune Ruin and Old Tati. Ordinary Bakalanga people lived in many small villages rearing cattle and goats and grew crops such as millet, sorghum and melons.

There was some degree of merchantship in the entire state made up of metallurgists, smelters, potters, traders and stone mansons who built most of the stone walled centres of the state. What is not known clearly is about the rulers; the mambos and how they lived. Although this quiet difficult to recover from archaeological excavations, oral traditions collected among the Bakalanga and the Shona found in the area that was covered by the state of Butua, have helped shed some light on the Mambos.

In Part I of this series, I highlighted that the Chibundule family was sent by the ruler of Great Zimbabwe sometimes around AD 1400. They established Khami and soon took control of trade in gold, copper, salt and animal furs coming from the rich western parts of Butua. By the time Great Zimbabwe collapsed in 1450, the Chibundule had become formidable rulers in Khami and became supreme rulers of Butua as the Mambos in AD 1450. The first Mambo to rule the state of Bakalanga was associated with the Chibundule. The accounts of the Portuguese who visited the interiors of Southern Africa mention that they traded with MweneMutapa who ruled another state known as Mutapa in the Zambezi valley. They heard about another country on the west of the Mutapa State that was called Butua; rich in gold and cattle. The description of the state offered by these descriptions relate to the Bakalanga state of Butua ruled by Mambo Chibundule (Van Waarden 1991).

Although the Portuguese records mention that this state was ruled by the Tolwa Mambos, Bakalanga oral traditions speak of the Mambo Chibundule and that during his reign, there was political stability in Butua spanning a period exceeding 200 years. This tells us that even though he was a sacred ruler of Butua, he was not immortal.

As such, it is usually concluded that Mambo Chibundule was a dynasty of rulers who brought success, peace and stability in the Bakalanga state of Butua.  The Chibundule Mambos stayed in the secluded and yet beautifully crafted stone walled town of Khami. From the capital of Khami, they ruled Butua through the assistance of several trusted councillors who advised Mambo on the accounts of the state. There was also a diviner tasked with protection of Mambo, ensuring that his powers remained intact throughout his reign.

The diviner was also charged with the responsibility to advise Mambo on matters regarding his sacred leadership.

He remained somewhat hidden away from the ordinary citizens of Butua to ensure that he attained supreme status and a class above all his subjects.  Mambo Chibundule surrounded himself with his immediate family who controlled the immediate areas surrounding his capital and installed governors around his state who

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were usually related to him. Ordinary Bakalanga villages had their own chiefs and councillors usually comprising of senior members of clans living in such villages.

These chiefs ensured that ordinary citizens maintained their allegiance to Mambo through collection of tribute and distribution of imported trade goods such as glass beads, clothing and chinaware brought by Asian and later on Portuguese traders. The chiefs resolved conflicts among the general populace, had localized authority on land use and distribution among the ordinary Bakalanga people. The Bakalanga people found in the state of Butua were probably the Balilima whose descendants are the Bawumbe of Madandume in Tutume, the people of Nshakazhogwe, Mosojane, Mulambakwena, Letsholathebe and Tsamaya, the Mazuwa ward in Maitengwe and the BaSenete.

These are the Bamakulukusa and Misole people who migrated into present day Botswana during the 17th century with the beginning of another dynasty of Mambos known as the Changamires. Catrien Van Waarden's extensive research on the prehistory of the Bakalanga indicates that a major change in the rule of the mambos took place at Khami with the arrival of foreigners in Butua known as the Varozvi or Banyayi. Their ruler ousted Mambo Chibundule sometimes around the 1690s, ushering in the rule of Mambo Nichasike I. Tlou and Campbell (1991) suggest that Changamire used trickery to attain the mamboship from Chibundule while the Portuguese documents validate that by around the 1640s there was some form of political instability in Butua. Studies of Bakalanga oral traditions and those of the Varozvi in Zimbabwe suggest that there was no major warfare involved.

Changamire initially accepted Mambo Chibundule's rule and offered his daughter in marriage as a form of recognition of Chibundule's authority. This event is still remembered by elderly Bakalanga people as the manner in which the Banyayi became senior among the original Bakalanga (Balilima) people.

The Banyayi intermarried among the Bakalanga and slowly gained some form of influence in the ruling class at Khami, weakening it as time goes on. The final straw was brought in when Changamire's daughter betrayed Mambo Chibundule resulting in his loss of Mamboship. Whatever the case, radiocarbon dates from archaeological excavation show that Khami was burnt down in 1685 resulting in the end of the rule of the Chibundule Mambos.

The old era of peace and prosperity came to an end in Butua. Mambo Changamire moved his capital to a newly established capital of Danangombe. Although Danangombe is smaller in size to Khami, it was elaborately decorated just like Chibundule's capital of Khami. Some records suggest that the majority of the Balilima people living near Khami migrated westwards into present day Botswana and changed their totem to tjibelu in fear of Changamire's powerful diviner living at Danangombe. Changamire changed his name to Nichasike and introduced military rule in Butua Although the Balilima established their villages at a ruin known as Madandume near Goshwe and Selolwane in Tutume they never recovered the mamboship from Banyayi.

In the 1690s Mambo Nichasike sent his relative Mengwe to Domboshaba to rule the Balilima and the western parts of Butua. Just like during the reign of Great Zimbabwe (AD 1250 -1450) and Mambo Chibundule (1450 - 1690, Domboshaba continued to serve as a focal point of government of the Bakalanga people during the era of the Banyayi of Mambo Nichasike.

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