Heritage sites in the Greater Francistown (Part 2)

The Greater Francistown Heritage Trail is the result of attempts to widen the scope of the 100 Monuments Project, a strategy aimed at developing heritage sites for tourism purposes.

It covers an area of approximately 16,500 km, which is inhabited by Bakalanga and other ethnic groups. The predominant people found in this area, the Bakalanga, are a complex ethnic group, comprising many different cultural groups whose heritage spans the last 12,000 years of unprecedented continuity. The trail is made up of about 30 sites selected from over 500 heritage sites found in this region. Part Two is a continuation from last week's Part One, which covered Stone Age Heritage Sites and Early Farmers Heritage.

The establishment of heritage sites associated with the Great Zimbabwe state found in the Bukalanga region was influenced by climatic desiccation that occurred in the Shashe Limpopo Valley around AD 1250 (Huffman 1996).Trade in commodities such as gold and ivory which initially took place in this valley during the Leopard Kopje Chiefdom shifted to a newly established centre at Great Zimbabwe near Masvingo. Great Zimbabwe, which was established through sacred leadership developed at Mapungubgwe in the Limpopo Valley, gained more power and influence in the region and ultimately to the demise of the Leopards Kopje chiefdom. Heritage sites associated with the Zimbabwe state are characterised by dry stonewall architecture on hilltops and valleys (Van Waarden 1998).

Great Zimbabwe Ruins are spread from the Mozambique coast to the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana. In about five known Zimbabwe state ruins are found in the Bukalanga region and date between 1250 and 1450 AD. These ruins are interpreted as residences of leaders who ruled in these areas on behalf of a powerful king who lived at Great Zimbabwe. Schermer's Ruins near Tjizwina (Sebina), Domboshaba Ruins near Vugwi, Soswane Ruin near Maitengwe, Nkuke and Bluejacket are  good examples of Great Zimbabwe Ruins that form part of the Great Zimbabwe in the Bukalanga region.

The loss of trade control by Great Zimbabwe sometimes during the 15th century gave rise to a large and powerful Bakalanga state known as Butua. This state was ruled by Chibundule Mambos based at Khami near Bulawayo from around 1450-1685 (van Waarden 1991). A succession of Mambos lived in an elaborate and exquisitely decorated stone platform designed in the form of an exquisite set of terraces at Khami. A succession of Torwa Mambos ruled for four centuries over this large state ushering in a period of success and tranquillity among the Bakalnaga people. The zenith of the state is described by oral traditions of the Bakalanga as a peaceful time characterised by good harvests and an increase in cattle numbers. Gold acquired around Francistown, copper from Matsitama and ivory were brought to Mambo at Khami before being traded with the Portuguese on the Mozambique coast.

Several large stonewalled ruins found at Domboshaba and probably Magapatona Ruins found at Madandume in Tutume served as important regional centres through which Mambo ruled his people from Khami. In additional to these centres, Vukwi Ruins north of Sechele, Old Tati near Francistown, Tsamaya Ruins and Selolwe (van Waarden 1991) served as residences of district chiefs. The district chiefs' sites complete the political hierarchy through which the state of Butua was ruled by Chibundule mambos based at Khami.).

In 1687, the capital of Mambo at Khami was burnt down, probably by the Rozvi (Banyayi) army who took the mamboship and established a new capital to the northeast of Bulawayo at Danangombe (Tlou and Campbell 1997). From this time the Bakalanga were ruled by Changamire Mambos who were more interested in ruling using their military might than through control of trade, as was the case during the rule of Chibundule Mambos. Butua survived a series of attacks from people coming from the south before it was finally defeated in the 1830s when the last mambo, Changamire Mrisamhuru was killed by a Nguni army under their militant female leader Nyamazana at Manyanga.

The Ndebeles of Mzilikazi took advantage of this situation and subjected Bakalanga to their rule until 1894 when they were defeated by the British. These events marked the end of the Butua state; a sad story best described today by a Kalanga saying that "Shaya she ko jisa nyamambise ye n'gombe thamagana" which directly means that the lack of a king forces one to eat raw meat of cow. The cataclysmic rise of the Zulu empire in the 1820s impacted large areas of Southern Africa including Butua state. During the Difaqane period, Butua state experienced six successive invasions by marauding armies from the south. The last invaders, the Ndebeles of Mzilikazi found the Butua state already in disarray. They forced the Bakalanga and Shona to pay tribute to them in the form of grain, cattle and even children. The harsh rule of Mzilikazi scattered Bakalanga people, forcing many of them to flee their homes to Old Shoshong, the capital of Sekgoma I and later on Khama III's Bangwato, to seek refuge. Many refugee sites found in hills in the Bukalanga region were built by Bakalanga people hiding away from the Ndebeles during these cataclysmic times.

By 1854, white settlers had begun to infiltrate into Mzilikazis country after Robert Moffat befriended Mzilikazi. By 1867, when Henry Hartley found gold in the lower Tati River, triggering off the first gold rush in Southern Africa, some of the Bakalanga people living in the north-eastern part of Botswana had already fled their land. Some had gone as far as Old Shoshong to seek refuge. This resulted in the territory west of Shashe River, which belonged to the Bakalanga rule for over 400 years, falling under the jurisdiction of the Bangwato people. Meanwhile, a white settlement, which later became Francistown, and numerous gold mines, was established in areas east of the Shashe River through what was later on known as the Tati Concession.

This company acquired the rights to control land in large parts of this area from Mzilikazi. By the time the Ndebeles were defeated by the British in 1894, the returning Bakalanga found their land taken over by the Tati Company. The history of the Bakalanga is never complete without mentioning the struggle of the Bakalanga ba ka Nswazwi with the Bangwato which began in the 1930s. During these times the Baka Nswazwi lived in the northeastern parts of Botswana.The Baka Nswazwi's feud with Bangwato began when Kgosi Tshekedi ordered the Bakalanga to build a fence along the border with what was then known as Southern Rhodesia.

During this time, the Baka Nswazwi were busy preparing for the ploughing season and saw no logic in Tshekedi's instruction to build a fence during the ploughing season. Tshekedi sent Phetu Mphoeng to try them for disobeying his orders and later on allowed Bangwato to infiltrate Bukalanga area with their cattle. Petitions against several unfair situations that followed culminated in the banishment of John Madawo Nswazwi and his allies to Serowe in 1930. In 1942, the situation worsened when the Ba Ka Nswazwi argued with a Mongwato governor and refused to attend a meeting held by Tshekedi Khama at BB1 Kgotla in Tjizwina( Tlou and Campbell 1997)

John Madawo was tried for insubordination and imprisoned for 18 months. He was released in 1945 whereupon he received a hero's welcome in the Bukalanga area. This angered Tshekedi Khama who then sent his representative, Tauyakgale and Captain Langley to forcibly remove him from Bukalanga region. They were stoned by the Baka Nswazwi, culminating in a strong action from Tshekedi who sent a well armed Bangwato regiment supported by Bechuanaland Protectorate Police and Rhodesian troops. Madawo Nswazwi and some of his followers were arrested and banished to Mafikeng.

The struggle continued until September 1947 when Tshekedi sent an army of 2,100 Bangwato, 13 Europeans and 66 members of the protectorate police to attack the Baka Nswazwi. They destroyed Nswazwi's village and put the Baka Nswazwi in a kraal in which a pregnant woman named Levuna Mpapho died. The Baka Nswazwi fled to Jetjeni in Rhodesia. They were later on rejoined by John Madawo Nswazwi, who died there in 1960, a year after the death of Tshekedi Khama. Some of the Ba ka Nswazwi returned in the then Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1958 under the request of Seretse Khama and settled at Marapong.

In 2002, the remains of John Madawo Nswazwi were repatriated and buried at Nswazwi village to mark the end of the historic struggle of the Ba Ka Nswazwi people with the Bangwato. The then Vice President Lt General Ian Khama, a nephew of Tshekedi Khama, was the guest of honour at this historic event.


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