The Lost Kingdom (Part 4)

We left off observing that excavations at Khami and other Chibundule era sites further confirm that from 16th century the Bakalanga and their neighbours continued to be connected to extensive international trading networks, while there was also considerable local manufacturing.

The Bakalanga also subsequently became renowned for their possession of imported firearms, including cannon. By the 19th century they, along with their Vashona cousins had begun to construct guns of local manufacture known by the Chishona name “chigidi” or “zvigidi”, as well as make their own gunpowder by combining charcoal with salt-petre extracted from soils found in certain caves.

From as early as the 15th century until the late 17th century, the ancestors of modern Bakalanga thus prospered under the rule of a series of kings (mambo) remembered by the dynastic name Chibundule (or Tshibundule). While the Chibundule state was known to the Portuguese by the names Torwa/Tolwa and Butwa, and archaeologists sometimes speak of “Khami culture”, Ikalanga traditions associate the dynasty with the Bawumbe sub-group of the Balilima-Bakalanga.

In this respect, oral traditions collected by Catrien van Waarden some years ago link the Chibundule kings with a number of Botswana based lineages (see Botswana Society Occasional Paper no. 2 of 1988). One set of traditions speaks of Chibundule’s inheritance being fought over by three sons: Misola, Makulukusa and Mpengo.

According to these traditions, the eldest of the three sons, Misola, ended up moving to Ramokgwebana, where he was ultimately succeeded by Mosojane. Under Mosojane the group was joined by Mpengo’s followers and moved to Maswingwa where they stayed until the early 20th century when their land came under the control of the Tati Company.

Makulukusa’s followers are said to have initially settled at Mabilila on the Nkange river. In his latter years he came into conflict with his son Nkuse, whom he called “Madandume” (“you are greedy”). Eventually, Nkuse sought the protection of Men’we, a junior descendent of Nichasike who had been sent by his brother the Mambo to administer much of north-eastern Botswana. With Men’we’s backing, Nkuse was subsequently able to oust his father from the throne. His senior descendants are today based at Tutume, a name which may be derived from “Madandume”.

Given that the direct descendants of Misola, Makulukusa and Mpengo are today all found in Botswana, their exact relationship with the mainline of the Chibundule royal lineage is uncertain. It may be that the three brothers were indeed the true heirs of the last of the Chibundule mambo’s who initially fled south west into modern Botswana to escape the usurper Nichasike (known to outsiders as Changamire). The latter figure overthrew the Chibundule dynasty c. 1685. The Bawumbe migration is at any rate recorded in the following royal Nichasike era tradition of a time of turmoil:

“...Ngono ibo bali bakaMoyo bakapfuka muna Dalahunde [another member of the Nichasike lineage known, ka Setswana, as “Talaote”], nebakaMakulukusa, nebakaMisole nebaka Nichibombwe; nayibo bamwe bakati ngebaMakulukusa, bamwe neebakaMisole, bamwe ngebakaNichibombwe, ngono bose ibaba bakatuna ntupo un’ompela, bakayi Chibelu bose. Ngono nayibo bali bakapfuka muna Dalahunde. Nakikati Chibwa, ngewaDalahunde, uNyayi. NaboMwayile, naMhange naKwelekwele, nayibo bakanozwixandula Mwayile naMhange bakatuna ntupo un’ompela bakayi Chuma bose; Kwelekwele kayi Gumbo. Ngono bakapfuka muna Ngomane bose, ibabo bakanobuya bova Budeti boti babe Badeti, bamwe babe Bahumbe [Bawumbe]. Abangabagwe bakapela nebakapfukila kuNtswapungu [Tswapong]....”

[Translation:] “....and those of Moyo totem migrated into Botalaote [country of Dalahunde] and also those of Makulukusa and of Misola and of Nichibombwe; and now all were of one clan name for they were known as Chibelu. And they all also migrated into Botalaote. And also Nikati Chibwa was of Talaote, a Nyayi. And those of Mwayile and Mhange and Kwelekwele, they also all changed their names: Mwayile and Mhange both took the clan name Chuma and Kwelekwele was called Gumbo. These all migrated from under Ngomane, some who came from Boteti said they were Deti and others were Bawumbe. Some went on to Botswapong...”

In about the year 1685 (the approximate date being confirmed in Portuguese records) the rule of the Chibundule dynasty over the Bakalanga was usurped by a ruler from the eastern periphery of the kingdom remembered by his praise names Nichasike or Changamire.

Nichasike (also rendered Nichisike, Nityisike, Nitjisike etc.) roughly translates as “Lord Cha the creator”, while Changamire is a non-Ikalanga derivation, which translates as Cha the king (from Arabic/Swahili emir or amir.) The latter name is more commonly found in history texts, while the former appears in Ikalanga traditions.

Lord Cha’s followers were also known by two praise names: “Rozwi” or “the destroyers” and “Banyayi” or “the spies”.  According to Ikalanga traditions, Nichasike long coveted Chibundule’s thrown, but was initially unable to overcome the power of the Mambo (King’s) magic. Plots to poison or otherwise kill the Mambo failed. Nichasike then decided to get at Chibundule by first having him enticed into marrying his daughter (in some accounts sister) Ninembwe. As with the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, it transpired that Chibundule’s hair contained the secret of his special power (to be continued)

Editor's Comment
Not yet uhuru

The SoE has been in place for close to 18 months as a measure to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.Despite the uncertainties that the end of SoE bring, many people are happy that government has finally seen it fit not to extend it.But, sorry to burst your bubble, the pandemic won’t be over until our nation and the rest of the world have reached herd immunity. We must know that we are not out of the woods yet. This simply means that we can’t be...

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