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The Lost Kingdom (Part 8)

JEFF RAMSAY
Another local Bakalanga community are the Banambiya.

Today, Banambiya communities can be found in both the Chobe District and the adjacent north-western tip of Zimbabwe.

The Banambiya are also sometimes still referred to as the Bananzwa.

This term has, however, gone out of favour as being derogatory. It is commonly associated with the verb “to lick” (-nanzwa).

Some linguists, however, believe that Bananzwa is an Ikalanga corruption of what was originally a community name derived from the Ila-Tonga language. This is consistent with the following historical reconstruction.

The Banambiya are the followers of the Wange, alternatively Zange or Hwange dynasty.

According to oral traditions the original Wange she (or xe) was a younger brother of the Mambo (king).

While the court traditions thus link the original Wange to the Banyayi Mambo Nichasike, others suggest that he may have in fact been related to the last of the Balilima kings of the Chibundule dynasty.

This interpretation is supported by the use of the monkey, shoko, rather than heart, moyo, as the Banambiya totem.

According to the Balilima traditions, Wange fled to the Zambezi valley at the time of Nichasike’s overthrow of Chibundule (c.1680, though existing genealogy suggests a later migration).

There, his followers found and conquered the people they called Bananzwa who were a Batonga or Bathoka community under a local ruler named Ngula.

The forenames of the known royal descendants of the first Wange are as follows: Tshilobamagu > Lesumbame > Sebemkhula > Nikatambe > Tshilisa > Nimanaga > Tshipaja.

In 1839 the Banambiya country became a temporary base for a section of Amandebele army of Nkosi Mzilikazi, with the Banambiya accommodating the invaders:

“And the Amandebele went to She Wange and said: ‘As for us we do not want to fight you.’

We are scouting the country looking for our home people. They lost us and we do not know their whereabouts. So Wange stopped his people from fighting with the army of Mzilikazi and he gave them much food and they ate and drank and were happy.”

But, in 1853, the Amandebele attacked the Banambiya.

This followed an incident in which they were implicated in abandoning to starvation an Amandebele regiment on an island in the middle of the Zambesi. The force was intending to collect tribute amongst the Batonga on the other side of the river who were also claimed as vassals by the Makololo.

It is further said that the Banambiya, themselves, subsequently refused to pay tribute to Mzililkazi’s tax collector, Luponjwana Nzima.

On hearing of the above, Mzilikazi ordered that She Lesumbame Wange

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be skinned alive for having apparently conspired with Makololo to gain Banambiya freedom from the Amandebele.

This event, which is extensively recorded in Ikalanga traditions, coincides with both the death of the great Makololo Kgosi Sebetwane at Linyanti, and the arrival of a party of Europeans, including David Livingston, accompanied by Bakwena in the region.

“And so Luponjwana Nzima arrived at Mzilikazi’s court without the tribute of [Lesumbame] Wange.

He entered the courtyard without the tribute. So, the king asked him: ‘what happened that you have returned without anything Nzima?’

“Luponjwana replied: ‘Wange is not willing to produce tribute; he has two hearts, his one heart loves the Makololo, and the other love you my king just a little bit.’

“So Mzilikazi ordered his people: ‘Go and kill Wange and skin him nicely and take out his liver and kidneys and lunges and the two hearts spoken of by Luponjwana Nzima and put them on a wooden tray and return with them. Now do not let Luponjwana steal one of the hearts and make it his, lest he also does not obey me as Wange did not obey him, because he had two hearts.”

Ikalanga accounts further state that the skin of Lesumbame was used to make shoes for Mzilakazi. This is further alleged to have been the cause of the great Amandebele ruler’s death.

“Then King Mzilikazi said: ‘Take the skin of Wange and stretch it out so that it can dry.’ They took the skin of Lord Wange and stretched it out and when it was dry, they had the pegs pulled out and took it and put it to the King.

So, King Mzilikazi took the dried skin of She Wange, child of King Nichasike who created the elephant and rhinoceros, and cut it and made shoes, which he put on when walking about his courtyard during the morning and evening.

Those who speak say the King died having leprosy because of wearing shoe made from the skin of Wange.”

If the above be in part true, the effect was certainly not immediate.

The Reverend Robert Moffatt did treat Mzilikazi for a chronic leg ailment in 1864, eleven years after Wange’s execution and four years before the Amandebele ruler’s actual death.

The Amandebele attacked the Banambiya again in 1863, scattering many.

Thereafter those who did not flee remained under Sebemkhula Wange who ruled as Mzilikazi’s vassal.

The name of the Hwange (formerly corrupted as Wankie) Park in Zimbabwe is associated with Sebemkhula.



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