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The Kingdom of Bukalanga: The Greatest ever established Africa South of the Sahara

07 Dec 2013 at 11:07hrs | Views

Mr. Editor, when reading the history of the European Renaissance, one is told that a key factor in that renaissance and enlightenment was the study of the history of the former European empires: the Greek, Graeco-Roman and Roman Empires. People in Europe sought inspiration from their forebears to find out what it is that had moved and inspired them to achieve so much greatness. Similarly, as I discuss Lushanduko - the Rebirth and Renaissance of Bukalanga - it is necessary that as Bakalanga, BaNambya and Vhavenda we educate each other on our history, especially at our greatest moments.

I herein present a history of the Kingdom of Bukalanga as recorded by the acclaimed historian, Dr George MacCall Theal, the man who translated Portuguese documents on Southern Africa into English, and was also Keeper of the Archives of the Cape Colony. He wrote thus about the Kingdom of Bukalanga and its civilization:     

The Kalanga tribe was larger and occupied a much greater extent of territory than any now existing in South Africa [that is, Southern Africa]. It was held together by the same means as the others, that is, principally by the religious awe with which the paramount chief was regarded, as representing in his person the mighty spirits that were feared and worshiped … How long the tribe had existed before the Portuguese became acquainted with it, and whether it had attained its greatness by growth or by conquest, cannot be ascertained, but very slowly afterwards it was broken into several independent communities.

The tribe belonged to that section of the Bantu family which in general occupies the interior of the country. It was divided into a great number of clans, each under its own chief, and all of these acknowledged the Monomotapa as their superior in rank, the distant clans, even with the religious bond of union in full force, were very loosely connected with the central government. There was one peculiar custom however, that prevented them from forgetting it. Every year at a certain stage of the crops a command was sent throughout the country that when the next new moon appeared all the fires were to be put out, and could only be lit again from the spreading one kindled by the Monomotapa himself.

When the Portuguese in 1505 first came in close contact with the Makalanga, the tribe had been engaged in civil war for twelve or thirteen years, and was in a very unsettled condition. A Monomotapa, Mokomba by name, had made a favorite of the chief Tjikanga, one of his distant relatives, who was hereditary head of the powerful clan which occupied the district of Manika. Some of the chiefs became jealous of the privileges conferred upon this man, and took advantage of his absence on one occasion to instill in Monomotapa's mind that he was a sorcerer and was compassing the death of his benefactor.

Thereupon the Monomotapa sent him some poison to drink, but instead of obeying, he made an offer of a large number of cattle for his life. The offer was declined, and then in despair he collected his followers, and made a quick march to the great place, surprised Mokomba, and killed him.

Tjikanga then assumed the government of the tribe. He endeavored to exterminate the family of his predecessor, and actually put twenty-one of Mokomba's children to death. Only one young man escaped. After four years' exile, this one, whose name is variously given as Kesarinuto or Kesarimyo, returned and collected a force, which defeated the usurping Monomotapa's army. Tjikanga then took field himself, adherents gathered on both sides, and a battle was fought which continued for three days and a half. On the fourth day, Tjikanga was killed, when his army dispersed, and Kesarimyo became Monomotapa.

But Togwa, Tjikanga's son, would not submit, and with his ancestral clan kept possession of the Manika district, and carried on the war. To this circumstance the Portuguese attributed a small quantity of gold that was brought to Sofala for sale. In course of time the war was reduced to a permanent feud, Togwa's clan became an independent tribe, and Manika was lost to the Monomotapa forever. This would have been about 1506.

Throughout the greater part of the territory occupied by the Makalanga gold was found, and particularly in the district of Manika. No other mode of obtaining it was known - at least as far as the Portuguese and the Arabs could ascertain - than by washing ground either in the rivers or in certain localities after heavy rains. The gold, unless it was in nuggets of some size, was not wrought by the finders, as they were without sufficient skill to make any except the roughest ornaments of it. For a very long time, however, its value in trade had been known. It was kept in quills, and served as a convenient medium of exchange until the Arabs got possession of it.

Copper and iron were also to be had from the Makalanga. This iron was regarded as of superior quality, so much so that a quantity was once sent to India to make firelocks of it. Though the smelting furnaces were of the crudest description, this metal was obtainable in greatest abundance, just as it is today among the Bapedi far south.

About the middle of the sixteenth century, the Kalanga tribe had split into four sections, independent of each other. The way in which the Tjikanga section, occupying the district of Manika, broke asunder from the main body has been related. A further separation took place in the following manner: Two sons of the paramount chief during their father's lifetime were entrusted with the government of clans, and upon his death refused to acknowledge as their superior their half brother who claimed to be the great heir, but about whose legitimate right there must have been some uncertainty, or otherwise he must have been a weakling.

One of the seceders, Sedanda by name, governed the clan living on the coast between the Sabi and Sofala, and the other, named Ketive, was head of the clan living along the Sofala and occupying territory as far north as the Tendankulu River [Phungwe River, runs through the middle of Mozambique]. The great heir retained the title of Monomotapa and the government of the remainder of the Kalanga people, but the sections here named were forever lost to him and his successors. Thereafter war was frequent between the newly formed tribes…

On the 18th of September 1560, the Jesuit missionary, Father Goncalo da Silveira left Mozambique for the Kalanga country, and upon arrival there he was well received. Relations between Monomotapa and Father Silveira later deteriorated, and ended in the missionary and his entourage strangled to death on 16th of March 1561. The missionary's body was cast into a river.

Tete, in Mozambique, was the station from which the inland trade was carried on. From it goods were conveyed by native carriers to three places in Kalanga territory, namely Masapa, Luanze, and Bukoto, at each of which a Portuguese resided, who had charge of the local barter. Masapa was on the river Mansovo - now - Mazoe, about one hundred and fifty miles by road from Tete. Luanze was one hundred and five miles almost due south of Tete, between two little rivers which united below it and then flowed into the Mansovo.

Bukoto was thirty miles from Masapa, thirty-nine miles from Luanze, and one hundred and twenty miles from Tete. It was also situated between two forks of rivers. Masapa was close to the mountain called Fura [now Mt. Darwin], from the top of which there was believed to be a very extensive view over the Kalanga country, but no Portuguese was allowed to go to the top of it, because as they understood it, the Monomotapa did not wish his territory to be narrowly inspected.

All clans surrounding Masapa, Bukoto and Luanze were Makalanga, and the Portuguese had no control over them whatsoever. The Monomotapa at this time, who bore also the title Mambo, was well disposed toward the Portuguese. He gave the Dominicans leave to establish missions in his country, and they had already up three little buildings for places of prayer, at Masapa, Luanze and Bukoto. They had not as yet, however, men to occupy these places permanently, but the friar who resided at Tete occasionally visited them.

The white people never made a request from Mambo without accompanying it with a present - usually a piece of coarse dyed calico - for himself and for his principal wife, whose name was Mazarira. This was the custom of the country, for no native could obtain an audience unless he presented an ox or a goat. The form of oath used by the Makalanga was Ke Mambo [Hee Mambo], just as all Bantu tribes still swear by their chief. This Monomotapa had a great number of wives, and his children were distinguished from other natives by the term Manambo [Mwana-wa-mambo].

By the early seventeenth century, the Kalanga tribe was engaged in civil war, and one of the two individuals who claimed to be legitimate Monomotapa, having been defeated, fled to the neighborhood of Tete and offered the Portuguese the mines in the Tjikoba territory along the northern banks of the Zambesi if they would assist him against his rival, a chief whom the Europeans called the usurper Natuziane. Under any circumstances, nothing in the territory north of the Zambesi was a Kalanga ruler's to dispose, but this was not taken into consideration, except that as a reasonable consequence it was believed the one assisted would be willing to cede the gold mines in his own country also.

A defeat of the Portuguese on the mainland near Mozambique in 1753, in which about half of the whole military force they could master at the time perished, prevented them from taking part in the civil wars among the Makalanga which disturbed the whole country almost immediately afterwards, and which resulted in 1759 in the tribe being broken into fragments. One of the chiefs retained the title Monomotapa and old Zimbabwe, but he and his successors were men of very little importance, and the reputation of the Makalanga was gone forever. Henceforth each of the clans regarded itself as an independent tribe, and took a name different from the others. Jealousies and feuds prevailed among them, and left them at length helpless before ferocious invaders.

War ensued between Manuza and Kaprazine, with the former supported by the Portuguese and the latter up in arms against them. Kaprazine was finally beaten and Manuza proclaimed Monomotapa by 1629. He gave further permission to the frairs to go wherever they wanted in his country and build churches at any place that suited them. He undertook to receive white men without obliging them to go through the ordinary ceremonies, declared that commerce was free, and that traders should be protected, renounced all claim to the yearly presents made to his predecessors, engaged to drive the Mohammedans out of his country, and threw open his mines to every kind of exploitation by the Portuguese.

In 1774, the Ketive country was overrun by a horde from the interior, and the only Portuguese trading station in it except Sofala was destroyed. Little wars succeeded each other until 1831, when the tribes in the lower Zambesi Valley were in general commotion. Later came the most terrible of all the invasions the country had ever witnessed. Two tribes that had fled from Zululand settled near each other on the Sabi River, where they quarreled, and fought until one - the Angoni - pushed its way northward to the shore of Lake Nyasa, to become a scourge to the tribes residing there. The other - the Abagaza [Gaza Nguni] - under the far famed chief Manikusa [Soshangane], remained behind to devastate the land from Delagoa Bay to the Zambesi River, and to subject all who were spared to continual plunder.

From 1834 until quite recently the havoc created among the Bantu between the Zambesi and the Limpopo by the Abagaza on the south, the Makololo on the northwest, and the Matabele on the west, was very great. Many of the ancient clans were quite exterminated, and of those that remain in existence few occupy the same ground that their ancestors did. In the years 1852 and 1853, especially they were scattered and destroyed with no compunction than if they had been vermin. (Theal 1896, 125-126, 128-130, 150, 160-163, 179-183, 233-234, 237-239, 257-259).


Source - Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo
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