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Unmasking of 12 BaLemba clans

travelling & touring:with Burzil Dube

THE basis of this week’s article is attributed to one Noel Munzambwa, who continued to prod me on whether there was a relationship between Mbulengwa Hadzhi and some place called Mberengwa.

When yours truly tried to expound to him that Mbulengwa Hadzhi was a chief among the BaLemba’s renowned 12 clans, this Eswatini-based friend of mine was somehow not mollified.

This forced me to try and dig deeper.

Tichaona Mufandaedza (pictured) whose clan was reportedly to be the brains behind the construction of Dzimbabwe (better known as Great Zimbabwe) provided me with the necessary information.

There are 12 Zimbabwe Jewish (read BaLemba/Remba) clans that are said to be in existence today.

However, yours truly is yet to decrypt if there is any relationship between these clans and the biblical 12 tribes of Israel.

There is no need of rewriting about how BaLemba/Remba migrated all the way from the Middle East and managed to find some sanctuary in Southern Africa.

This has immensely been written in previous columns.

While their claims to Jewish ancestry continue to draw some form of controversy, however, the migration route and its originality is not subject to any debate.

Yours truly is religiously contemplating to bring this subject to some form of closure as far as this issue is concerned in terms of this column.

The closure will be on classification of BaLemba’s 12 clans.

Now let yours truly tag you along as we seek to unpack the 12 clans and how they came about within the BaLemba fraternity.

All the clans were being led by a chief whose succession was according to the Lemba cultural norms and not subject to any form of debate.

The Bhuba clan was the prominent Lemba ancestry during the tribe’s migration from Judea to Yemen and is reported to have been in power around 500BC for a considerable time.

The clan’s reign extended for a considerable time and was mainly concentrated in Sena 1 or Sanaa where The Ark of Covenant was said to have been be kept.

The clan second suburb in Yemeni was called Phusela which was somehow built by the Hamisi clan which later succeeded the Bhuba.

The Bhuba clan is predominantly found in and around the Limpopo province in South Africa.

Some of the group’s surnames include but not limited to Malaka/Malange, Ramapela or Ramabila.

The Hamisi clan is sometimes called Baphusela following their construction of this particular city in Yemen.

It is said Hamisi led the Vamwenye to migrate southwards along the Yemeni coast and established Sena 11. They also later settled at Sena 111 and afterwards settled at Bhela.

Some of their totems include Mashavira, Mavuwa, Madima, Machimbirise, Muenda, Chikahamdze and Mushoma.

The majority of the Vamwenye are believed to have permanently settled in Mozambique in and around the town of Sena.

The name Sena is derived from Sanaa which is the largest city in Yemen.

The Bakari clan came after Hamisi as the ruling dynasty and had the chieftainship at Sena 111 including Bhela.

The clan’s offspring, Bakari Mashenjere, are reportedly to be a rather strong dynasty in Mozambique especially around Gorongosa. Some of the surnames include Razvidhani, Mushezha, Zifungo and Mudzamiri among others.

Next on the throne was Seremane/Suleiman chieftaincy and are believed to have settled in Hwedza following their migration from the Middle-East.

However they later moved southwards under the leadership of Gulani Hamisi and found safe haven in Gokomere, Masvingo.

This clan specialised in the making of articles fused with gold, copper and silver for trading purposes.

Some of the Seremani descendants’ surnames are Chirimazhira, Zibango, Mathivha, Malema, Maravanyika, Murozva, Nyikavaranda and Chitonga.

The Tovakare clan is reported to have migrated southwards from Gokomere and claim that they were guided a star wherever they were supposed to go.

This particular clan were master builders with stone work hence the construction Dzimbabwe remains a marvel even to this day.

The place was called Dzimbabwe because of the skills shown upon using stone as building walls.

This particular clan is nicknamed “Makudo eDzimbabwe” as an expression on their agility on climbing the ruins’ stonework during construction stage.

Their deftness were similar to baboons when they climb trees, rocks and boulders.

Some of the family names that fall under the Tovakare clanship are Nhongo, Chauma, Pfumbidzai, Shavai, Mashingaidze, Senderayi, Makhado, Mufandaedza, Zimbgwa, Chitoro, Gumbochuma and Hoko among others.

The Ngavi Zungunde dynasty succeeded Tovakare and they settled at present day Makapombere which is under Chief Machipisa Tadzembwa.

Some of the surnames under this clan include Duma, Tadzembgwa, Chihora, Hamandishe, Chakarisa, Masarira, Mafirechuma, Siringwani and Ramunyenyiwa.

Mhani house was next in succession after Ngavi Ruzungunde and they were also following a star which finally settled on a hill they called it Zvishavane following asbestos discovery on adjacent hills.

The Mhani surnames are Makungavana, Ratisai, Tichivangani and Tavashavira
Next on the lineage was Mbulengwa Hadzhi who also had to follow the star until it stopped at a certain mountain where the Lemba community finally settled.

The mountain was later called Mbulengwa after their chief who was said to possess mystical powers.

There are reports that there are some strange activities currently happening at this particular mountain.

Yours truly would be very grateful to get first-hand information to those who have dared to venture into Mbulengwa or Mberengwa Mountain.

The area where the community later settled was also called Mberengwa after Mbulengwa of the Hadzhi chieftainship.

This clan discovered gold, silver and other precious minerals around the mountain which to this day are only excavated or mined after carrying out certain rituals.

Some individuals are reported to have abandoned their mining claims despite large mineral deposits over their failure to perform certain traditional rituals.

The Mzezewa, Matanda and Ramunyenywa are some of the Hadzhi clans.

Sadiki was the next on the throne who moved from Mberengwa mountain to Dumbwi, Chaza and Mutuzugwi mountain ranges.

After settling at Chaza and Mutuzugwi, the Ba Lemba tried to restore their Dzimbabwe yesteryear fame, possibly in terms of architectural artistry.

Sadiki became famous in various wars due to his prowess and in the process was nicknamed ‘Mposi we miseve’ which literally meant that he was an expert on fighting with a spear.

Since then the chiefs of the Sadiki lineage are called Mposi.

Their trade routes stretched all the way to Chirungurera across Limpopo river where they discovered “musina” (copper ore).

They also built a huge settlement called Mapungubwe which meant that molten rock flowed like liquid as BaLemba were smelting iron, gold and silver.

From Mapungubwe they crossed Vhembe (Limpopo) river and they settled at some place called Phusela which is modern day Tzaneen.

Phusela was also a city in Yemen.

Some of the Sadiki surnames are Mposi, Simari, Mawerewere, Makotore and Zimi.

The Sarifu lineage is far spread in Zimbabwe, but limited in South Africa. It is distinguishable by very capable administrators and careful workers. The following are some of the Sarifu clans: Msevenzi, Munyayi, Musarakufa, Msindazi, Murugani, Maforo, Mugumbate, Mavunganidze, Masiya, Zvandasara.

These are some Mange clans — Chitonga, Mangela, Muchekwe. They are found in Phusela, Makonde, Ruvuzhe, Chegato, Mapakomhere, Mudavanhu, Buhera, Masvingo and Gutu.

Hasani lineage seems to be an offshoot of the Hamisi.

In summary, these are the traditional 12 clans of the BaLemba tribe and it is however not clear if the number is derived from the biblical twelve tribes of Israel.

Once again your truly is not an expert in the Ba Lemba lineage and other related issues but a mere scribe whose continued interest in the country’s ethnic tribes is second to none.

Lastly, who said the Sekuru Ndunges of this world are only found in Chipinge. I beg to differ as somewhere adjacent to Kasamabezi continues to lead the pack.

Till we met again in the next article.

l Comments always welcome on: dubebasill@gmail.com or Twitter: @dubeBurzil

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