travelling & touring:with Burzil Dube
THERE comes a rare period where one could be diligently preparing for final examinations but only to be told at the last minute that you were busy studying the wrong syllabus.
Anguish, anger and despondency engulfs the soul considering the amount of input that would have been applied to ensure that one would be academically equipped to face the world.
The poor individual would be at sea on whether to drop that particular subject or continue plodding and leave everything to fate.
Yours truly recently encountered a similar “strange” situation in my quest of trying to unravel the genesis of the Tonga tribe.
And here we go.
As promised in my recent previous article, this week yours truly will be tackling the tribe, who originated the name Kasamabezi.
This is the Tonga tag for Zambezi River whose fame spans beyond the country’s borders as it is the continent’s fourth largest river.
It spans through six African countries and predominantly snakes its way via Zimbabwe all the way into Mozambique until it flows into the Indian Ocean.
I was of the opinion that the Tonga people are predominantly found in the Binga and Kariba areas where their population as well as their kith and kin remain largely concentrated in that area.
Besides being popularly known as fishermen of note, their prowess in crossing flooded rivers is somehow second to none and very few, if any, of the local tribes can surpass them.
During my quest in trying to put together the Tonga nitty-gritties, yours truly was referred to one Canaan Sianyuka, a Tonga writer and researcher.
He took me through on why this particular tribe should be considered to be among the first inhabitants of modern-day Zimbabwe.
According to Sianyuka, the whole of Matabeleland North and greater parts of Midlands provinces were under the reign of Tonga chiefs.
The Tonga are said to have played a pivotal role in provision of safe havens and settlement areas to the Nambya clan in Hwange district following their migration from Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo.
While the majority of the Nambya remained in Hwange, other group proceeded to present-day Barotseland in Zambia while others went to Botswana through Pandamatenga and settled there.
According to Sianyuka, when the weary Nambyans arrived in Hwange district around 1730s, it was none other than Chief Sikute-Dingani (Nelukoba) who gave them land in Shangano and Bumbusi for resettlement purposes.
In other words, the whole land in Hwange district during that particular period was said to belong to the Tonga.
Such gesture was met with popular Nambya words: “Watikobela pokugala ndi Nelukoba,” literally meaning “We were given where to stay by [Chief] Nelukoba.”
Sianyuka went on to say that it was an established fact that early Nambya tribes in Hwange were offered some form of sanctuary by the Tonga.
Sianyuka even referred to a couple of prominent Nambya elders to buttress his point.
Let us leave it for another article where the whole issue could be unpacked as there are proverbial interesting twists and turns to the whole saga.
Those of inquisitive disposition like yours truly are referred to a book that is popularly known as Nambya Catechism, which dwells on the tribe’s history and cultural norms.
It is said in that particular elusive book, the Nambyans are said to admit on who assisted them with permanent sanctuary in Hwange district following their flight from Great Zimbabwe.
Sianyuka, who is also the deputy chairperson of the Tonga Language and Culture Committee, said his tribe was the first to settle in Zimbabwe during the period 300AD to 400AD following their migration from Zambia.More on this subject in the forthcoming articles.
Their tentacles were spread to areas such as Lupane, Nkayi, Shurugwi, Kwekwe and Gokwe, among others.
For some of us who come from areas such as Lupane, there are places whose original Tonga names were Kandangula, Taluka, Siabula and Idongamuse, among others.
Yours truly was also not aware that the likes of Nhema and Hungwe clans who some are found in Shurugwi and Masvingo respectively could also be of Tonga tribe.
Thanks to Sianyuka!
More on how these names came into being and why they were corrupted to their current status to be tackled in the forthcoming articles.
The upcoming articles will also look at ways on why the Tonga and Dombe are faces of the same coin and their ingenuity on coal discovery before the arrival of colonial settlers.
This is the only tribe that is reported to have managed to subdue the irate Ndebele warriors under King Lobengula without shedding any blood.
The Tonga’s early entry into Hwange district brought names which today are thought to have Nambya connotations when in actual fact they are to the contrary.
Some high-density suburbs within the colliery have such Tonga names as Makwika and Lwendulu, among others, while some of their chiefs were interred on adjacent hills.
The Tongas also claim to have participated in the construction of Great Zimbabwe!
Remember, the Nambya and BaLemba/Remba are also reported to have been the brains behind the building of this magnificent structural stone work.
Till we meet again in the next edition.
l Comments always welcome on: email@example.com or Twitter: @DubeBurzil