13 November 2012

Zambia: Tracing Zwangedaba Roots

Many may regard Nakonde as a getaway from Zambia to Tanzania or the second important border post in terms of revenue collection for the Zambia Revenue Authority after Chirundu on the border with Zimbabwe.

Others may describe it as a small town where vehicles mostly from Japan are cleared before they go to other parts of Zambia or where traders converge to buy rice, potatoes, beans and cheap goods mostly from China.

In spite of these classifications, Nakonde qualifies to be a tourist attraction owing to its undeveloped heritage sites.

Major sites include mass graves for German soldiers who were killed by British fighters during World War I, the burial site for the Ngoni King Zwangendaba as well as the resting place for a prominent Namwanga, Donald Siwale.

Siwale was one of the first elite people in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and among those who translated the English bible into Namwanga, a native language of the people of Nakonde and Southern Tanzania.

During World War I, Germany stationed a war ship, MV Liemba, which has been turned into a cargo and passenger facility on Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest natural lake in the world after Baikal of Russia.

This was meant to control the waterway at the time road transport had not been well developed.

With the war ship placed on Lake Tanganyika, Germany launched assaults on British territories.

Britain replied by secretly taking other warships to the lake, but failed to capture Lt. Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck who had been tasked to protect German East Africa (now Tanzania).

The warship was constructed in Germany in 1913 and its parts were shipped in crates to Africa shortly before the on-set of World War I.

Germany had invested heavily in coffee plantations in the northern parts of the present-day Tanzania that it protected from other European interests.

German and African soldiers under the command of von-Lettow-Vorbeck invaded British railways and forts in Kenya and Uganda in the north and Northern Rhodesia in the south.

As result of the fight over the lake and protection of coffee plantations, war spread to lakeside settlements in Northern Rhodesia in Abercorn (now Mbala), Isoka and Nakonde.

Mass graves for German soldiers can be seen at Old Fife, an old British establishment near Nakonde.

According to war maps, Von-Lettow-Voerbeck entered Northern Rhodesia near Kanyala border shortly before the end of World War I.

Ruins for the establishment by the British made of pan bricks are not far from the spot where German soldiers were buried in mass graves.

A survey also showed some trenches that were used by soldiers, which can be preserved to foster tourism in Nakonde.

Von Lettow-Vorbeck was too smart for British soldiers and its allies owing to the guerrilla type of fighting he had learnt whilst he served as a soldier in China and German South West Africa (now Namibia).

His undefeated command reached Chambeshi River near the present-day Kasama on the then British territory and now the headquarters of Zambia's Northern Province in November 1918.

The German commander succumbed to a ceasefire after an armistice was reached that month to end World I and he officially surrendered in Mbala at the end of November 1918.

Nakonde is also the place where Zwangendaba, the king of the Ngoni people, died around 1848 and was buried against a small hill of rocks.

He died after the Ngoni people run away from the Mfecane (wars) that King Shaka of the Zulu perpetrated in South Africa's Kwa Zulu Natal.

Some books say that Zwangendaba died in Ufipa in Tanzania, but the reality is that he met his death in Kapwila area, about 35 km west of Nakonde on Mbala-Nakonde road in Zambia.

After being expelled from South Africa near Swaziland, the Ngoni passed through Zimbabwe around the Great Zimbabwe, Mozambique and crossed the Zambezi River in November 1835 during an eclipse of the sun.

They split into groups after the death of Zwangendaba, with some of them settling in Songea in Tanzania, Malawi and the eastern province of Zambia.

A guest house has been constructed and named after Zwangendaba in Nakonde near the border with Tanzania.

The front part of the guest house has a moulded impi (soldier) carrying a spear to depict the way the Ngoni fought their wars.

Nakonde is also connected to the prominent Namwanga Donald Siwale, one of the earliest elite people in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), who was born and buried there.

Siwale founded the Mwenzo Welfare Association in 1923 to advance the cause for Africans.

He participated in the Legislative Council before Northern Rhodesia gained political independence from Britain and was also a member of the African National Congress.

One indelible mark for Siwale is that he participated in the translation of the English bible into Namwanga.

His youngest son, Ntapalilwa, lives on the farm where his father met his death in November 1983 and gave a chance to the Zambian Insight to tour of the elite man's burial place against an anthill.

The Ministry of Education is constructing a school that will be named after Donald Siwale to replace a small one near Mwenzo that been named after him.

It was at Mwenzo, where the Church of Scotland (now United Church of Zambia) established a mission over 100 years ago.

Nakonde may not be directly mentioned in history books because it was created out of Isoka in 1994. Last year President Michael Sata created Muchinga Province and Nakonde as among other districts that have been transferred from Northern Province to the new one.

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