Who says BaNyayi were socially inferior?

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By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu

THE Rozvi came into Tjibundule’s country through the region that lies between the Tuli and the Limpopo rivers.
The BaKalanga called those two waterways the ‘Tugwi’ and the ‘Bembe’.
It is not clear whether the Rozvi had originally been living in a region that is today’s Masvingo Province, or in a part of what is now known as the Beitbridge District.
According to Kalanga oral tradition, the king of the Rozvi was referred to as ‘Vezha webaVezha’ (a Venda of the Vendas).
The word Rozvi has two meanings; the first means one of the people who were subjects of a king who was officially called ‘mambo’, and the other is really a connotation and is a reference to a person of royal lineage as one would say: ‘Iwoyu nhu unRozvi’ – This person is of royal descent.
This context greatly narrows the spoken application of that word.
We thus find the Rozvi settling in the south-eastern sector of Tjibundule’s Kingdom, an area the BaKalanga had been using for hunting more than for residential purposes.
Oral Kalanga records say the BaRozvi settled at a place with a large flat black rock (nhombo) on which rain water accumulated.
That rock was called ‘Lutombo lutema’ or later known as ‘Lutombo gwabaNyayi’.
The BaKalanga called those BaRozvi people ‘BaNyayi’, a name by which they were later known throughout Tjibundule’s Kingdom both before they (the BaNyayi) overthrew Tjibundule, sending him and some of his family members into the underworld.
Before he was defeated in a surprise attack by Mambo’s army, Tjibundule had treated the BaNyayi with much hospitality, living peacefully with them.
The first Mambo to settle with the BaRozvi at the vast flat black rock (kulutombo gwabaNyayi) was called Madlazwegwendo, son of Mabhayangedungo.
Both these names are TjiKalanga and the meaning of the first name is ‘he who eats that which is meant for a journey’, and that of the second is ‘he who stabs or pierces with a rafter’.
They spoke a rather uncommon TjiKalanga dialect which was not easily understood by Tjibundule’s people whose dialect was Tjililima, now widely spoken in northern Botswana and the north-western region of Zimbabwe’s Bulilima District in the Matabeleland South Province.
The BaNyayi used their difficult-to-understand dialect to plot against Tjibundule so much so that the dialect was later regarded as a language used to discuss highly confidential matters.
The perception that the BaNyayi were socially inferior was created by the Nguni socio-cultural structure which placed the Ngunis at the apex of the then socio-cultural ladder followed by the Sothos, and lying at the bottom rung were the BaNyayi and all other tribes indigenous to this country.
Before the advent of the Ngunis, the BaNyayi were the rulers, the blue blood of the land after they had defeated Tjibundule, king of the BaKalanga.
The Mambo, who led the BaRozvi into Tjibundule’s Kingdom, Madlazwegwendo, did not attempt to attack Tjibundule.
He was succeeded by his son, Maluzapi, who is also said to have lived peacefully with Tjibundule.
He lived in the region where his grandfather, Madlazwegwendo, had first struck roots in Tjibundule’s land.
That area is belived to cover some parts of the eastern Matobo and some western localities of the Esigodini districts.
In the Esigodini District, we come across Gwabalozwi (of the Rozvi) River which feeds the How Mine Dam.
It is also in the same locality that we come across geographical physical features with purely TjiKalanga names.
Those features include Nlomolihoto, a kopje, the Filabuso boulder, the Sizamafulo (Nsiza), the Ndzimwana (Mzingwane), Gomfi (Hhovi) and Vulamatjena rivers, the last having been translated literally from TjiKalanga into English by the London Missionary Society pioneering pastors and became ‘White Waters’.
Tjibundule was defeated by Nichasike, a son of Maluzapi who had taken over from Madlezwegwendo.
Maluzapi was a fully grown man at the time of the arrival of the Rozvi in Tjibundule’s Kingdom.
He did not rule for many years after his father’s death.
But his son, whose real name was Tjilisamhulu (Chirisamhuru), ruled for a very long period.
It was Tjilisamhulu who plotted against the Kalanga King, Tjibundule, first by inviting him to join him in a hunting expedition.
Tjibundule politely refused and offered Tjilisamhulu one of his senior men, Chombe-Ntulunhulu, and other elders to accompany him on the hunting expedition.
Tjilisamhulu, by then was called by the name Nitjasike (Nichasike) a nickname he had given himself, and which later featured prominently in his praises:
“Ndimi Nitjasike wakasika hhowu nenhema,
Mhulu yonsikanyika,
Mhulu yobuofuko,
Isinga bakigwe ngelupango gunophusiwa ngelukonye,
Gukabola, gukakolomoka.
Mhulu yobupfuko
Inobakigwa ngeliswingo gwamabgwe,
Gusingaphiswe ngolukonye,
Gusingamunyiwe ngetjenje nangelukonye.”
The English translation of the above is:
“I am Nitjasike who created the elephant and the rhino,
The calf of the earth’s creator,
The calf that butts its way out,
Which cannot be built for with poles that are attacked by worms
And thus decay and then fall down.
The calf of the butting habit,
That is built for with rocks,
Which cannot be attacked by worms
Which cannot be destroyed by white ants and worms.”
Tjilisamhuliu’s plan had been to kill Tjibundule during the hunting expedition had he (Tjibundule) agreed to go hunting.
Tjibundule had, however, consulted his medicine man who advised him not to go hunting with Tjilisamhulu.
Some sources say Tjibundule was told in a dream not to accompany Tjilisamhulu on his proposed hunting expedition.
Those men, it must be understood, believed very deeply in the power of charms for self-protection, for aggressive as well as for curative purposes.
Tjibundule’s self-protective charms were believed to be in his fontanelle hair which was rather long, well kept and was not touched by anyone except himself.
Tjilisamhulu (Nitjasike) was told that secret information by his own medicine man, Ngomane Gumbo, one of the patriarchs of the Gutu, Dunani, Mhene and Kutama clans.
So Nitjasike and Ngomane Gumbo decided to get some of Tjibundule’s fontanelle hair so that they could mix it with their own charms to make his protective and aggressive charms powerless.
To get some of that hair, Nitjasike offered Tjibundule his daughter, Bagedze to be his wife.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email: sgwakuba@gmail.com

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