Kalanga or Karanga: What’s in a name?


ABOUT 40km north of Plumtree Town is a place called Tokwana Village in Bulilima District.
In Tokwana Village is a ‘hidden treasure’ called Luswingo.
It is a small ancient city, a stone structure with the same chevron pattern like Khami and Great Zimbabwe, although it looks abandoned.
According to prominent historian and retired journalist, Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, Luswingo’s original name is Tandabagwana.
The Patriot visited Luswingo recently where a Kalanga cultural festival was underway and Sotsha Moyo, together with Botswana-based musician, Ndingo Johwa, were some of the major highlights.
And it is at the festival we came across 82-year-old Mugarapasi Mlalazi from Tokwana Village, Ward Four.
He spoke of one whiteman who once tried to settle right at the heart of Luswingo, but eventually left because he would constantly come across ‘strange things’.
But it was not just the story of the whiteman we found interesting, but the linkages pertaining to BaKalanga, MaKaranga and the Nguni people in general.
For the record, there is no tribe in Zimbabwe called ‘Ndebele’ as we shall show in this article because ‘AmaNdebele’ is simply a creation of King Mzilikazi.
In Luswingo, and according to Mlalazi, BaKalanga and MaKaranga are one people, particularly when one looks at the similarities of the stone structures like Maphungubgwe, Great Zimbabwe, Khami, Dhlodhlo, Luswingo and Domboshaba in Botswana, among others.
His main worry, however, was that Luswingo seems to have been ‘forgotten’ by the powers that be, particularly as a world heritage site that can contribute significantly to the tourism sector.
“We were born and grew up here in Tokwana, but the truth is we do not know much about Luswingo, especially the people who used to occupy it,” he said.
“However, we came to a conclusion that the same people who built Luswingo could be the same people or are related to the people who built other stone structures such as the Great Zimbabwe and Khami.
Apparently, as we conversed, this writer realised that while Mlalazi spoke in Kalanga, there were some traces of ChiKaranga, but none of isiNdebele, yet you find many BaKalanga aligning themselves to Nguni ways, customs and traditions.
So, could it be that Kalanga and ChiKaranga are somehow related?
Are BaKalanga, as some scholars say, a hybrid of the Nguni and Karanga who came out of inter-marriages or are the Karangas a hybrid of Nguni and BaKalanga inter-marriages?
Could it be that Kalanga as a language suffered the same fate as that of Hebrew or Latin – languages of great empires that over the years became minority languages after the collapse of the empires?
And is it true that BaKalanga were already settled in Africa south of the Zambezi by year 900 AD, making them one the earliest people to settle on the Zimbabwean plateau?
Are BaKalanga and MaKaranga one people?
The above questions have generated debate over the years though records show that the Kalanga were once called the ‘Mocaranga’ by the early Portuguese.
We turned to some historians’ works and below are their views.
Aeneas Chigwedere (Historian and author of The Karanga Empire):
“We have important names bandied about in this country.
One of them is certainly Karanga.
The Portuguese make constant references to it in their documents after 1500; one of the names debated by the settler regime for possible assignment to the whole of Mashonaland just before 1930, was Karanga.
We have a whole region today that claims to speak a dialect called ChiKaranga; we have yet another region or district that indeed speaks Kalanga today.
May I point out that I make no distinction between Karanga and Kalanga for indeed, there is no difference between them.
The original name was Kalanga.
But the Shona language, like every other language, has been evolving and continues to do so.
One result of this has been that the letter ‘L’ has been dropped and substituted for ‘R’.
The original name Kalanga inevitably changed to Karanga.
The letter ‘L’ has, however, been retained in the Plumtree area where the language spoken there is still very close to the original Kalanga language.
Large numbers of descendants of the original Kalanga people are still in that area to this day.”
Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo (author of The Rebirth of Bukalanga): “TjiKalanga has been spoken in southern Africa for at least 500 years before anything called Shona was ever heard of.
To suggest that Kalanga is a dialect of Shona is like suggesting that Zulu is a dialect of Ndebele.
Luswingo is simply singular for Maswingo.
Great Zimbabwe, Khami and Mapungubwe simply happened to be the more majestic and larger cities whereas smaller ones were spread all over the place from Venda to Hwange (Dzata, Luswingo, Domboshaba, Bumbudzi, Nhalatale, so-called Dlodlo, etc)
The Karanga are a true hybrid of the Kalanga and Shona proper groups (the zezuru-Manyika) alliance.
The languages and surnames are self-explanatory.
The Kalanga had been in occupation of this whole land and Shona groups started moving in in large hordes in the 1700s onwards and there being no ‘L’ in their language, Kalanga in regions they settled inevitably became Karanga and the language got diluted.
Over the last 170 years, what is now called Matabeleland was transformed (through conquest and other methods) from a predominantly Kalanga-speaking region to (isi)Ndebele-speaking.”
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu (Historian, anthropologist and retired journalist): “Kalanga is the original dialect of all Shona dialects.
We must understand that BaKalanga were spread all over the region, stretching from some parts in Mozambique, here in Zimbabwe and even in some parts of Botswana before other people and Bantus from as far as Southern Sudan arrived, resulting in inter-marriages with BaKalanga.
These people had come down here running away from slavery by the Arabs and also by Greeks.
It is therefore proper to say VaKaranga branched off from the BaKalanga.
It is also proper to say the Karangas and BaKalanga have what is called in Social Anthropology an ‘agnate link’ – common paternal origin.
Hapana gungwa pakati pavo.
So note that when the Nguni arrived in Zimbabwe first with Nkulumane in 1838 and then Mzilikazi in 1840, they incorporated BaKalanga in their system and they used to send them as soldiers to raid other people in what they now deemed their territory.
So take note that the majority of people who speak isiNdebele are actually BaKalanga.
They were just people who were forced to adopt Nguni language and culture.
In sociology we say they adopted a principle called ‘protective social docility’ which means being docile to protect oneself from a conqueror.
So in a way, BaKalanga got assimilated into the Nguni society in order to save themselves from extinction.”
Gwakuba Ndlovu’s views are collaborated by another Bulawayo-based historian Pathisa Nyathi who in an interview with one daily in 2013 argued the Karanga and Kalanga have a historical relationship dating back centuries ago, stressing that the land stretching from Mozambique to the Kalahari Desert was once occupied by people with a common ancestry and religion.
“The Kalanga and Karanga both say ‘togwa’ meaning we are fighting or simply fighting,” said Nyathi.
“The Kalanga and Karanga decended from the same stock.
“They are one people.
“The initial language was Kalanga but because the Kalanga haven’t written their story, we have lost a lot of information.”
Turning to Professor Thomas Huffman’s works.
He says a Kalanga Dynasty was probably the leaders at Mapungubwe on the Limpopo River in the 13th Century, and a Karanga Dynasty probably led the people at Great Zimbabwe.
“The Kalanga Dynasty at Khami (near Bulawayo) appears to have outcompeted Great Zimbabwe at about AD 1450 and the leaders at Great Zimbabwe appear to have gone north to become the famous Mwene Mutapa dynasty,” he said.
And University of Zimbabwe Lecturer Professor Sheunesu Mpepepereki, in an interview with The Patriot, said: “I have never had any doubt at all whether Karanga and Kalanga are the same. They speak essentially the same language so there is no difference.”
Perhaps Prof Mpepereki is correct because for example, where BaKalanga say ‘Mwali’, MaKaranga say ‘Mwari’; MaKaranga talk about ‘Chirisamhuru’, while BaKalanga talk about ‘Chilisamhulu’.
It can also be noted that both Karangas and Kalangas have identical surnames.
And it’s important to observe that the surnames did not originate with the coming of the Nguni in the 19th Century.
Therefore all those within the ‘Ndebele’ clan identified by animal names and body parts names are actually Kalangas/Karangas.
It becomes imperative to look at some of them in order to correct the mentality of those who claim to be ‘Ndebele’ when they are not.
But before we get there.
Some scholars further argue Matabeleland and Mashonaland are the same considering the population of the Moyos in both regions. In fact, it is said close to 50 percent of the people in Matabeleland bear the surname Moyo.
But besides Moyo, other surnames and their variants include Ndlovu (Ndou, Tlou, Zhou), Mpofu (Shaba, Mhofu, Thuka), Sibanda (Shumba, Tjibanda, Tau, Sebata), Ngwenya (Ngwena, Kwena, Mokoena), Nyathi and Gumbo, among others.
Zimbabweans must also take into account that the original Nguni under both Nkulumane and King Mzilikazi, who arrived from down south, are the Khumalos, Mathemas, Ndiwenis, Dlaminis, Mathes and Hlatshwayos, among others.
King Mzilikazi’s Ndebele State was comprised of various tribes, including the Sotho-Tswana who were incorporated along the way.
‘Matabele’ (‘men of long shields’)-or-(stranger) was a name given to Nguni warriors by the Sotho.
However, it is said the Nguni, after their arrival, roped in BaKalanga and began using them to raid others in the vast region.
In a way, King Mzilikazi ‘converted’ BaKalanga/MaKaranga such that they ended up believing they were Nguni.
That is why to date some BaKalanga/MaKaranga changed their surnames to isiNdebele yet deep down they know their true identity.
This has eventually seen whites over the years taking advantage of this situation, especially in Matabeleland, causing unnecessary divisions and turmoil among Zimbabweans along perceived ‘tribal lines’.
They ‘scream’ about ‘marginalisation of the Ndebele’ while the presence of thousands of Western-sponsored non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Matabeleland today is quite revealing.
No doubt the NGOs in Matabeleland continue to use the so-called ‘tribal card’ in their bid to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.
However, they forget that diverse as we are, Zimbabweans are one.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here