BY FRANCIS PELEKELO
The History of the great Kingdom of Barotseland will be incomplete without the mention of Prince Mwanambinyi, the first person to become Litunga-la-Mboela literally meaning the Litunga of the South. Mwanambinyi’s aim was to set up another Lozi Kingdom under his leadership on the southern region, but this was cut short by other Litunga called Ngalama.
Queen Mbuywamwambwa ascended to the throne on the death of Mwambwa, her mother. Mbuyu or Mbuywamwambwa (literally ‘Mbuyu of Mwambwa’) is believed to have had the following 12 children not in their order of birth: Atangambuyu (Atanga of Mbuyu), Inyambo, Muyunda (Mboo), Nawa (Mwanambinyi), Imafuwa (Namakau), Ingalamwa Mbikusita, Mwanawina, Yeta ya Musa, Namakau, Mwangala, Mboanjikaka, and Nakatindi. This could possibly be the origin of the creation of sub districts been ruled by the Prince and Princesses that we know today such as Mongu-Lealui (The Litunga-Lubosi Imwiko II), Kalabo-Libonda (Princess Kandundu Yeta), Senanga-Nalolo (Princess Mukwae Mbuyu Imwiko), Lukulu-Namayula (Prince Anañanga Imwiko), Kaoma-Naliele (Prince Makweti Isiteketo Lewanika), Sesheke-Mwandi (Prince Lubasi Yeta) and Shangombo (Prince Mukiti Sekeli).
Mbuywamwambwa had left for Kaumbu in the Lunda country, a place now found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Upon her return, she asked Kuta, the Council, to install a male Litunga. Mboo Muyunda was installed as the first male Litunga. Her mother, Mbuywamwambwa remained as the Makoshi (Natambumu), the mother and prime feminine advisor to the Litunga. Meanwhile Mboo had other, more human difficulties to deal with, specifically competition with siblings who, although it is not admitted in Lozi tradition, probably challenged for the leadership of the Luyi resulting in unsuccessful contenders moving out. Most accounts of the time of Mboo describe a process of handing out new areas of influence to brothers and sisters. Thus Mwanambinje moved to Nayaka, the next village south of Libonda, although this was later given to Mboo’s sister, Njikana. Mbuywamwambwa, had, by this time, moved to Mukono. Meanwhile Inyambo was given Sikuli, Mwanawina was given Sikongo and Yeta was given Mwandi (not to be confused with the Mwandi on the Zambezi opposite Caprivi which became the royal capital in the far south of the Kingdom), Mbikusita (‘a zebra that kicks’) went to rule in Mukola, Namakau (‘a digging tool or hoe’) was given Salondo or Kwandu and Mange was given Nakanda, a forest area.
The decision by the lozi elder people to put Mboo Muyunda as the first male Litunga did not please some people. One of these was Mboo’s younger brother, Naawa who is commonly known as Mwanambinyi (often spelt Mwanambinye), whose name means ‘child who moves with spears’ he was nick named Mwanambinyi because of his love to fight with others. Mwanambinye(nyi) (who was endowed with great powers of magic powers). The two brothers, it is said, regularly sparred with each other. Examples of the competitions indulged in were shooting arrows across the Zambezi and pitting their fighting bulls against one another. In many of these bouts, Mwanambinyi would be the victor causing considerable resentment and jealousy on the part of Mboo so that eventually Mwanambinyi left (or was expelled) to seek ‘new pastures’.
As a result of succession dispute Mwanambinyi decided to head to the South in what is known today as Senanga District. Mwanambinyi is credited with having been the first Luyi/Lozi leader to subdue peoples south of Bulozi including the Mbukushu on the right bank of the Zambezi in what became Caprivi, who were apparently fracturing under the stress of succession disputes. It is from these succession disputes that the Subia are said by the Lozi to have emerged. Jalla records that Mwanambinyi broke away from Mwanasilundu and moved downstream with the Zambezi and established his kingdom at Senanga.
It is reported that Mwanambinyi then waged war against the Mbukushu and Subiya at Nakabunze (Katima Mulilo) and at Longa Island, causing Chief Liswani of the Subiya to flee to Kazungula, while Cheete of the Mbukushu with his followers fled to Butoka.
Mwanambinyi and his son Mulia also extended their raid from Senanga to Sesheke where they captured the Subiya chief Mwanamwale and brought him and a section of the Subiya to Senanga. Possibly this could one of the earliest attempt by the Lozi leaders to assimilate other groups in the Lozi governance especially on the Southern part of Barotseland. It must be noted that after Mwanambinyi, other leaders continued to conquer some groups on the southern region, for example, during the reign, of King Ngombala he significantly expanded the kingdom, in terms of communities and territories. He began the process of welcoming, settling and integrating the Mambunda communities from the neighboring areas of Angola. In addition, Ngombala waged successful wars of conquest and expansion. In the south this reached the Leya country, under Sikute and crossed the Linyati (Chobe) river down to the Okavango swamps. This encompassed the south-western lands, which were later to be predominantly settled by the Mashi, and Mbukushu people. He also conquered the lands that are now in Angola. He stretched the kingdom’s dominion and influence down south to near Hwange (Wankie) at the mountain called ‘Kalundu ka Balumbu’, or ‘Kalundu ka Malozi’. In the north-west, he expanded the kingdom to beyond Nyengoland. He made war with the communities in the Sesheke and Itenge (Caprivi Strip) areas, who had rebelled from the kingdom.
It should be noted that Mwanambinyi was the first Litunga-La-Mboela but with no established permanent capital. However, Nalolo was established a permanent capital after Notulu, Ngombala’s daughter, visited Libumbwandinde area, where she was welcomed by a huge greeting party. She was impressed with the place and people. On her return she asked her father for that territory to rule, and he gave it to her. Gradually the place became increasingly important and popular, that is how the Nalolo establishment was founded. After Notulu, a daughter of King Ngombala, she was followed by the third, Mbanga, a son of King Ngombala. The fourth Litunga-la-Mboela was Yubia (Yubya), a son of Mbanga, followed by Nakambe and Mwanamatiya, who were both sons of Mbanga, as well. The seventh Litunga-la-Mboela was Kusio (Kusiyo), a son of Yubia (Yubya), followed by Mubukwanu, a son of King Mulambwa.
After a civil war, which gave an opening to the Sotho invasion, Mubukwanu was the only Litunga-la-Mboela to become a Litunga. After Mubukwanu, it has been preferred to reserve this second-in-command position for females. Litunga-Ia-Mboela, Kandundu succeeded Mubukwanu. Kandundu was a full sister of King Sipopa, and a daughter of King Mulambwa. The next Litunga-la-Mboela was Kaiko, a daughter of King Sipopa. Mwangala followed her as Litunga-la-Mboela (1876-1878). Mwangala was a daughter of King Mwanawina the Second. She was installed as Mulena Mukwai of Nololo, at Naliele, in November 1876. Her two-year reign terminated when Mwanawina was overthrown and replaced by Lubosi (King Lewanika the First). The Litunga-Ia-Mboela after Mwangala was Matauka, an elder sister of Lubosi Mawaniketwa (King Lewanika the First). She was Litunga-Ia-Mboela for over fifty years (1878-1934). Matauka’s daughter, Atangambuyu, succeeded her mother, although without the royal drums (Maoma). Atangambuyu was subjected to protest mounted by her Induna’s. She abdicated in favour of Mulima, her niece, the daughter of Yeta the Third (Litia Lewanika). She ruled from 1934 to around 1935. Mulima ruled from around 1935s up to 1959. She was succeeded by Litunga-la-Mboela Mulena Mukwae Makwibi (Makwibi Mwanawina) (1959-2011), a daughter of Mwanawina the Third (Sir Mwanawina Lewanika). She, in turn, was succeeded by her cousin, Litunga-la-Mboela Mulena Mukwae Mbuyu (2011 to date), a daughter of Litunga Imwiko the First and a sister of His Majesty, the current Litunga Imwiko the Second (Lubosi Imwiko). The Litunga-la-Mboela (Queen of the South) had all the symbols of the King, the Litunga. Her Kuta was a replica of the one found at Lealui. Thus, she was accorded the respect and royalty which was second only to the Litunga. The combination of the two councils of Lealui and Nalolo was the final ruling organ of the Barotseland. The arrangement was however reversed by the Barotse reforms introduced in 1947.
Another case of interesting to the history of Mwanambinyi is the acquisition of Maoma royal drums. These royal and war drums feature prominently in installation rituals. Installation rites come to a peak when the elected king sits on one of the drums. They are also used during the Kuomboka ceremony. Maoma drums, were captured from Lukanga, a leader of the Mambukushu community by Mwanambinyi. Litunga Ngalama however, crushed this uncle of his, Mwanambinyi, and seized the Maoma. In this way, Ngalama consolidated the southern and western extensions of Barotseland. Mwanambinyi had attempted to share these with Ngalama who became his son-in-law through marriage to the former’s daughter, Notulu. However, it is said that Ngalama could not be satisfied with only one of these symbolically powerful drums, closely associated with the ability to bring rain which Mbukushu chiefs were believed to be endowed with since earliest known times and so turned on his father-in-law. Ngalama later conquered the MaKwangwa, who were led by an auntie, Mange. This brought in the territories of the Eastern forest areas.
The conquest of Mwanambinyi is a story of magic and heroism with Mwanambinyi thwarting Ngalama’s armies by magic until, finally tired by the continuing onslaughts, choosing to sink (Kulikela) into the earth with his people at his capital Imatongo (Lihula) (meaning “a place that has been abandoned”), on the southern plain near to Senanga rather than be captured by Ngalama (Ngalama was the son of Mwanambinyi’s brother, Ingalamwa who had not risen to Litungaship). Ngalama was a warrior king known for his fierceness and determination. The kingdom expanded under this Litunga who set about eliminating the fledgling princedoms set up by Mwanambinyi and Mange and consolidating these southern and western extensions to the original Bulozi homeland. This led to the acquisition by the Luyi kingship of the Maoma drums which Mwanambinyi had captured from the Mbukushu and which were to become a symbol of Lozi power. His cenotaph is still upkept and visited by Litungas today. The symbolism of the site is expressed today by the existence of palm trees that are said to have grown from the poles to which Mwanambinyi’s cattle were tied so long ago.
Despite the history of Mwanambinyi and his supposed magical powers been recorded long time ago in his village Imatongo. The people who live in Imatongo village have so much stories to tell in line or in trying to connect to Mwanambinyi. For example, it is believed that no one can build a fence (Lapa) around their houses, if that happened the following day it will be found burnt down by unknown fire believed to be that of Mwanambinyi’s magical powers. People are not allowed to pound at night, they not allowed to eat inside the houses. At night people could hear voices of strange people not seen speaking, children playing and dogs burking depicting people living in a village set up and carrying out their normal duties.
People especially strangers are not allowed to go fishing in the lake near and hut in the nearby bush without the blessing of the village elders to give them a go ahead. If a person went into the bush without asking for permission, such a person can get lost or something strange can happen to such a one. In short living in Imatongo village requires one to follow strict rules and procedures failure to which one may find himself in “trouble”. In remembrance of Mwanambinyi, the government rest house has been named after him in Senanga District called Mwanambinyi Motel along the Senanga-Mongu road.