HomeEnvironmentGreat Zimbabwe construction: The Tonga joining the fray?

Great Zimbabwe construction: The Tonga joining the fray?

IT seems most local tribes could have contributed towards construction of  Dzimbahwe Ruins with the Tonga being the latest clan laying the claim that they also played a leading role as far as this world heritage site is concerned.

Burzil Dube

The Tonga, who are also known as the tribe from Kasamabezi (Zambezi River), usually call themselves People of the Great River as most of them were settled along the Zambezi River during their entry into this country.

Back to construction of Great Zimbabwe.

This place is situated on the outskirts of Masvingo and the Tonga continue with the assertion that it was them and the Lemba/VaRemba tribe whose expertise was pivotal during the whole construction of this magnificent edifice.

The Lemba or VaRemba tribe are predominantly found in the Mberengwa area and are believed to have migrated from the Middle East and considered to be among the biblical 12 tribes of Israel.

Yours truly is yet to get the necessary details on how the Tonga found themselves at Great Zimbabwe as this could be another interesting piece of the puzzle in the country’s historical tourism.

They (Tonga) claim that they even spread their tentacles all the way to Mozambique where that country’s capital was later named Maputo from ‘Maputu’.

The term “maputu” in Tonga lingo means “luggage”, hence this came into being as the area where modern-day Maputo is situated was the main trading area for Portuguese settlers. So most Tonga traders brought their “luggage” that was mainly composed of ivory to this particular place and that is how the name Maputu came into being.

As mentioned by yours truly in some previous travelling & touring columns, this tribe’s adeptness was highlighted especially in hunting of wild animals such as elephants and buffaloes among others.

So the elephant tusks were in high demand from these early Portuguese traders, most of whom had settled in Maputo.

This somehow means that some of the places with Tonga connotations are ‘even’ found as far as Mozambique.

Talking of Tonga comical names that yours truly earlier promised, this week we are looking at names such as Ciwale, Shabula, Mzola, Gandangula and Mbembesi, among others. All these places are situated in Matabeleland North province.

In one of the previous columns, yours truly briefly wrote about a place called Gandangula, whose actual designation in Tonga is Kandangula which means “it has tripped me or brought me down”.

As earlier mentioned in that very particular column, no explanation was properly proffered on the motives behind such a name.

However,the  full explanation was deliberately left for another day so that it could be deciphered on how this came about.

It is said during those earlier times, in Gandangula, whose location is adjacent to Lupane centre, there was a stream where people used to fall down whenever they were crossing this particular rivulet.

While it may seem incredulous, there are times when the benefit of the doubt takes precedence as some issues may need closure in an effort of trying to avoid going round in the proverbial circle.

Siabula, which is today popularly known as Shabula, was a nickname for a headman whose bulging tummy was the talk of the community and villagers under his jurisdiction found it proper to give him such a nickname. And it has stuck to this day even though it now depicts the name of a community  which is a few kilometres from Lupane along the Victoria Falls-Lupane road.

Mbembesi is a place, which yours truly considers to be somehow of an enigma because of its dual location even though the two places are hundreds of miles apart.

Those travelling along the Bulawayo-Shangani highway are familiar with a place called Mbembesi a few kilometres from the country’s second capital city. It is also the place where the epic Anglo-     Ndebele War of November 1893 was fought between King Lobengula’s army and the early colonial settlers.

Another Mbembesi is situated along the Bulawayo-Lupane road and it is an area where Queen Lozikheyi, one of King Lobengula’s famous wives, is buried at some place called Nkosikazi.

According to the Tonga lingo, the name Bembezi refers to fertile grazing terrestrial land whose nearby river provided abundant water for various animals as well as domestic usage.

So which of the two Mbembesis were the Tonga tribe referring to? This is certainly a multi-million dollar question whose answer continues to be as elusive as ever.

The Nambya also called Mbembesi ‘kubembeka’ meaning some form of shelter after Mpalazhuzhe, one of the Nambya kings, was offered asylum by King Lobengula after fleeing from his younger brother who wanted to ascend to the Nambya throne.

He was fleeing from Chilisa, the younger brother, and Mpalazhuzhe was offered a place to stay which he later called Mbembesi. Ciwale, which is located north-east of Lupane centre got its name from Ciwalile meaning to throw a spear as a form of defence.

During that time the place was heavily infested with dangerous wild animals and locals were encouraged to always move with a spear as a safety precaution.

Muzyola, which was later corrupted to Mzola, came into being due to the type of soil that was rich for productive purposes if well utilised and even to this day the place is known as a bread basket for the province.

These are some of the missing pieces in the quest to promote the country’s historical tourism.

Till we meet again in the next column.

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