B. Pachai, Professor of History, University of Malawi, 1970
By 1904 the Ngoni of Malawi were widely distributed through a large part of the country with main and subsidiary settlements of both the Jere and Maseko communities or tribal clusters. These settlements had a number of common characteristics. The chiefs (with few exceptions) could all claim linear political descent from those who had led them through most of the way to the chosen land; they were now under British protectorate rule ; each main settlement had an administrative system with central authority, executive authority, military and judicial authority, all of which were subsequently modified to suit the protectorate government from time to time; each had started off with little more than a simple kinship organization with leadership provided by a determined individual of a well-known clan fleeing for safety and security with a hard core of kinsmen; each tribal cluster had to work out its own immediate political salvation during the period of dispersion or at the point of permanent settlement. The difference between these Ngoni and those of the Northern and Southern Nguni was that political evolution in the case of the former was based on trial and error tempered by a transference of ‘home’ patterns of government far removed in both space and time. Things not only happened quickly; they happened very far from `home’; they happened, too, without precedents at first. Before political patterns and social adjustments could evolve, external intrusions brought about compelling side-effects. In the end a political system emerged. Hammond—Tooke has defined a political system broadly ‘as the system of power-distribution in a society’.2 In looking at this power-distribution in the Ngoni society of Malawi a number of propositions constitute a good starting point.
How did the Ngoni leadership and its followers manage their affairs in IVIalawi after about a generation of trials and travels? When Zwangendaba died at Mapupo in Fipa country about 1848 he had already put together the nucleus of a state in which his senior kinsman, Ntabeni, junior kinsman, Mgayi and senior induna, Gwaza Jere, were placed in influential positions over his sons, and heirs to the Ngoni state, who ranged from about eight years of age to about fifteen years. Almost twenty years later, the Maseko Ngoni,who were led across the Zambezi and up to Songea by Mputa, came back to the Shire-Nyasa region under Mputa’s brother, Chidiaonga, and settled first near Matope, then at Domwe, and finally in the Ncheu region of Malawi among mainly Chewa-speaking peoples. Chidiaonga was the Maseko regent; Ntabeni, brother of Zwangendaba, was the Jere regent. The term regent as used here refers to a senior kinsman who assumed leadership as the successor had not come of age to assume the chieftainship.
It was the regencies which made the first impact. Their failures and successes were due in part to the personalities of the regents as well as to the various internal and external circumstances of the time. Had succession disputes not taken place, the Ngoni would have been a more formidable force against all contending parties. When the regents had played their parts, for better or for worse, another influence entered the lives of the Ngoni in the form of the missionary factor. A third influence was that represented by alien African cultural groups. This local African factor was an important determinant of Ngoni policy. Finally, a most pervasive external influence was present in the form of the British political administration.
This article aims at tracing the operation of the Ngoni diplomatic and political machinery in its handling of all these four factors or influences. The review helps to set the scene for the vigorous and varied roles played later by the two Malawi Ngoni paramountcies during the colonial period: the capture, deposition and exile of Chimtunga Jere; the assertive and unique role of the M’Mbelwa African Administrative Council; the firm stand in internal and external politics of the greatest of the successors of Zwangendaba, M’Mbelwa II (1928-59); the contribution of that arch opponent of Federation, Inkosi Philip Gomani II (1924-54) whose politics of dissent ended with a fate reminiscent of that which had visited his father in 1896.
The evidence for all this has been obtained from missionary records ; from official government despatches; from Ngoni historians; from African testimonies collected from the ruling and princely houses, as well as from non-Jere and non-Maseko Ngoni, and from Tumbuka, Tonga and Chewa peoples drawn into the arena of Ngoni politics. Because the Ngoni were an important political factor, the evidence is often coloured by what it hoped to achieve. At a given time Government administrators wanted to justify their attitudes and actions; missionaries had their own objectives; the ruling Ngoni classes had theirs; the affected African peoples reacted differently, depending on what hey hoped to achieve. The more powerful the political factor the greater the number of interested parties involved. Due allowance must be made for the motivation behind every bit of evidence and this applies equally to oral raditions and testimonies as to documentary sources.
Succession disputes in the case of both the Jere and the Maseko Ngoni have been treated by historians as moments of crises, as no doubt they were. These were due not to the absence of laws of succession but to different interpreta-tions placed on them by regents and indunas. Missionaries and colonial officials were often bewildered by the laws of succession, but the Ngoni, once all the interpretations had been submitted to the indaba or meeting and the roles of the holders of particular positions were explained and understood, took and accepted a decision. Besides their military prowess, the Ngoni are credited with the quality of being ‘a disciplined people under a central authority’.3 When this authority was questioned it was not that Ngoni society was disintegrating. Missionary letters give many instances of this. In 1884, for example, Mbelwa I would not allow the Livingstonia missionaries to call on his brother Mtwalo I because of some ‘misunderstanding between himself and his brother, partly because he keeps us to and for himself and won’t allow us to visit Mtwalo’.4 Two vears later the same chief found himself in a confrontation with his councillors. He was wise enough to recognize their strength and to propose concessions to the demands made to keep the missionaries out.5 These two illustrations show a strengthening of the Ngoni political machinery. There were many crucial issues which gave rise to the challenges to his authority which the Paramount had to contend with. These will be considered later. The point is that Ngoni discipline did not break down under the welter of a variety of changing situations represented either in succession disputes or in the growing political sophistication of his subjects.
The durability of the political structure would gain by an acceptable resolution of succession disputes. There were many factors which determined the process of succession. First, there was the royal village system which apportioned different functional roles to the gogo and the lusungulu villages or houses. These houses were occupied by different wives of the chief and it was the rank of the mother which determined the successor. In the case of the Jere Ngoni the same succession pattern applied to the paramount as to his subordinate kinsmen of the royal clan. The first wife of a ruler or heir was the senior in time but not in rank. She was the msulamizi, known more commonly in Northern Malawi as `muyesula msizi’—the redeemer. Her village (msizini) was the place of refuge for subjects in distress. She occupied the gogo house and had the function of being an important figure in the ceremonial and ritual life of the village. The lusungulu house was occupied by the chosen ‘big wife’ for whom lobola had been paid from the herd of the Queen Mother (the inkosikazi or main wife of the reigning paramount or chief who occupied the central but or indlunkulu in the village of her son, the heir). There were other criteria which the occupant of the lusungulu house had to satisfy. She had to come from an important home or be the daughter of a chief; she had to be a good wife, of good behaviour, who cared for her husband. She had to come from a family of means so as to provide for mungenisa khaya, the beer offering that had to be brought to the husband’s village from her parents’ village in order that she would gain entry into her new village (kungena khaya). She was to be in a position to ask her parents to offer gifts on the occasion of the birth of the first child (mbereko) and meat for consumption (dende) as well as for women retainers (vidandani)6. It was from the lusungulu house only that a heir was chosen.7
This brief account of the Ngoni succession pattern would help to explain why Mbelwa, the youngest of the contending sons of Zwangendaba, assumed the mantle of successor to the Jere paramountcy between 1855 and 1857 and Chikusi the mantle of the Maseko paramountcy between 1868 and 1870. Historians are not agreed as to the legitimate candidate for Zwangendaba’s throne. Cullen Young writes that Zwangendaba named Lomagazi as his successor and thus ‘actually appointed Mbelwa’. Lomagazi was Mbelwa’s elder sister and both were the children of Munene Mgomezulu. Since a daughter could not succeed, her full brother could step into the succession. Elmslie says that `Mtwalo should have been chief, but he resigned in favour of Mombera’. Mtwalo was the elder brother of Mbelwa and son of Qutu Mgomezulu, younger sister of Munene. Y. M. Chibambo notes that Zwangendaba chose Ngodoyi, Ntabeni’s son, and therefore his nephew ‘because he was well grown and intelligent’. Cullen Young’s further point against 1VItwalo’s accession was that ‘he failed to achieve his puberty at the expected time’. Mpezeni, the eldest son, and Mtwalo, the second son, have their champions and Barnes, reviewing all these, says that what was important was that ‘firstly there was a disputed succession, and secondly that present-day rival groups (i.e. in the 1940s) are still concerned each to show that its claimant was the legitimate heir’.8
On the face of it this was an inauspicious start to the Ngoni political history in the post-Zwangendaba period. None of the sons of Zwangendaba was old enough to be installed chief. Ntabeni was the undisputed senior kinsman and could assume the leadership temporarily. It was his politics that created a cleavage in Ngoni society. We have already noted the succession laws. To this information must be added the Ngoni custom that a chief was buried in the cattle fold of his inkosikazi in his lusungulu village. His son and successor could not be buried there as well because ‘only one bull may rule a herd’. Once a chief was buried in his lusungulu village its status was altered to that of gogo. It was here that his spirit was guarded and future ceremonials performed. Hlatshwayo, father of Zwangendaba, was buried at Elangeni; Zwangendaba was buried at Ekwendeni. Earlier on, two years before the Zambezi crossing, Zwangendaba’s lusungulu village was Emveyeyeni where his Nqumayo wives, the sisters Lompetu and Soseya, were placed. An unfortunate hair-in-the-beer incident led to the village being wiped out. Soseya was saved by a kindly act and kept in hiding until the birth of her son, Ntuto (Mpezeni). When he was some four years old Mpezeni and his mother were presented to a forgiving chief; they were allotted to the gogo village of Elangeni. The Mgomezulu sisters had in the interim occupied the new royal village or lusungulu; the senior was Munene. Her son was Mhlahlo (later Mombera, Mbelwa and M’Mbelwa). Mtwalo was the elder brother but the son of the junior Mgomezulu wife. He did not have to vacate his position as Elmslie has pointed out because ‘being of a quiet disposition.. (and because) he felt the burden of ruling such a jealous, discontented people as they had become would be too great for him’.9 His position and rank did not entitle him to undisputed succession.
The northern Ngoni were not a jealous people tottering on the brink of total collapse in 1848. Ntabeni’s policies very nearly led to that when he named Mpezeni as the heir; Mtwalo as second in line and banished Mbelwa and his mother from Ekwendeni to start a new village. Chibambo is clear on the point that it was Ntabeni alone who brought on the catastrophe which followed.
‘This was done by Ntabeni to bring shame on Munene. But we shall see that this brought trouble on the whole tribe and led to three or four secessions. When Zwangendaba changed the official head wife and the succession of Mpezeni, the royal house became, as we have seen, that of Munene. The first-born child here was a girl named Lomagazi, and because the Ngoni law does not permit a female to succeed, Mwambera the brother of Lomagazi had become Zwangendaba’s real heir, despite Ntabeni’s revengeful plans’.10
The decade after 1848 saw both a weakening and a strengthening of the Ngoni: four major groups were hived off; Ntabeni died. Mgayi and Gwaza took it in turn to bring the migrants to a settled home. Mbelwa was installed paramount chief of those Ngoni who were still part of the main host, in the Henga valley at Ng’onga, near present Phwampa in the Rumpi District on the road from Jakwa to Livingstonia, between 1855 and 1857. Rangeley describes this occasion as if it was pregnant with dire and explosive consequences, with the warring regiments armed to the teeth, ‘with sweating hands gripping the razor-edged Ijoyi, not knowing whether the outcome of the meeting would be bloody affray…’.11 The evidence points in the other direction. The man who had master-minded the details for the occasion was Gwaza Jere, Zwangendaba’s loyal induna. He had:’a few years before made Mpezeni chief of his segment at Makukwe near present Tukuyu in Tanzania. To prevent civil war from breaking out when Mpezeni returned to the main host at Chidhlodhlo, Gwaza led Mbelwa and Mtwalo across the Nyika into the Henga valley. Here he offered the chieftainship to Mtwalo who promptly and firmly declined it. Mtwalo then took the feathers of the uluvi bird, ‘which are worn only by the chief, and he strode out into the company, and stuck them on Mwambera’s head, saying, “I choose you as chief, tomorrow you may if you wish it, make an end of me”‘.12 The Gwaza stroke of diplomacy is clearly evident: he had earlier installed Mpezeni as chief of a group; he had then led the rest away from an explosive situation. The feathers of the uluvi bird were hidden on Mtwalo’s person for some use. The words by Mtwalo were the final stroke in a diplomatic coup that has since then paid off in keeping the peace between the two senior groups of the Jere hierarchy. This understanding between the Mbelwa and Mtwalo segments has been one of the strengthening features of Ngoni politics in Malawi.
One other development tended to further strengthen the northern Ngoni: this was the departure westwards of Zwangendaba’s eldest son Ntuto, more popularly known as Mpezeni. With him went along his younger brother Mperembe who after many exploits in Bemba and Bisa country returned to join the northern Ngoni in the 1870s. But Mpezeni never returned. He went on to settle in eastern Zambia from where his warriors raided deep into Malawi as far as the central lakeshore area. Two of his segments, led by the founders of the present Mlonyeni and Zulu chieftainships, settled at Mchinji on the Malawi-Zambia border. It is ironical that Mpezeni whose removal from the main Malawi Jere host did so much to prevent recurring friction between the sons of Zwangendaba was himself deposed in 1898 by troops from Malawi after his son, Singu, had led an abortive rising against the increasing European influences in his father’s new home.13
It is not possible here to deal with the succession episodes of the succeeding chiefs. It is sufficient for our purposes to say that when the successor to Mbelwa I was being chosen between 1891 and 1896 there were three candidates and a few complications. The spear at the graveside was held by a brother in the absence of an immediate resolution of the succession. When Mtwalo I died the holding of the graveside spear was entrusted to his son Yohane of the gogo house. There was again a case of lack of unanimity as to the rightful candidate but this was sorted out in a few years when the legitimate candidate was ready to assume his position. In 1915 the protectorate government deposed the northern Ngoni paramount chief; sent him in exile from Mzimba to Nsanje and only allowed him to return in 192o as a village headman. But throughout this period the northern Ngoni recognized him alone as their paramount chief. He died without being reinstated by the government but he was always the people’s paramount chief. All these situations were successfully counteracted because of the lessons of the past; the roles of regents and rulers and above all by a fundamental respect for ordered discussion and discipline.
In the central kingdom of the Maseko Ngoni the paramount chief did not share his authority with any other member of his clan, though two clans were placed in a special functional relationship to the paramount. The Phungwako clan was the custodian of the paramount’s ‘medicines’ and the Ngozo clan provided the paramount with a personal companion whom Margaret Read refers to as the royal shadow.14 The succession to the chieftainship derived from the inheritance which devolved upon the eldest son. Other criteria had to be satisfied: he should be the most suitable in the eyes of the people of the tribe; he had to be the son of a woman for whom dowry had been paid. He was nominated at a private meeting of principal and village headmen (later referred to as the alumuzana and the masenga). The nominated ruler was then presented to a public meeting where he was accorded the royal acclaim of Bayete. Mputa, the first Maseko paramount chief, had two important wives at Songea. The first wife was Namlangeni whose two children were Makwangwala (who was captured by the followers of Mhalule Gama after Mputa’s death and retained in Songea) and Manga who returned to Domwe under the regency of Mputa’s brother, Chidiaonga. The other was Nachikhumba, mother of Chikusi, who was the inkosikazi who later occupied the lusungulu village of Liwisini, east of the Kirk Range.
The Maseko chieftainship question was not a complicated one. From about 1855 to 1870 Chidiaonga brought his people back from Songea to Njowe near the Matope area of Chinamvuu and finally to Domwe. When Livingstone passed through the Kirk range area in 1863 he did not report on Ngoni devastations as he was to do in the case of his observations in the more northerly area. The Jere Ngoni were by then settled in the Henga and Kasitu valleys; the Maseko were not yet back from their return journey from Amatengo country. Chidiaonga successfully attacked the Yao under Kawinga at Kongwe and made a good collection of cattle. The Maseko power was consolidated by Chidiaonga who even pronounced on the chieftainship shortly before his death around 1876.
“Now I leave this country in the hands of the owner, because I was only appointed to keep it for him. This is your leader”. He sent for Cikusi and gave him his father’s spear, saying to him. “This country is yours”. He said to Cifisi his own son, “You, my son, do not struggle with Cikusi. He is the only paramount here“.’
The respondent went on to describe what happened after Cidiaonga’s death.
‘Cidyawonga we did not burn because he had cared for the Paramountcy. And when Cidyawonga died we put Cikusi in his place’.15
Yet almost immediately afterwards, Chikusi and Chifisi were at war with each other. Why should this have happened? Most writers mention a disputed succession;16 that Chifisi claimed the throne. His descendants of the Kachindamoto family follow this tradition of explanation; the Gomani group do not see it as a disputed succession but put it down to a misunderstanding of the military role assigned to Chidiaonga and his successors, that of head of the mjokozera war division. It is true that at a later stage both groups sought alliances with the Yao, chiefly with Mponda, but as this was in the 1880s it does not explain the Chikusi-Chifisi cleavage of the 1870s. Could the rift have started fundamentally because the Maseko were becoming less Ngoni oriented and ostensibly over the burial question?
The Maseko was one of two Swazi clans who did not bury their dead but cremated them “on flat stones near flowing water, and as the fire reached the head of the deceased chief, it is stated that a bird, the umnguphane, sacred to the clan, rose phoenix-like from the flames’.17 The testimony cited earlier says `Cidyawonga we did not burn because he had cared for the Paramountcy’. Did this mean that he was not cremated because he was only a regent or that he was such a good regent that burial and not cremation was decided upon? It is clear that not to cremate was a slight to the Maseko of that period. W. P. Johnson gives a dramatic account of the cremation of the Maseko Paramount, Mputa, at Songea:
‘His funeral seems to have been the last united act of his people and the Angoni. It must have been impressive. They blocked the water of the upper Lihuhu with stones, put the body of the chief in the skin of a newly killed bull, and burnt it in the dry bed of the river. The Angoni stood in crowds on the banks, all silent till the heat of the fire made the bones of the corpse crack; then together they beat their shields with their spears.’18
The clashes took place mainly when chiefs died (Chidiaonga 1876, and Chikusi and Chifisi in 1891). When Chikusi, who succeeded to Chidiaonga’s position, died, he was cremated. This is, at least, a more plausible reason for enmity than the frivolous explanation in another context that the unequal sharing of game one day during the march southwards in the post-Zwangendaba period had led to Mpezeni and Mbelwa dividing up the Jere kingship.19
Unlike the case of the northern Ngoni, there is no evidence that the regent Chidiaonga was responsible for the feuds which rent the Maseko Ngoni after his death. The fact that he held the regency for over ten years in an area where the Mtunda, the Ambo and the Ntumba were willing and eager to be Ngoniized because of lack of defences against the invaders did not help in the preservation of Ngoni customs and speech. The retention of the war machine was all that was necessary. The ease with which conquest was achieved did not necessitate the strengthening and projection of the Ngoni image. The first Ngoni characteristic to be lost was language. When R. C. F. Maugham accompanied the expedition against Gomani in 1896 he reported that the Ncheu Ngoni were all speaking Chinyanja. In 1901 a District Resident in the area observed as follows:
‘I found then that the language of the Ncheu natives was entirely Chinyanja. A few natives could understand Zulu; they used some Zulu songs and many of them still retained the Zulu war dress which they elaborated with bead work and used for dances. There were no Zulu place names or personal names.’
The same resident had earlier been posted to Nkhata Bay in 1897 to start the West Nyasa District administration. Of that area he noted:
‘I found that Zulu was the language of Mbelwa’s country. The Atumbuka of course retained their own language but for the most part could understand Zulu. The place names of the villages of the important chiefs were Zulu. Each large chief had his impi of warriors in Zulu war dress. The paramount chief held his indabas in his great cattle kraal. He was always greeted with the Zulu salutation Bayete’ .20
A smaller original following, a long period in the wandering stage among non-warring peoples who were docile and receptive, caused the language of the Maseko to go first. The succession dispute following Chidiaonga’s death must have gained from both the burial episode and from Chifisi’s belief, in largely non-Ngoni setting, that his direct filial descent combined with the long period of his father’s regency entitled him to compete in the succession stakes when Chidiaonga died.21
That was the first time when the Maseko throne was competed for by the descendants of both Mputa and Chidiaonga. Chikusi got the position through the laws of Ngoni inheritance by which his house stood in the direct line of succession. He was supported by Chifisi on this occasion and for a number of years the Ngoni factions lived in peace with Chifisi enjoying the position of military leader of the mjokozera war division. The intrusion of the Yao factor was in time to lead to disruption of this harmony. When Kawinga from Mt Chikala attacked Pimbi’s people in the Upper Shire, a place not far from the Maseko settlement, the Maseko answered Pimbi’s summons for assistance and repulsed,Kawinga in a united action.22 A few months later developments among the Mponda Yao were to lead to ultimate division within the Maseko ranks. In July, 1889 the ruling Mponda died and a dispute over the succession broke out. Malunda, the elder of the two sons of the late Mponda, looked around for alliances to overthrow the newly-installed chief. Liwonde and Kawinga responded; Chikusi refused.23 This earned him the gratitude of the ruling Mponda for future advantage. The attempt failed but it was the beginning of the rift between Chikusi and Chifisi as it afforded each the opportunity of ready-made rival camps in any future conflict. The opportunity came in 1891 when Chifisi died. Chikusi demanded the privilege of arranging for the funeral but this Chifisi’s successor, Kachindamoto, refused; the indecisive battle of Mwala wa Nkhondo followed even before Chifisi was buried. In the same year. Chikusi died and this time it was Kachindamoto’s turn to attack Chikusi’s successor, Gomani. After a series of campaigns which lasted three years and in which the fortunes of war fluctuated, Gomani’s forces were victorious. The decisive battle of Mlomo wa Nkhuku on Dedza plateau spelt the end of the unity of the Maseko kingdom of Mputa. The assistance which Gomani received from the Yao of Tambala and Mponda no doubt contributed to his victory. Territorial spheres of influence were demarcated with Gomani holding sway from Domwe to Lizulu and Kachindamoto to the north-east from Ntakataka to the lakeshore. Captain Edwards of the Protectorate armed forces sealed the peace pact between the descendants of Mputa and Chidiaonga in 1894 in true British fashion by making Gomani and Kachindamoto shake hands in public. The royal salute of Bayete and with it the position of paramount chief remained in the keeping of the Mputa line.24
Fission of the two main groups had now taken place introducing permanent peace between them. Thereafter each followed its own way in all social and political affairs. Where larger issues of Maseko import were concerned the Mputa line as the keeper of the royal inheritance took precedence. When Chikusi of the Mputa line died in 1891, there were two candidates from this line from among the six sons of Chikusi (Nkwaila, Zintambira, Kabango, Ziwisani, Gomani and Mandala). By now the house system of residence and inheritance was declining. Primogeniture was the first qualification. This Mandala satisfied but the selection councils found that two other qualifications were not met, viz., the dowry question and the candidate’s suitability on the grounds of character, temperament and personal relationship with subjects.25 The Alumuzana and Masenga councils ruled in favour of Gomani (Chatamtumba). One testimony points to Gomani’s victory at a public trial when the two candidates were made to stand each on one leg with the other foot resting on the knee, for the period of the cremation of Chikusi’s body.26 What is not disputed is that there were two candidates and that Gomani was adjudged to be the more suitable. Mandala is mentioned in the diplomatic intrigues which followed in the ensuing Gomani-Kachindamoto wars. He is reported to have entered into secret negotiations with Kachindamoto and Bvumbwe to wrest the throne but the plot does not appear to have succeeded. Bvumbwe fled southwards and Mandala relented. Mandala’s championship of the Gomani cause is listed as a decisive factor against Kachindamoto and his more substantial role was yet to be played when Gomani was killed in October 1896.
When Gomani I was shot by British troops at Dombole his son and heir, Zitonga, was two years old. He was born in the lusungulu village of Chikusi at Lizulu where the Queen Mother, Mai Namagagula presided. For a short while two regencies were set up comprising Gomani’s wife, Namlangeni and his brother, Mandala. This was short lived because, when a border commission delimited the Portuguese and British territories, Namlangeni and Mandala fled to the Portuguese side of the kingdom. Here they tried to raise an army but failed and the immediate members of the Gomani family were all arrested. They included Namlangeni, and the brothers Mandala, Nkwaila, Zintambira, Ziwisani and Kabango. Except for Zintambira who later returned to head the Maseko kingdom in Portuguese territory (where his descendant today holds the imposing but powerless title of king of Angonia) the rest died in captivity. It was only in 1906 that the headmen detained with them were released and allowed to return to both the Portuguese and British sides of Central Ngoniland. An interregnum existed between 1896 and 1921 during which the great mulumuzana or headman Chakumbira Ndau assisted by Mambeya Moyo looked after the affairs of the Gomani state. Zitonga received a European-style education through the sponsorship of a European friend of his late father, a hunter by the name of Walker. Zitonga succeeded to the Maseko paramountcy as Inkosi Gomani II in 1921.27
In spite of the succession disputes, and partly because of them, the inheritors of the mantles of Zwangendaba and Mputa weathered the storms of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in admirable fashion. The system would have collapsed had its custodians been less resilient.
1.This article is part of a larger study on the Malawi Ngoni for which I have received financial assistance from the University of Malawi with a small grant from the British Council. I wish to express my deep appreciation to them. In the field I have received assistance from the Paramount chiefs of the Jere and Maseko Ngoni, their amakosana and representatives; from District Commissioners and a whole host of informants at village levels.
Mr Petros Moyo, Ngoni historian himself, accompanied me on many trips. I am grateful, too, for the opportunity to research in the Public Record Office, the British Museum, the Royal Commonwealth Society Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Church of Scotland Library, the Malawi Society Library and the National Archives, Zomba. The Librarian and his staff at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, have been of greater help than I can acknowledge. I am grateful, too, for the helpful comments received from Professor Margaret Read, who pioneered studies on the Malawi Ngoni.
2. Hammond-Tooke, D., ‘The “other side” of frontier history; a model of Cape Nguni Political Progress’, in Thompson L. (Ed.) African Societies in Southern Africa (Heinemann, 1969) 235.
3. Fraser, Donald, Winning a Primitive People, (London 1914) 29.
4. George Williams to Dr Laws, December 1884. Missionary Letters, University of Edinburgh Library.
5. George Williams to Laws, 7 October 1886, U.E.L.
6. Research interviews conducted by Duncan I Nkhoma in the area of the Mzukuzuku chieftainship, 1968-9. Testimonies of Rev. P. Ziba, Rev. Charles C. Chinula, Petros Hlanzo Moyo.
7. For the village system and marriage customs of the Ngoni and Swazi see also Read, Margaret, The Ngoni of Nyasaland (London, 1955) 20—I and 48-9 and Kuper, Hilda, An African Aristocracy (London 1965), 54-5 and 92-4.
8. Young, Cullen, T., Notes on the History of the Tumbuka-Kamanga Peoples (London, 1932) 113-17; Elmslie, W. A., Among the Wild Ngoni, (London 1899) 27; Chibambo, Y. M., My Ngoni of Nyasaland (London n.d.) 27; Barnes, A. J., Politics in a Changing Society, (London 1934) 21.
9. This evaluation belies the undoubted success of the Mtwalo chieftainships in the villages of Ekwendeni, Ezondweni, Emanqalingeni and Emchayachayeni. Mtwalo I ruled his own village from about 1855 until he died in October, 1890. His successor and son Muhawi Amon Mtwalo was born in 1873 at Uswesi, east of Coma Mountain. He was installed chief on 15 June 1896 and after a very long and successful period of rule he died at Ezondweni on 1 April 1970, having been in office for 74 years. A fuller account of Mtwalo II and M’Mbelwa II is under preparation.
10. Chibambo, 28-9.
11. Rangeley, W. H. J., `Mtwalo’, Nyasa. .7., 5 (r), 1952, 64.
12. Chibambo, 34-5.
13. T. W. Baxter, ‘The Angoni Rebellion and Mpezeni’, N. Rhodes. .7., xi, 1950, 14-24. Mpezeni was reinstated after being in exile for a year. He died on 21 October 1900. The brother who had accompanied him away from Malawi, Mperembe, died in October, 1909 and was the last of the sons of Zwangendaba.
14. Read, 61.
15. Read, 55.
16. Read, 55.
17. Kuper, 86, fn.’.
18. Johnson, W. P., Nyasa The Great Water. Being a description of the Lake and the Life of the People. (London 1922) 105.
19. Field, Annis, S., Visiilano, (1940) 16.
20. Cardew, A. C., the Resident, commenting in a letter to Ian Nance, District Commissioner, 8 November 1952. Cardew noted the testimony of an old man named Yakobe who was born about the time Chidiaonga arrived at Domwe about 1870. Yakobe obtained the information, which he passed on, from his parents and others who would have had first-hand knowledge of the position. `Yakobe says that when Chidiaonga Maseko arrived at Domwe the natives of the Ncheu District were Amalawi, Ambo and Ancheu. These people never learnt Chingoni. When Chidiaonga came he made war upon them and subdued them and ruled them from Domwe. He raided them occasionally for recruits for his army, slaves, wives, etc., but even people thus captured did not learn Chingoni. He did not put indunas in the Ncheu District and the Angoni did not settle in the District. He merely ruled the District from Domwe sending warriors to enforce his orders when necessary.’ Cardew to Rangeley, so December 1952, Rangeley Papers M.S. of the Society of Malawi. These Papers are being edited by the writer by direction of the Society of Malawi.
21. One tradition states that Chidiaonga betrayed Mputa in the struggle with the Mhalule Gama in Songea and was responsible for Mputa’s death, after which he seized the chieftainship. Chifisi’s claim to succeed would be strengthened by this seizure.
22. Acting Consul Buchanan to Marquis of Salisbury, 29 January 1889. Accounts and Papers, Vol. 72, 1889, 285. P.R.O.
23. Accounts and Papers, Vol. 72, 213-14. The old Mponda who had ruled from 1886-89 had found it convenient to pay tribute to Chikusi as a guarantee for immunity against Ngoni raids. Hanna, A. J., The Beginnings of Nyasaland and North-Eastern Rhodesia, 1859-1895, (Oxford, 1956) 73. On page 186 Hanna notes that from 1889 to 1891 there had been sporadic fighting between Mponda and Chikusi’s Angoni. This could only refer to the support which was being given by different groups in the Chikusi kingdom to the factions which existed in the Mponda chieftainship.
24. Dedza District Notebook, Vol. I, 1907 and the Ncheu District Notebook, Vol. I, 5907, National Archives, for the details of the conflict.
The Manser-Bartlett Papers in the University of Malawi Library refer to the conflict and follow closely the version in the above named District Notebooks. The late Mr Bartlett must have referred to them. The information has been supplemented by personal interviews conducted in the Gomani and Kachindamoto areas.
25. Ncheu District Notebook Vol. I, 1907 records that Mandala, the eldest son of Chikusi, was passed over as the headmen considered him of too fierce and turbulent a nature to hold sway over them, for they were afraid that he would oppress and even slay some of his own people; Chatumtumba on the other hand, was of a milder disposition, and on that account found favour with them.’ N.A.Z.
26. This contest is not borne out by a testimony recorded by Margaret Read, which nevertheless gives details of Gomani ‘standing on one leg with a shield in his hand’. Read, 57.
27. I am grateful to Inkosi Willard Gomani III and to his court historian, Bambo Kaizokaya Dolozi, for some of the details on which this section is based.