• June 3rd, 2020

Bwabwata and the Yeyi ancestral land claims … A response to Dr Sazita and Dr Lwendo

Prof. Makala Lilemba

The rationale of this response to the article authored by Dr Lwendo and Dr Sazita on the ancestral claims of Bwabwata, which appeared in New Era of 19 July 2019, is not to demean the research findings of the two scholars but to bring out the other historical and academic perspectives. 

What is discussed on page 159 quoted by the scholars are Lewanika’s boundaries and the tribes under his rule in 1890. Lyiyeyi does not feature anywhere on this page. The real text is: “The Mayeye (Mayei) are said to be found along the Zambezi between that river (Zambezi) and the Chobe.”

In research, it is also possible to overlook some points of importance. In this case the scholars seemed to have overlooked other terms and names applied to the Zambezi Region over the years like Divanga, Linyanti, Luyana Country, Kololo Country etc. 

They concentrated on Lyiyeyi, giving the impression that the region had only one name all along. After the Anglo-Germany Treaty or Heligoland Treaty of 1890, though colonial in nature the then Caprivi Strip was known as Germany Barotseland, Germany Zambezi Region, Germany Bechuanaland or just Caprivi Zipfel (Kruger, 1984.) 

Another perspective is to assume that the whole region was named DiYei. Tlou (2002: 11) mentions that the BaYei were the first Bantu speakers to emigrate to the Kavango Delta from their home in DiYei, also called Ngasa (Nkasa), which is the area just east of the confluence of the Zambezi and the Chobe Rivers, (now within the Caprivi Strip). 

This by implication does not mean that the whole Zambezi Region was named DiYei. In fact, the Mayeyi only settled at Nkasa and moved to other places later in the region. The method of effective occupation or settlement may not work here, as the Yeyi did not occupy the whole area at once. 

In his English and Silozi dictionary, O’Sullivan (1993:v) does not include the Yeyi during the arrival of the Aluyi in the Bulozi Plain in the sixteenth century, but mentions that the territory was already inhabited by Nkoya, Totela, Subiya and Mashi. However, O’Sullivan indicates that the Yeyi, with other groups, were later found west of the Zambezi. In addition, Mainga (1973:11) and Pretorius (1973) do not include the Yeyi in the groups incorporated into the Luyana kingdom by Ngombala, the sixth Luyana King around 1740 at Linyanti (now Sangwali). 

Recently in his book, Katanekwa (2016:23) on mentioning the languages spoken in Western Province of Zambia and Namibia lists among others Silozi, Mbukushu, Subiya, Totela and Fwe but Yeyi is missing. 
Nevertheless, the authors are correct by indicating that the San have a legitimate claim to Bwabwata, as the early inhabitants in the rest of Southern Africa has been the Khoisan. But to assume that Bwabwata is only a Yeyi name is not convincing as the same concept is found among the Sifwe-speaking people, meaning careless talking. Mukwe, on the other hand, is also found in the Sifwe terminology, meaning mother or daughter-in-law. Are there Yeyi remnants in Bwabwata? Of course, there are still San and Fwe communities in Bwabwata today.

From historical and academic perspectives, it is equally compelling to look at the quarrel between King Lewanika of the Lozi and King Sekgoma of the Tawana after 1895, over the area, which was between Andara and Luiana. 

Lewanika claimed the whole area west of Bulozi up to Andara, because historically, the Mbukushu belonged to Bulozi, to the time they lived in Katima Mulilo within Bulozi (Tlou 2002; 128) before Mwanambinyi fought them and forced to flee to Andara (Jalla, 1969). Sekgoma wrote [to] Lewanika threatening to fight him if he dared contest his claim over Mbukushu country: “You have the Mashikolumbwe, the Mankoya, the Matonga; they are quite enough for you. I must have the Mampukushu [HaMbukushu]. If you will not give them, I will go myself and take them.”

It will be useful if the whereabouts of the Yeyis could be established during these periods. Were they in Ngamiland or in Bwabwata living with the San? It is therefore perhaps compelling to assume what Tlou (2002:12) says that when the Yeyi were forced to emigrate they settled in peaceful Ngamiland.

* Prof. Makala Lilemba works for the University of Barotseland in Zambia.

Staff Reporter
2019-08-09 08:04:43 | 9 months ago

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