• December 11th, 2019

Historical Yeyi claims by Dr Lwendo and Dr Sazita


Prof. Makala Lilemba 

Migration across the African continent led to conquests, incorporation, interaction and total assimilation of communities. When the scramble for Africa supervened, many communities found themselves on both sides of the border. Scholars conducting research on such communities should exercise rationality rather than emotionality, objectivity rather than subjectivity, and finally avoid distortion of facts. In the world of academia, it is necessitous and health to disagree over research findings, but that should be done in an academic and professional manner. Academic research should not be antagonistic, hedonistic, demeaning and non- propagandistic.

In the academic discourses by Dr Lwendo and Dr Sazita in New Era, on the historical whereabouts of the Yeyi, though supported by both oral tradition and documentary literature, could equally have limitations. 
The scholars are not the primary but secondary sources of information about the Yeyi. Being members of the Yeyi community makes their presentation even more vulnerable to subjectivity. 

When confronted about the whereabouts of their community during a particular period, the response is self-defence persuading the consumers that their findings are true reflections of the researched subject. There is no perfect research, hence, researchers always appeal to other scholars to employ more methods. Mainga (1973:xii) states that oral evidence is also constantly in need of re-evaluation in the light of written material and the ever-changing forces which affect the general environment within which it is contained and transmitted. In addition, documented African history has a Eurocentric flavor, and equally pose some shortcomings. It is unacademic and scholarly arrogant to refer to another scholar as short on history or any field or subject being discussed. 

If the facts have been overlooked, that should be regarded as a gap in literature, which other scholars should explore. Researchers and scholars need not be silenced and intimidated through propaganda, as their job is to provide information to solve issues. There are many unsubstantiated claims and counterclaims pertaining to the Zambezi Region, which need genuine scholarly solutions. No one refutes the existence of the Yeyi community in Namibia. I personally informed one elder from their community to research on a particular Yeyi village in Lukona, Western Province of Zambia. One wonders whether this information can be corroborated with Mainga (1973:169), who mentions of Yeyis in Likone village in Kashembe Sinumuyambi Silalo, Mongu-Lealui district. 

Where were the Yeyis when Mwanambinyi attacked the Mbukushu, the Subiya and the Toka at Katima Mulilo (Jalla 1969:16) although Mainga (1973:28) only mentions the attack on the disorganized Mbukushu and MaSubiya? This is a crucial period because that was the starting point of the Luyana kingdom when the first male ruler, Mboo Mwanasilundu was king. Mwanambinyi was Mboo’s younger brother, and the two were struggling over the kingship. If the Yeyis were the early arrivals and significant in the Region, surely they could have confronted the Luyanas of Mwanambinyi during this time. However it is quite interesting that Tlou (2002; 15) mentions the migration of the Yei and Mbukushu as most significant historical events in Ngamiland prior to the Tawana period and settled at the Okavango Delta.  According to Kruger (1984; page 41 of Chapter 2), “From Fortune my Foe” by J.P.R. Wallis at page 155: Charles John Anderson at Lake Ngami in July 1855 –“…they came upon a village inhabited by Bayeye, the former owners of the country; they had been subjugated by Lecheletebe’s father and were known as Bakobas or Makobas. The term Makoba is derogatory and unfortunately casually used to refer to the Yeyis in Botswana even today. 

Mainga (1973; 159, 169) mentions the Yeyi community under Lewanika and her paternal grandfather, a representative Induna among the Mbukushu on the Linyanti (Chobe, Mashi or Kwando) River, who when in 1886 was moved to Lealui brought a Yeyi woman (possibly a former slave) accompanied by others. One would assume that Mainga being a historian would have prompted the origin of the Yeyi community considering the fact that her paternal grandfather has married a Yeyi woman. 

On the Zambezi Region being termed Lyiyei, it is equally strange that Kruger who served the region three times; during the 1930s, in the 1960s and lastly in the 1970s does not entertain the name. As a matter of fact, he states on page 4 of Chapter 3 in his unpublished book, History of the Region, “…I am aware that the Paramount Chief in the Germany territory, Mamili of Mamili, is well aware of this fact. His promotion to the position of the head of the Germany Barotses when the country is definitely occupied might, under favourable circumstances enable us to keep those native tribes which are composed of Maijes and Masubias (the latter have given their name to the country in the native language…”Maijes in this case is Mayei, possibly written in Afrikaans. What is Kruger acknowledges here is that the Masubias had a native name for the Zambezi Region. Surely if the region was named Lyiyei, Kruger the Resident Commissioner then would have mentioned that.

In the similar vein to assume that the region was called Lyiyei when Streitwolf arrived in the region in 1909, is equally questionable. Was Luhonono (formerly Schuckmansburg) part of Lyiyei, where he set his administration station? What about Sibbinda, Singalamwe, Mwanota, Muyako, Ibbu and even Ngoma? Can the cenotaphs of Hakunzi, Qhunku, Qhunkunyane, Hacharo, Zangoshe, Zamxumu and Matsharatshara (Tlou 2003; 13) be identified in the Zambezi Region today? The scholars know the graves of Sebitwane, the Kololo who conquered Bulozi around 1830 and buried in Sangwali on 7 July 1851, and that of his son, Sekeletu at Malengalenga. 

Finally, I respect the findings and personal views of the two scholars. I applaud their resilience in their pursuit of the history of their community. I would appeal to scholars to document histories of their communities bearing in mind that Namibia is a nation.

* Prof. Makala Lilemba - The University of Barotseland, Mongu, Zambia.


Staff Reporter
2019-09-27 09:43:15 | 2 months ago

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