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Opinion - Matotela and the breakaway urge

2020-11-27  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Matotela and the breakaway urge

The urge for the Matotela to break away from the Mafwe mainstream needs serious interrogation as the Mafwe can no longer afford another split. It is therefore important to know which part of the Matotela want to break away and for what purpose as they are not a homogenous group but composed of clear and distinctive cliques with different linguistic phonology.

Bena Chilao (baSilabo corrupted to BaSilao) termed so because they were responsible for paddling the canoes of the Luyana kings. Simayamba and Silulenga are the early ancestors of this group. This group is the appropriate name-bearer of the term Matotela of which the word “totela” is derived from the Silozi verb “tota” meaning trot or walk briskly. By carrying heavy loads, these people would trot in order to reach their destinations quickly and offload, hence were nicknamed Matotela, “those who trot under heavy load.” Their origin is Sioma and places of Nangula (Bukwangwa) in Western Province of Zambia.

Bena Luhani lived together with Siyanga of the Liombokelo, in Sioma and later moved in the region through hunting. The term after which this group is named literally means “people living in the mopane (omusati) trees or thicket”, possibly given to them by their Fwe neighbours, where there were no such shrubs for many years.

Brief historical background: O’Sullivan (1993) records that when Aluyi arrived in Ngulu Plain around the sixteenth century, they found the Mashi, Masubiya, Matotela and Nkoyas. Fisch uses the term Mbalangwe referring to the people in the district of Kaliyangile where Streitwolf found in 1909 (Fosse, 1996, Fisch, 1993) but these people are Totelas of Silao not Mbalangwe.

Unclear purpose for the breakaway urge: Being a Totela myself, it is not clear about the main purpose of the urge to break away from the Mafwe mainstream. The advocacy that the Matotela are being marginalised does not hold water because they have benefited from both traditional and political dispensations. Early missionary work was started at Kabanga, (present day Njangula Village) before Sibbinda Primary School was opened. The missionaries received less cooperation from the community and the evangelical work had to close. Sibbinda Primary School was set to be opened in the same village, but the community again resisted and the current location was bargained because of its centrality. During the Bantustan period, more than two Totelas served as members of the legislature. Like any community in the country before Independence, Totelas were equally denied good education but were very lucky, as they were not harassed in large numbers by the racist security forces and few joined the liberation struggle in exile. Therefore, Totelas disappropriately benefited significantly after Independence as three councilors of which one of them became the Governor of the Zambezi Region came from this group. To these councilors, add one Minister who has been serving in cabinet for almost twenty years. Matotela benefited more than the Chixhu-Kongola-Kalubi-Kongola-Sikaunga-Singalamwe group, which braved the liberation struggle, yet do not appear in the echelons of power after Independence. It is like a Lozi from Western Province of Zambia accusing Bembas for the underdevelopment in Bulozi when there were four Lozi Ministers in a cabinet of 16 at independence in 1964! Even now, there are more Totelas in Sibbinda Constituency than other groups that if they organize themselves, surely they could be scooping the constituency every election.

The Linyanti Khuta factor: The Linyanti Khuta is not blocking development among the Totelas. In fairness, the Linyanti Khuta does not dish out projects and jobs to its subjects but maybe play as interventionist role if its subjects are victimized. It is only fair to point out that developmental projects and jobs are handled by government agencies. Cabinet ministers and councilors end up in their positions through democratic elections and not being appointed by the Khuta. After independence, all Namibians are competing for resources and positions hence the need for communities to send their children to school. There are schools in the country and bursaries and loans for every deserving learner are available. 
The Totelas should blame themselves for electing councilors who fail to deliver on their promises. It is perhaps time that Namibians should start looking into the philosophy of education for self-reliance as championed by Nyerere in 1967, the first Tanzanian President. Following this mode of education, Totelas and all Namibians can make drastic changes in their areas if they take education seriously. 

Unity indispensable: Even if the Totelas split, it is highly probable that they will further disintegrate into smaller units again.  For example because of disunity, there are two districts in Kasheshe area (Mbeha and Maulukupeka). Bitto and Sachinga are tearing each other apart over Kopano Quarantine benefits, Sikubi and Nampengu of late were wrangling over the indunaship. Sikosinyana just joined the fray of in-fighting, a trend which has become common among the residents of the Former Tar Road. When other areas are planning about developments, these residents are busy with finger pointing and fail to see the cause of their underdevelopments. For many years, government could not build a clinic at either Sachinga or Kaenda because there was a tug of war between the two districts. Liselo and Kalala indunas have been involved in dubious deals of selling land to people who do not pay their allegiance to the Linyanti Khuta. Breaking away will not unite the Totelas at any point, as some seem to think. 

The royal ingredient in the Totelas: The founders of the present Lozi (Aluyi or Aluyana) dynasty around 1740 incorporated within their kingdom among other groups the Totelas and Shanjos (Mainga, 1973; O’Sullivan 1993).  In this way, Matotelas have benefitted and also linked to the royalty of which Kazuba, Namucana Namitaa, Chilazo and the current queen from Kasheshe were married into the Mamili Royal House. In addition, the Totelas had the longest serving Ngambela, Musialela Kachana, to lead the Linyanti Khuta.


2020-11-27  Staff Reporter

Tags: Khomas
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