• June 2nd, 2020

The Yeyi ancestral land claims – A response to Prof. Makala Lilemba

Dr VN Sazita and Dr SB Lwendo 

The intention of the scholar in response to the scholars who wrote regarding the article published on 19 July 2019 was not to demean the research findings of the said two scholars, but was for him to bring out the other historical and academic perspectives. 

Accordingly, the scholar argues that what the two scholars alluded to on page 159 which is an unknown source to the reader is noted in which he talks about the Lewanika’s boundaries and tribes under his rule in 1890. He states that the Lyiyeyi does not feature on his unknown quoted source of page 159. In our response to this, we confirm the fact that Liyeyi is the area which Mainga (1973:159) mentions because the Mayeyi are the only people who first entered that region between the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers and occupied it as alluded to by the scholar and highly supported by all historians who write on this matter. 

On this matter, the scholar stated that the Mayeye (Mayeyi) are said to be found along the Zambezi between that river (Zambezi) and the Chobe. In response to his argument we maintain that indeed the Mayeyi are the occupants of that area. 

This is supported by the fact that on Wednesday, 1 June 1853, a Yeyi Chief, Tso (Cho) from whose name the Chobe River is derived was met by Dr. David Livingstone during his expedition. Tso is the name of the river from which the name of the Yeyi Tso comes from. Tso is current Chobe River as renamed on the same basis by the Tswana. 

The Yeyi pronounce Tso as Chō. The first time Livingstone came here was on Wednesday, 1 August 1851. This day was a day that stunned Livingstone, because when people came to give tributes of corn to the chief, they were dancing the whole day (Schapera, 1960:147). According to us, the scholar is dwelling on contemporary history regarding the boundaries that were decided by Lochner Concession on 1 July 1890 while we are addressing ancient history. 

According to Mainga (1973:1-4), the Western Province borders with the Caprivi Strip of South West Africa in the south. The area ‘Barotseland’ is located in the south western part of the Republic of Zambia. Today, it is referred to as Western Province and was formerly (from 1964 to 1969) the Barotseland Province. Barotseland is adjacent to Angola, Zambia’s western neighbour, the border between them only being finalized in 1905. 

The King or Litunga of the Barotse/Lozi maintains his capital at Lealui, four hundred miles west of the ‘line of rail,’ and substantially isolated from the rest of the country. Other areas, especially to the north and east were conquered by 18th - 19th centuries Lozi Kings. British protection was first brought to the area as a result of the Lochner Concession, a Treay between the Barotse Litunga and the British South Africa Company on 1 July 1890. 

The scholar stated that “in research it is also possible to overlook some points of importance. The scholar on this point argues that the two scholars seemed to have overlooked other terms and names applied to Zambezi region over the years. He further argued that the scholars concentrated on Lyiyeyi giving the impression that the region has only one name. According to us; all those terms and names the scholar alluded to are contemporary history and not ancient history. There is no place which does not have original people. 

Therefore, illustrating the map of Bulozi Proper or Ngulu, Mainga (1973:3) lists the following places along the Zambezi River in western Zambia as falling under Barotseland: Silonga; Sibeta; Luena Flats; Limulunga; Lealui; Mongu; Sefula; Namushakende; Nalolo (Mafulo) [Forest Capital, now Muoyo]; Itufa; Senanga; Sitoti; Sesheke; Kalabo; and Lukona. From this list Caprivi Strip does not form part of Barotseland and according to this map the influence of the Barotse was only in Zambia. 

We are not interested in talking about the Bulozi and Zambian history which the scholar finds to be supportive information to his research, but the area under contention is the Bwabwata. The Yeyi arrived earlier in Bwabwata and named it with that name and then they proceeded to the land between the Zambezi and the Chobe Rivers, which they also named as Lyiyeyi after their name, present day Zambezi Region (Mainga 1973:159) and the Mbukushu referred to that name as Diyeyi (land or country of the Yeyi people (Tlou & Campbell 1980; 1983). 

The Yeyi and the San have a far much better claim over that area. We listened to the allegations by the academic that the Yeyi are the only inhabitants of Bwabwata in which allegations the academic links the names such as Mukwe and Bwabwata are in Sifwe terminologies. We are disputing that because this does not bear any truth because the Mafwe speaking Sifwe language as the academic alleges have never lived in Bwabwata and that is the truth. 

Bwabwata for Yeyi terminology does not refer to careless talking. Careless talking in Yeyi is bwabwatika and not bwabwata. We agree with the scholar that mukwe and bwabwata as he mentioned mean like that in Sifwe language. But the real truth is that there is no history that links the Mafwe in that area.

As the scholar argues that the dispute between Sekgoma of Bechuanaland and Lewanika of Barotseland claiming that the whole west of Bulozi up to Andara, because historically, Mbukushu belong to Bulozi, to the time they lived in Katima Mulilo within Bulozi as he cites (Tlou, 2002: 128) before Mwanambinyi fought them and forced them to flee to Andara citing Jalla (1969); we wish to point it out to the scholar that in the first place the citing of Adolph Jalla 1969 is misleading as this author is Jalla (1959) and not 1969. We wish to inform the scholar that Sekgoma was interested in hunting in the areas and not territorial expansionism as in the contrary to Lewanika, who also was deposed of his throne as a Lozi King in 1882 and the war to bring him back to the throne in 1885 was assisted by the Mbukushu and other tribes.   According to the scholar’s question about the whereabouts of the Yeyi and the San, it seems to us that the scholar runs short of history because from May 1879, the Mbukushu, Totela, Subiya, Mashi, Nkoya and other tribes were dislodged from their tribal occupations in Zambia and came into the Lyiyeyi thus meeting the Yeyi here. Some of the Yeyi were still in Kavango, some in Ngamiland and some in the Lyiyeyi through to Kazunula and proof of which exist as stated earlier of the names they gave to places in those areas. According to our observations, the scholar is more knowledgeable on the contexts of the contemporary history than digging deeper beyond that in the far away past (ancient) of history. The scholar is at liberty for any further factual historical knowledge about the history of Bwabwata to seek help where need be from the elderly and scholars of history who are not biased to enlighten him further on this issue. 

Of the Yeyi and San of Kavango during all the years the Whites like the Commissioners and certain masters kept on asking the following question:

“You members of the royal lineage (of Shambyu), whom did you find in this country [when you immigrated]? The Shambyu replied saying: “Djo (Yeyi) or Bushmen (San) whom we found here.” It was fish and game that brought them here. Otherwise, they found that country empty of people. There was nobody” (Redinha in Rudolph, 1974; McKittrick, 2008: 798).

We wish to bring to the attention of the scholar that when the Makololo came into Lyiyeyi they fought the Yeyi and conquered them and killed their Chief Kuratawu (which means you do not answer) in 1830. There were no other tribes as the scholar alluded to. When the Makololo crossed the Zambezi River, they went to fight all the Aluyi or Luyana, which means foreigners as they were originally known in Zambia and not in this area. Lozi means plain (a flat area void of vegetation) and Bulozi means the land in the plain and Malozi mean people who live in the plain. Livanga means vegetation.

Staff Reporter
2019-08-23 08:00:35 | 9 months ago

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