Zambia is in south-central Africa. It has a a land area of over 750,000 sq km. It is larger than France but smaller than Turkey. The population is about 14.5 million, with half the population below 15 years. There are 20 National Parks and many conservancies. Other tourist destinations include the Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba.
This website shows you around the country and some of its attractions. Most of the photographs are ours, unless we state otherwise. They are not the best so my advice is to come and take your own …
Every month we will publish a newsletter on what has happened around the regions.
We hope you find it informative. Please contact us if you find anything wrong or missing.
Air borders are at Lusaka and Livingstone.
Airlines flying into Lusaka: Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Rwanda Air, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Namibia, Fastjet, KLM, Air France, British Airways
Road borders near Livingstone are Victoria Falls (from Zimbabwe), Kazungula (from Botswana) and Katima Mulilo (from Namibia). Near Siavonga there is a border over the dam wall and one at Chirundu, both from Zimbabwe. For the north, Nakonde is the border to Tanzania. To the east, the border with Malawi is Mchinji, southeast of Chipata.
Passport holders from Southern Africa do not need to pay for a visa. Other passport holders are required to pay US$50 for a single visa, US$80 for a double. However, if you cross the border at Victoria Falls, Kazungula, Livingstone or Lusaka Airports you can request for a KAZA visa. This is US$50 and allows the visitor to cross the border to Zimbabwe or Botswana several times during their stay.
Make sure when you are driving into Zambia that either the vehicle is your own property or that you have documentation to prove that you are allowed to use the vehicle.
First job is to fill in a Temporary Import Permit. Sometimes you can be asked for Interpol clearance.
Next is Carbon Tax payment payable at Customs. This is between K50 and K200.
Next is Toll Fee, payable at another counter. This is around US$20.
At another counter, usually outside the main building, is the insurance office. You will need third party insurance for the vehicle. This is around K100.
Finally, some borders have a local Council office which requires visitors to pay a Council levy. This is around K25-50.
You may need to pay in kwacha. Hopefully there is a bureau de change or a bank at the border. You are advised not the use street money changers.
The currency of Zambia is the kwacha, coins are ngwee. Foreign currency and credit cards are accepted in most hotels/lodges. There are bureaus de change and banks in most towns with ATMs throughout the country which accept Visa; some Mastercard.
Zambia is a malaria area. It is recommended that visitors take anti-malaria medicine as prescribed by a doctor. Travel insurance is advisable and make sure that it easily found by fellow travellers.
If you have a medical problem when in Zambia, Specialty Emergency Services has a Call Centre (24 hours). Phone them on 737. This company has offices in Livingstone, Lusaka and Kitwe. But they will fly anywhere to assist but visitors have to have the right insurance.
- Getting Around
Proflight, Zambia’s Independent Airline flies between Lusaka, Livingstone, Mfuwe (for South Luangwa), Jeki and Royal (for Lower Zambezi), Kalabo (for Liuwa Plain), Ndola, Kitwe and Solwezi (for the Copperbelt, and Kasama, northern Zambia.
Buses run between all major towns.
For drivers, the speed limit in towns is officially 40, but there are signs of 50/60 kph so just keep to the speed limit as indicated. On main roads it is 100 kph. Most roads between towns are tar and in reasonable condition. It is not advisable to drive in the dark, so plan all trips to arrive in daylight. All roads within parks are dirt tracks, some better than others. Fuel is usually available in all towns of any size but keep your tank filled up in case there is a shortage.
There are over 70 languages or dialects in Zambia but the language of government and business is English.
The tourist industry is cosmopolitan with staff speaking many other languages.
Zambia has 20 National Parks. Two of them are very small – one in Lusaka and one in Livingstone. Of the other 18 some are known worldwide – South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue. Of the others, some are growing in popularity but some are stranded in limbo. We look at those with facilities on separate pages – Liuwa Plain, North Luangwa, Kasanka, Lavushi Manda, Nsumbu, Luambe, Lochinvar
Most of the parks are getting some outside assistance and we have shown the NGOs on their pages so that you can see their amazing contribution to Zambia’s wildlife estates.
Over the years outside help has come in to assist ZamParks in the conservation of our wildlife and the environment in which they live. Prior to that, parks were largely left unattended and poaching was rife. Unlike some other countries in the region Zambia did not encourage tourism so the importance of its natural heritage was not realised. Now that tourism is seen as one of the major players in any country’s economy, the government is encouraging help from NGOs.
Politically, the government cannot be seen to be spending money to protect wildlife when there are so many pressing needs of the people. Conservation is an expensive undertaking and it is not something that can be achieved in a few years. It is at least a 20-year plan.
Zambia has its famous parks which now teem with wildlife but there are others which are still waking up from the doldrums of the past. There are, though, major attributes of our parks – no visitor is going to queue up with another 20 vehicles to watch a lion; there are no tar roads; a GPS is essential equipment; there are no picnic sites or loos between camps – if you need to pee, have a good look round, and pee by the car, please do not go and hide behind a bush – you never know what might be there.
- This is a bit of a long story, so you should make a cup of coffee …
The land area now known as Zambia was once occupied by hunter-gatherers known as the Batwa. They were of small stature and used bows and arrows and hand axes with stone heads. They had no knowledge of iron or of domestic animals.
The history of the Bantu people, with their iron technology and domestic animals, who arrived over the centuries, is very difficult to pin down as their history relies on oral tradition. Also, an ethnic group would rarely name themselves; they would be named by other groups who came into contact with them. So sometimes the name of an ethnic group changed as years went by.
In order not to confuse myself I have taken the following information from Nick Katanekwa’s book: Zambia’s Outstanding Natural, Cultural & Historic Sites.
From 500 AD the first Bantu arrived via both sides of Lake Tanganyika and spread throughout now-Zambia. These were the Lungu, Mambwe, Tumbuka and Subiya.
The next wave of Bantu immigrants is thought to have come in via the Kafue River from Central Africa around 500-700 AD. These people included the Lenje, Soli, Tonga, Sala, Ila, Toka-Leya, Totela, Shanjo, Dombe, and Chewa. Around the same time the Luyana and Nkoya arrived into the west from now-Angola.
Around 1100 AD the Mbwela and Kaonde arrived in the northwest from Central Africa.
Between 1600 and 1700 AD the Lamba, Swaka, Lala, Bisa, Kunda, Nsenga, Shila, Bwile, Tabwa, Chishinge, Ushi and Bemba arrived in the north and the northwest. The Lunda arrived in the west.
Another wave of immigrants arrived from the north and the west from 1700 onwards – the Luvale and the Lunda. They came to the northwest of our region.
Finally we have two groups which arrived in our area from the south between 1830 and 1840. These two groups had fled from Shaka’s rule in south Africa (Shaka was the Zulu Chief). One group, the Ngoni, crossed the Zambezi River into the east of the area. They settled near present-day Chipata.
The other group, called the Kololo, settled in the west.
These ethnic groups either lived as loosely connected families speaking the same language or they had a central organisation. There was plenty of space for all of them and there was little conflict until the advent of the slave trade.
The slave trade did not affect the western part of now-Zambia as the dominant Kololo/Lozi tribe did not want to lose the people – they were needed to work on the farms. There were plenty of attempts by slavers from the west coast but most were rebuffed.
In the east of now-Zambia, things were a lot different. The slave trade had been ongoing for hundreds of years along the east coast as slaves were taken to work on farms. The slavers moved more and more inland to find slaves, reaching our area in the late 1700s. The slavers brought not only calico and beads for trade but also guns. And these guns brought turmoil as ethnic groups vied for control of the trade in slaves and ivory.
This was how David Livingstone found now-Zambia when he explored the region between 1855 and 1873. It was through his lectures on the trade in Britain that the government was urged to do more to end the trade in slaves. Interestingly David Livingstone often found himself in the company of the slavers as it was through them that he could travel across a largely unknown area of central Africa.
In theory the slave trade had been ended by Britain by the Abolition of Slavery Act 1833 which did not allow any trade in people throughout the British colonies. However, without ‘boots on the ground’ it was difficult to end the trade in practice.
It was not until the Scramble for Africa in the 1890s when European powers divided up Africa into spheres of influence, that the slave trade would finally be ended. The British were in our area from around 1890. Nyasaland (Malawi) became a Protectorate in 1891.
From Harry Johnston, Imperial Commissioner of Nyasaland, in a report in 1894:
The armed forces in British Central Africa … consist of 3 European officers, 200 Sikhs, 40 Zanzibaris, 40 Arabs, 69 Makua (from Mozambique) and a number of irregulars …
In an attempt to end the slave trade, posts were set up at strategic locations. Abercorn (Mbala) and Fife (Nakonde) were on the Stevenson Road which ran from Lake Nyasa (Malawi) to Lake Tanganyika. From these and other posts or forts around the land, the slave trade was ended. This had largely been funded by Cecil Rhodes from Cape Town.
The British South African Company (BSAC), with Cecil Rhodes at the helm, was given a charter by the British Government between 1899 and 1924 to run the affairs of the two countries – North-Eastern Rhodesia and North-Western Rhodesia. There were rules on how and what the company could do in the country with British administrators in place to monitor the activities.
The BSAC developed the country for trade but BSAC was a company and required to make profits for the shareholders. The hope was that the copper found around Ndola and Kitwe would prove to be valuable, but the copper in Katanga, (now-Democratic Republic of Congo) under Belgium control was easier to mine, so attempts at mining in North-Western Rhodesia mostly failed.
The introduction of tax was a contentious issue. The Bantu people were not used to money – they bartered. They were used to paying ‘tribute’ which was an African tradition but this was paid in food or tools. At first tax could be paid in a chicken or some grain but finally everyone was required to pay in money. Waged work was not easy for most of the people. There were a few jobs on the farms and for the government but mostly the men found themselves on trains to work in the mines in Southern Rhodesia or South Africa. This meant that the men were often away when the farming had to be done. It had a dramatic effect on traditional societies.
In 1911 North-Western and North-Eastern Rhodesia were amalgamated into one country – Northern Rhodesia – with the capital in Livingstone. Only three years later, in 1914, the First World War broke out. With Northern Rhodesia Police only a fledgling unit, they had to protect the northern border with Tanganyika (Tanzania) and the south-west border along the Caprivi Strip (Namibia) both under German control.
In 1924 the Charter between the BSAC and the British government ended. The British government took control of the country as a Protectorate. It was now found that mining was economical – the war had meant that there was more need for copper in the world.
This map is based on one dated 1930
With the growth of the economy centred around the Copperbelt, there was a call for the capital of the country to be moved from Livingstone to a site closer to the main activity. This happened in 1935 and the capital became Lusaka.
In 1939 the Second World War broke out. By then the Northern Rhodesia Rifles had been formed. They fought in the war in Somaliland, Madagascar, the Middle East and Burma.
After the war, the economy of Northern Rhodesia continued to improve.
By now, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was a self-governing British colony (from 1923) with many white settlers who farmed, mined and traded. Only the white people were allowed to vote and there was segregation of the races. Nyasaland (Malawi) was also under British rule as another Protectorate. It was decided that the three countries should be formed into a Federation and this became a reality in 1953 with the capital at Salisbury (Harare).
That the Federation was doomed right from the start was mentioned by many. Both Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland were Protectorates which meant that, although the British government administered the countries, the internal affairs were generally run by the people. To lump these two countries together with such a different system of government in Southern Rhodesia was bound to cause friction.
During the Federation years Kariba Dam was built but it was felt that most of the income of the three countries, especially from mining in Northern Rhodesia, went to Southern Rhodesia to build that country.
It was not only the black people in Northern Rhodesia but also from the white people who had settled there, who called for the end of the Federation and Independence. The Federation ended in 1963; in 1964 Northern Rhodesia became Zambia.
Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo) became independent from Belgium in 1960 and was renamed Zaire.
Nyasaland became Malawi in 1964
Tanganyika became Tanzania (from Britain) in 1964
In 1965 Southern Rhodesia proclaimed Independence from British rule. From that time until 1979, Southern Rhodesia was in conflict.
Bechuanaland became Botswana (from Britain) in 1966
In 1966 Southwest Africa (Namibia) started its civil war which would continue until 1990. (Southwest Africa was being run by South Africa).
Angola became independent (from Portugal) in 1974. In 1975 the Angola Civil War started and would continue until 2002.
Kenneth Kaunda (United National Independence Party) became President of Zambia and remained in the office until 1991 – 27 years. These were difficult years for a young country; there was internal conflict in many of the neighbouring countries. The Cold War too was controlling much of the world with conflicts being bolstered in Africa by outside influences.
Probably the worst effect on Zambia was the closing of its trade route through Southern Rhodesia and to South Africa. It wasn’t until 1975 that a new trade route was opened to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania with a railway line.
Under Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia had become a one-party state and although there were elections, there was only one party to vote for. Most large companies were nationalised. Being land-locked trade was proving difficult and to compound the economic problems, Zambia became home for many refugees and continued to assist other countries in their calls for independence.
By the late 1980s, with Zambia’s economy in freefall, the people were calling for the end of the one-party state.
In 1991 Kenneth Kaunda stepped down and a new party, Movement for Multiparty Democracy came into power with Frederick Chiluba as President. Frederick Chiluba set about privatising many of the large and un-productive companies brought about by nationalisation. It is also under Frederick Chiluba that Zambia opened its borders to the outside world and began to encourage tourism. This, though, was a difficult concept for the people to understand as the country had been insular for so long.
Since Frederick Chiluba, Zambia has had several elections. Levy Mwanawasa was president for 6 years but died while in office. Rupiah Banda took over after Levy Mwanawasa’s death for 3 years. A new party was voted in during the 2011 elections – Patriotic Front – under the presidency of Michael Sata. Michael Sata also died in office after 3 years and his place has been taken by Edgar Lungu.
Zambia’s economy is still dependent on copper mining. Agriculture and tourism are growing.
I have some old photographs, courtesy of the Livingstone Museum. I am showing them below but I am not totally sure of all their locations. If you can help, please let me know.
Throughout this website you will see my ‘happy snappies’. They are meant to show you some interesting places around Zambia. But I have no claim to be even half-decent as a photographer.
If you want to shoot a giraffe or a lion with your camera, go ahead – they may even pose for you! However, it is not polite to take photographs of people without their permission. Similarly in towns officially it is against the law to take photographs of some buildings. So, please ask before you take your camera out.
If you would really like to see Zambia in a beautiful portfolio, have a look at Stephen Robinson’s photos:
Kingdoms of Zambia
The land we now call Zambia was inhabited by hunter-gatherers for over a million years. Once the Bantu people started to migrate into the land around 1300s they arrived in small family groups, spread out, farmed and kept themselves to themselves. This went of for about 300 years. We know little about these groups because their stories were not kept in oral tradition.
It wasn’t until more politically organised groups arrived in the area with their central organisation and common religious beliefs that the stories of their ancestors were kept and carried into the next generations through story-telling.
Because the stories have been handed down through oral tradition, they have changed over time. I have taken this information mostly from Zambia before 1890 by H W Langworthy.
The Chewa Kingdom
The Lunda Kingdom
The Bemba Kingdom
The Lozi Kingdom
The Ngoni Kingdom
- The Chewa
The first ethnic group which have handed down their history is that of the Chewa people of the east. Their kingdom originated from Makewana, southwest of Lake Malawi although it is thought that they originally reached there from the Congo dynasties. The people were called the Maravi. While there, two brothers fell out in a succession dispute, and one of them, Undi, left the area and moved west in the 1500s. He moved his palace to an area in present-day Mozambique at a place called Mano when they became known as the Chewa. Through trade and the clever use of family members, the successive Undi rulers enlarged the kingdom to cover land in present-day Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. After 200 years the empire covered a vast area right up to the confluence of the Luangwa and Zambezi Rivers.
The administrative system was one commonly used by kings in Africa. The king appointed chiefs in the outlying villages; the chiefs ruled over several headmen. The chiefs would generally be family members or would be married to one of the king’s relatives. Through this arrangement loyalty was preserved. Tribute was collected from all the people via the chiefs; it could be cattle, grain, tools, salt, elephant tusks. In exchange for tribute the king distributed items including cloth and other imports. The king was also in charge of spiritual matters including the ancestral shrine and ensured the good will of the gods. In the case of Undi his spiritual centre remained in Makewana.
The main trade for the Chewa was through the Portuguese along the Zambezi River who initially came to collect elephant tusks. By the 1700s the trade also included gold and slaves. This increase in trade was to cause conflict and the almost destruction of the kingdom. The Portuguese had trained and armed a group of ex-slaves, called the Chikunda. The Chikunda infiltrated Undi’s kingdom finding mines and capturing slaves, even venturing into Undi’s land to shoot elephants for their tusks. Through them the Portuguese were given land for mining gold. By the end of the 1700s trade in gold and slaves had increased to such an extent that the chiefs under Undi had started to trade independently, thus undermining Undi’s power.
The beginning of the end for Undi came with the Ngoni people from Zululand. The Ngoni were a warrior clan, arriving in the west of Undi’s kingdom in 1835. They caused much disruption but did finally move further north after a few years. In 1870, with more trained warriors, the Ngoni chief, Mpezeni, returned and waged war against Undi. Had it not been for the British and Portuguese colonists who claimed bits of Undi’s kingdom in the 1880s, the kingdom would have totally collapsed.
Nowadays Paramount Chief Gawa Undi is based in Katete. He holds an annual ceremony called the Kalumba Ceremony every year in August. Many Chewa people from Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi join him in the celebrations.
- The Lunda
While Undi’s kingdom took years to grow and become powerful, the kingdom of Mwata Kazembe around Lake Mweru was rapid. Mwata Kazembe was the son of Mwata Yamvo from the established kingdom in the Congo basin; he had been sent to extend the realm of the Lunda people. They had been informed that the land around Lake Mweru was fertile and there were plenty of fish in the rivers and lakes. Mwata Kazembe took his Lunda people to the area with an already established political system and good trade links through his father around 1700.
The Lunda could easily take over the clans already in the area because they had a good army with guns which had been imported from the west; their neighbours had no guns. Mwata Kazembe’s way of dealing with conquered people was to allow them to continue their normal way of life as long as tribute was paid.
Because this Lunda kingdom was more isolated than the Undi, they did not have direct links with the coastal trade and the Portuguese or Swahilis. They used intermediary traders to transport their goods. Trade to the west went via Mwata Yamvo and trade to the east was transported the Bisa people.
Successive Mwata Kazembes subdued the neighbouring clans, the kingdom being extended into parts of Zambia and DRC. By 1805 the kingdom had reached its largest size and power.
The kingdom was rich in many resources. Not only did they have plenty of food but they had copper, salt, elephants and slaves to trade.
During the time of the Lunda kingdom the Portuguese were making inroads into the interior. Two expeditions were sent by the Portuguese government to try to make trade links and treaties with Mwata Kazembe – Francisco de Lacerda came in 1798; Antonia Gamitto in 1831. Both were rebuffed.
David Livingstone visited in 1867 when he was already very weak and sick. Although he was in theory representing British interests, he was consumed with his exploration of finding the source of the Nile. He left Kazembe’s palace with a slave trader to make his way to Ujiji in present-day Tanzania to find new supplies … which, when he got there, had mostly been stolen …
The decline of the Lunda kingdom began with increased trade and internal conflict. A clan of people, the Yeke, under their Chief Msiri, managed to infiltrate the copper producing area to the west and cutting the link to the original Lunda kingdom; the Swahili continued their advances on the east. (The Swahili culture had spread all along the east coast for hundreds of years and was a mixture of Bantu and Arab influence with Islam as their religion.) By persuading tributary chiefs under Mwata Kazembe to trade independently, both the Yeke and Swahili were able to weaken the Lunda kingdom. By 1850 the state had been considerably reduced in size and power.
Nowadays, Senior Chief Kazembe holds and annual ceremony, the Mutomboko, in Kawambwa each year in July.
- The Bemba
The Bemba, under their Senior Chief Chitimukulu, lived in the middle of northern now-Zambia around Kasama. They migrated there from the Luba dynasty of the Congo basin around 1650. The land where they lived was not great. The soil was poor; there were no natural resources to exploit and they had no cattle, probably because of tsetse fly. Up until the early 1800s the Bemba had to rely on trade for tools and salt from their neighbours, but with little to trade, they had a serious problem. To the south of the Bemba were their cousins, the Bisa, who had better land and also became the go-betweens for the Lunda people and the Portuguese along the Zambezi River and the east coast. Neither the Bemba nor the Bisa had a central authority like the Lunda or the Chewa, each chief traded independently. Their Senior chief, Chitimukulu, was mainly responsible for religious affairs but did not demand tribute.
Over the years the Bemba became more militarily inclined and when their population increased to an extent which could not be supported by local resources, they decided to spread out.
They first moved north towards Lake Tanganyika and took control of the clans there; they moved to the west and took over parts of the Lunda kingdom. Expansion to the east was not possible as they came against the Zambezi Escarpment. Finally, they moved into the south and the Bisa area. They wanted access to the salt marshes and iron mines and also thought that they could take over the trade route the Bisa had built up between the Lunda and the east coast. Throughout this expansion, Chitimukulu’s power increased although his subordinate chiefs still operated independently. The main trading partners were the Swahili who came for elephant tusks and slaves in exchange for cloth and guns.
When Chitimukulu Chileshi Chepela came to rule in around 1835 he changed the succession rules; he insisted that it was only his family members who could become the next chief (previously any chief of any clan could vie for the position of Senior chief upon the death of the Chitimukulu). Chileshi Chepele ruled for 30 years and during his time, he brought the kingdom together by the clever use of placing his family members in the outlying districts.
The first threat to the Bemba kingdom came with the Ngoni, a warrior group in 1850. Wars began on the southern and northern borders as the Ngoni tried to take control. After 20 years of hostility on the borders, the Ngoni left the area and Chitimukulu regained control of the kingdom and expanded it even more. When the British arrived in the 1890s the Bemba kingdom was the most powerful in the region.
Paramount Chief Chitimukulu lives now in Mungwi near Kasama. He holds his traditional ceremony, the Ukusefya Pa Ng’wena, each year in August.
- The Lozi
It is not known when or how the Luyi people arrived in the Barotse Floodplain along the Zambezi River. Although the people insisted that they were descended from God (Nyambe), it is thought that they came from the north in the early 1600s. The oral tradition of the clan is that they were brought there by a woman who was succeeded by her daughter. Mboo, was the first male king.
It is the environment which made the Luyi a successful kingdom. Not only did the river provide fish but when the floods subsided the river margins were fertile for crops and cattle grazing. Another big difference between the life of the Luyi and other kingdoms was that the river provided swift access to the further reaches of the kingdom by canoe. The size of the kingdom varied from one king to another, depending upon the skill of the leader to control outlying districts. Their peaceful existence came to an end with the arrival of the Kololo clan from the south. The Kololo, a Sotho-speaking clan, had fled from the Zulu wars, arriving our area, around present-day Kalomo in about 1830. They stayed there for a while but were threatened by the Matabele, another clan who had fled the Zulu wars, who had set themselves up in present-day Bulawayo. The Kololo moved further west and came to the Barotse Floodplain and the Luyi. At the time the Luyi were undergoing a succession dispute and were weakened by this internal conflict. It did, though take 4 years of fighting to bring in the Kololo as victors and the new leaders of the kingdom.
The Kololo, under Sebitwane, consolidated the gains made by the Luyi, the kingdom become large and secure. Their only threat was from the Matabele in the south. It is thought that Sebitwane moved his palace from Lealui to Linyati in present-day Botswana in order to keep his southern border well-guarded.
It was at Linyati that David Livingstone met Sebitwane in 1851. David Livingstone was very impressed with Sebitwane and was determined to bring more missionaries to the kingdom to teach the people. Sebitwane died shortly after David Livingstone’s visit and was succeeded by his son, Sekeletu. So, when David Livingstone returned in 1855 it was Sekeletu who escorted him to see the waterfall which they called the Mosi-oa-Tunya.
Sekeletu proved to be an unworthy king. He suffered from leprosy and hid himself away but was always suspicious of people around him thinking that they had bewitched him. His reign came to an end after 12 years when the Luyi rose up against him and retook their kingdom with a new name of Lozi. Interestingly, although the Kololo only ruled the kingdom for around 30 years, the Lozi had adopted their language. This made communication easy when missionaries arrived from the south where they had worked with the Sotho people already.
When the British arrived in the 1890s they met with the Lozi king, the Litunga, and it was because of his administration that peace was preserved during the process of coming under the British realm of influence.
The Litunga holds his annual ceremony in March each year at Lealui when the people moved from the floodplain onto higher ground. It is called the Kuomboka Ceremony.
- The Ngoni
Chief Zwengendaba with his clan fled from the Zulu wars in 1818. They first moved into now-Mozambique and then now-Zimbabwe. As they moved they captured more people and they were brought into the ‘Zulu’ way of doing things. The most important aspect of the society was that young boys were trained in the military. Every few years the young boys (from around 12 years) were brought together to make a regiment. Their weapons were a short stabbing spear and a large cowhide shield. This regiment stayed together while training and then as a fighting force.
After 17 years of leaving Zululand, the clan, now called the Ngoni, crossed the Zambezi River east of the confluence with the Luangwa River. They stayed along the river for 5 years, coming into contact with the Chewa. They then moved on again, this time to the east, followed by another trek to the side of Lake Tanganyika. By now the Ngoni were a horde of people, some stating thousands strong. But things were to change when Zwengendaba died after 30 years of leading his people on migration after migration.
There followed a succession dispute and the people split into six factions.
One group, under Chief Mpezeni, led his followers back into now-Zambia settling around present-day Chinsali. The Ngoni way of doing things was to subdue any people around them, so they often came up against the Bemba. For the 15 years they stayed in the area there was sporadic fighting between the Ngoni and the Bemba. Finally, the Ngoni decided to move again, this time back towards the Zambezi River and the Chewa people.
They arrived there in the early 1870s, first staying by the confluence of the Luangwa and Zambezi and then moving to present-day Chipata. For the next 20 years the Ngoni took on the neighbouring people, finally subduing them all. This should have been excellent news for Mpezeni but it did mean that he had a well-trained military with little to do. Occasionally they would attack the traders coming along the Zambezi River and across country to the Bemba. But they had no use for the guns which the traders tried to offer in exchange for elephant tusks or slaves – they preferred their spears.
This was the state when the British arrived on the scene. There was a short time of hostility between the British military and the Ngoni but eventually there was peace.
Nowadays Paramount Chief Mpezeni holds his ceremony, Nc’wala, in February each year.