By JULIUS PHIRI
IT was 34th edition of Nc’wala Traditional Ceremony of the Ngoni-Speaking People which took place at Mtenguleni main arena in Chipata District.
The Nc’wala ceremony has today grown into one of the richest and most significant events on the national calendar pulling tourists and visitors in hundreds to the border town of Chipata every year.
Nc’wala, the first traditional ceremony on the national calendar was currently offering an opportunity for the masses to delve into the Ngoni culture and re-learn the history of the Ngoni people from the days they left their homeland, South Africa under the great King Zwangendaba.
Most of the commentators have described this year’s ceremony as a success because President Michael Sata was attending the ceremony for the first time as a Head of State.
Even, Dr Christine Kaseba-Sata was attending as the country’s First Lady for the first time.
To prove it right, Patriotic Front (PF) was elected into Government in 2011 and thereafter in 2012, Republican Vice- President Guy Scott graced the ceremony while in 2013 it was Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda who represented President Sata at the annual showpiece.
The ceremony which began on Thursday February 20th reached its climax on February 22nd at the main arena.
The feet, stomping Nc’wala can be described to be the same with songs, ingoma dance but the ceremony was colourful due to the number of dignitaries from Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania who turned up for the ceremony.
Apart from well-known national anthem, a Ngoni anthem called ‘nguba, nibani obanga umfumu wa mpezeni’ translating as who was after the chieftaincy of Mpezeni was sung started by George Kanyamula Zulu who Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary but traditionally was Paramount Chief Mpezeni’s senior Induna.
This was done immediately when the Ngoni king ‘Paramount Chief’ took his seat at the main arena from his seclusion place called ‘Laweni’.
As the proceedings were going on, unidentified Ngoni warrior took advantage of one of the microphones and started making his own prouncements to the annoyance of Mr Zulu who was delegated including Mr Adamson Sakala as the official masters of ceremony for the Nc’wala ceremony.
It had to take security personnel to stop an imposter from making further unnecessary pronouncements on the microphone.
At one point again, Mr Zulu and Mr Sakala had to call in security personnel to control rampaging freelance camerapersons and media personnel who were obstructing President Sata and others who were in the VIP shelter from freely watching the ingoma dances.
On stage, Mtenguleni ingoma from Chief Madzimawe were the first to perform on the stage followed by Luangeni kraal from Chief Mpezeni better known as Nkhosi Ya Mankhosi followed in that order in which President Sata as well as his entourage joined in dancing.
Opposition MMD leader Dr Nevers Mumba also registered his presence by dancing to the Ingoma dance as it was free for all function.
As the traditional ceremony was taking place, some companies were also making and selling their products like was the case with Dynalab International Zambia Limited whose agents were allover to market the food supplements to both local and foreign dignitaries.
However, President Sata said traditional ceremonies such as Nc’wala of the Ngoni Speaking People were an embodiment to the country’s cultural heritage.
The Head of State said that he was happy because the traditional leadership has conserved the cultural heritage.
The President said to hundreds of people who included Mozambican’s Tete Province Governor Paula Auade that culture and tradition must be preserved as it was a mode of identification.
President Sata said his Government attaches great importance to traditional ceremonies because they were vital to national development.
“It is for this reason that my Government recognises the importance of the traditional ceremonies in the country,” he said.
President Sata said Zambia was rich in cultural heritage because of the long preserved values that ancestors have passed on to the current generation through traditional ceremonies.
He commended Paramount Chief Mpezeni IV and his subordinate chiefs for preserving Nc’wala traditional ceremony.
He said he was also happy that the people of Eastern province have continued giving support to his Government.
Speaking earlier Chief Mpezeni who was represented by Nc’wala National Organising Committee Chairperson Noel Nkoma said he was particularly happy with the infrastructure developments which were going on in Eastern Province.
Chief Mpezeni said the current Government was constructing health posts, schools and roads in the province.
He said he was happy that the Great East Road, Chipata –Vubwi road were receiving a facelift while Chipata-Mchinji Railway Line was being considered for operationalisation in March this year by his Government.
“I know your Government is currently rehabilitating the Great East Road and Chipata-Vubwi Road the contractor (China Jiangxi International Corporation (CJIC) Limited has already moved to the site,” he said.
The paramount chief commended the Government for the creation of the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs.
The paramount chief also commended Dr Kaseba for launching campaign against early marriages which he said a number of young children have been rescued from premature marriages.
He, however, bemoaned the late distribution of farming inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
Chief Mpezeni said there was need to revisit the programme in order for the farmers to start getting their farming inputs early.
However, former presidents Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda who were invited to the ceremony sent their apologies.
The ceremony was attended by Senior Chief Mwata Kazembe, Eastern Province Minister Malozo Sichone, Luangeni Member of Parliament, Charles Zulu, Province Patriotic Front (PF) Chairperson Lameck Mangani, Chief Puta of the Bwile People, diplomats and Ngoni chiefs drawn from Zambia and Malawi.
Zamtel Chief Marketing Officer Evans Muhanga said his company would financially support traditional ceremonies in the country because such ceremonies were one way of preserving the culture of the country.
He said traditional ceremonies were a platform where people share and trace their historical roots hence the need to ensure that they were fully supported.
Masiye Banda, the advisor –resource mobilisation, Nc’wala Ceremony National Organising Committee said he was happy with the traditional ceremony.
Immediately after the speeches, Mnikelo which was slaughtering of the black bull was done and fresh blood was served to the paramount chief and roasted meat (msamulo) was served to the guests.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Dr Solomon Jere said accidents have reduced during this year’s ceremony.
He said that this was because the Zambia Police Service and the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) intensified road patrols.
Dr Jere said that up to Saturday, the police had not yet received any serious report of road traffic accidents.
He also explained that the reduction of beer being sold at the ceremony has also contributed to the prevention of accidents.
Dr Jere said that the Zambia Police and RTSA would continue working together even after the Nc’wala ceremony.
He said that this would be aimed at reducing the number of road traffic accident
Truly, the Nc’wala traditional ceremony is the custodian of the Ngoni culture in Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The ceremony was only revived in 1980 by Paramount Chief Mpezeni III to enable the Ngoni people to pay homage to their ancestral spirits, commemorate the victories of their tribal wars during their migration from the current day, South Africa and praise the lord for giving them fresh crops in the fields.
In 1898 it was banned by the British colonial government after a between British troops and Ngoni warriors led by Nsingo, the son of Mpezeni at Fort Jameson which was now called Chipata.