By MIKE MUNKOMBWE-
Zambia has a diverse and rich cultural heritage with over 70 ethnic groups dotted across the country’s 10 provinces.
Traditional ceremonies celebrated by indigenous cultural groups remain vital as they are also used as an age-old form of communication to provide a vibrant record of common and cultural heritage.
The heritage includes dances, songs, crafts and artefacts that have been passed down through generations.
Performed on special occasions for various reasons, these ceremonies vary in nature and are events of social, spiritual, religious and public significance.
Southern Province in Zambia is one region which has several traditional ceremonies.
One of them is the Lwiindi Lwanza traditional ceremony of the Lundwe people of Bweengwa in Chief Hamusonde’s area.
One may wonder who Chief Hamusonde is.
Who are the Lundwe people and where did they come from?
Around 1868 when Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia and was a British colony, the Hamusonde Chiefdom was born.
It was recognised by Queen Victoria of Great Britain as the 11th Chiefdom of Namwala District in Southern Province at that time.
But it was quickly delinked from Namwala and the people came to settle at a place called Bweengwa in Monze District.
The people in this chiefdom are called Ba Tonga ba Lundwe from the Basanje Clan because they speak a mixture of Ila and Tonga and are positioned in between Namwala and Monze District on the Monze-Niko Road.
The throne of the chiefdom has been held by seven chiefs, including the current one since its creation.
“We are not pure Tongas and we are not pure Ilas. Our language is unique. Lundwe is a combination of the two,” Chief Hamusonde said.
Chief Hamusonde I settled in Bweengwa together with his people and their animals.
But the area had no water for animals and people to use.
According to oral tradition, there is a mythical story which says that to overcome the water challenges, a mysterious magical man by the name of Himbama created Lwanza River.
“Himbama, the uncle of Chief Hamusonde 1, used magic and dug the river and since then it has never dried up. It is a shrine. You cannot do any activity on the river without the approval of the elders. Now, this cultural practice is binding to everyone visiting this area because if you ignore the norms, it can be disastrous,” the chief said.
The traditional leader recalled a scenario in which hundreds of people disobeyed the rules.
“They came here to fish without the authorisation of the elders to talk to the ancestors requesting what they wanted. They all drowned in this river. No one was recovered,” he said.
The people of Bweengwa still understand that the Lwanza River is part of
their heritage and a symbol of a unique culture and tradition.
Keeper of the magical Lwanza River, Meleki Hakalula-Kaale also said the river is a sacred place which needs no disturbances.
He said there is a white crocodile without a tail in the river which is perceived to be the owner of the river.
“There is a place called ‘Koonde Bansanje’ where we pay homage to and request the spirits concerning whatever we want to do on the river.
Even when we want our animals to cross, we first talk to the spirits so that we don’t experience bad things such as crocodile attacks,” Hakalula-Kaale said.
Because of its significance in helping the Lundwe people of Bweengwa
and those from neighbouring areas, a traditional ceremony called
Lwanza was created to allow the people to celebrate and pay homage to the ancestral spirits which they believe still live on in the magical river.
This ceremony is held annually in the month of August between the first and second week.
It is held on the banks of the magical Lwanza River in Bweengwa.
The 2022 edition of the ceremony started on Saturday, August 6 before President Hakainde Hichilema graced the event the next day.
The ceremony attracts many people from within Zambia and abroad, including chiefs from within the province and beyond.
Evans Ngoma is one of the people who witnessed the ceremony this year.
The BuyZed founder said traditional ceremonies, such as the Lwanza, are key in marketing local products.
“The President has told us that he is the number one marketer, and so we need to respond by inviting local people to embrace locally made products,” Mr Ngoma said.
Tourism Minister Rodney Sikumba, who attended the ceremony, understands the linkage between culture and tourism.
He said Bweengwa, which hosts the ceremony, is well positioned right in the Lochinvar National Park, giving advantage to those that attend to also visit the home of the Kafue Lechwe.
“Tourists attending the ceremony will also have the opportunity to view the Lechwes in the Lochinvar National Park and they will increase our revenue,” Mr Sikumba said.
President Hichilema, who is the son of the soil, arrived on the actual day at Lwanza grounds in Monze.
He was received by Southern Province Minister Cornelius Mweetwa and Bweengwa Member of Parliament (MP) Michelo Kasauta.
Others who received the Head of State were Local Government and Rural
Development Minister Gary Nkombo, Mr Sikumba, Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Jack Mwiimbu, the Hamusonde Royal Establishment and other senior Government and United Party for National Development (UPND) party officials.
Key activities of the ceremony, such as the display of cattle, started before the spectacular crossing of animals on the magical river, an occasion that denotes the purity of water and animal wealth.
Traditional dances, coupled with Ngoma yabukali, Ikuyabila, the dirge and Ikutambala, the warrior dance, characterised the event.
It was at this point that Chief Hamusonde performed a task of traditionally releasing President Hichilema to work for all Zambians, not only Bweengwa where he comes from.
“I release you today. Go and work for all Zambians. Don’t be the President for Bweengwa people alone. All the 10 provinces, chiefs, you should now be saying he is your son too,” Chief Hamusonde said.
Then a dance which is now nicknamed after President Hichilema was performed.
However, the dance is not be performed by a person without cattle because it signifies how wealthy someone is and what type of animals that person owns.
As a symbolic gesture of release, Chief Hamusonde handed the Presidenta short spear and a walking stick.
The Head of State said he was ready to work tirelessly to bring about development in the entire country.
“Yes, I was born here, grew up from here. Everything is true. But by electing me to be in this office, you married me off to 18 million people. You married me off to 116 districts and you married me off to 10 provinces of Zambia,” the President said.
Chief Hamusonde also honoured Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland in absentia with the status of village headwoman in his chiefdom for playing a major role to serve the lives of the people from his chiefdom and for her dedication in uniting countries.
In his speech read by his representative Gift Monde, Chief Hamusonde also recognised the efforts of other Zambians, such as Telesphore Mpundu, John Sangwa, Linda Kasonde, Laura Miti and Chama Fumba – popularly known as Pilato – for being instrumental in voicing out their democratic views in governance matters.
Chief Hamusonde further proposed the enactment of legislation to make cattle rustling a non-bailable offence.
“Since cattle rustling is rampant in our area, we request that the offence be non-bailable,” the chief said.
President Hichilema directed the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock to deploy extension staff to all veterinary camps in the country in order to vigorously control livestock diseases.
“We want the extension officers to be stationed where cattle are, where farming is done not in town no,” the President said.
He said each region in the country is endowed with unique resources, citing North Western Province which has pineapples, Copperbelt which has minerals, and Southern Province which is known for its cattle, among others.
The Head of State said it is only befitting that all the resource endowment in the regions is well supported for the country’s economic growth.
The President further said tradition and culture gives people unique identity of belonging in a particular part of the country.
“We are determined to reunite the country, we are determined to serve all the people of Zambia equitably, fairly without discrimination like we saw it in the past,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Nkombo bemoaned the increasing number of succession disputes.
He said this is negatively impacting on the development of the affected chiefdoms.
“There is no court or lawyer who is competent to solve the issues surrounding chiefdoms as it is a clan matter that needs to be sorted out by elders,” Mr Nkombo said.
Traditional ceremonies, such as Lwanza present a window of opportunities to the young and future generations to uphold cultural and traditional values that have been passed on from years past.-ZANIS