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Jeff Ramsay

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Banyayi Kingdom under the rule of the Nichasike dynasty remained the largest and probably wealthiest indigenous state in southern Africa. Yet by 1840 it had ceased to exist. Its fall came as a result of a series of invasions by external groups, beginning with various Batswana groups united under the leadership of the Bangwato Kgosi Kgari and culminating in the conquest of the core areas of the kingdom by the Amandebele of Nkosi Mzilakazi.

Ikalanga traditions connect this calamity to the failure of the next to last of the Banyayi kings, Mambo Chilisamhulu II Nichasike, to appropriately appease the protector god Mwali (or Mwari). It is not clear, however, whether the Mambo in fact failed to pay proper homage to the Mwali priests, as alleged, or that the story subsequently emerged to provide a cosmological explanation for the kingdom’s fall.

Certain traditions are also suggestive, though by no means conclusive, of the existence of disputes over governing authority between the Mambo and some of his regional overlords, such as the guardian of the south-western frontier, Tumbale, and the Nswazwi leader, Ntsope.

If the Mambo’s authority was being eroded prior to 1840 it may have also been due to his declining role as a middleman in the movement of gold and other commodities to the trading ports of East Africa. Although incomplete, available statistics make it clear that there was a steady decline in this trade between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Whereas up to 1500 kilograms of gold was annually exported to the Portuguese ports at the time of the first Nichasike (along with up to 160,000 kilograms ivory), in 1806 the recorded figure was only 51 kilograms gold.

According to Ikalanga traditions and other evidence Mwali belief among the Bakalanga is a relatively recent phenomenon. The religion is said to have originated among the Venda (Ikalanga: Bavezha), who introduced it to the Banyayi. It was the seventeenth and eighteenth century Banyayi kings who, in turn, promoted the belief throughout much of Zimbabwe and northeastern Botswana.

These accounts differ from some other Chishona traditions that connect belief in Mwali to an earlier supposed migration of the Mbire clan or tribe from east Africa, as well as the Great Zimbabwe civilisation.

Ikalanga traditions of Mwali being brought from Venda are, however, consistent with the genealogies of the Lubimba priests of the principal Mwali shrine at Njelele in the Matopos. The following Ikalanga passage records the migration into Bukalanga from the Venda of the Lubimba, along with the related Honyedzepasi and Sabhaswi clans:

“Ngono ibabo banhu bakaLubimba bakaswika muno, bebvabo kuBuvezha.

Ndibo bakaha naMwali muxango ino Bukalanga. Ndibo bakaLubimba bakaMwali unkulu- Bavezha. Bakaswika muxango ino bakwana kubusa Mambo Nichasike ali yiye unolaula muna yino nyika yoBukalanga.

“Ngono bakangina muna Mambo Nichasike, bakalaugwa ndiye- bakabe banhu babe. BakaLubimba baswika kamwe ne bakaHonyedzepasi ne bakaSabhwasi; ndidzo njudzi dzakaha naMwali, njudzi dzakaMwali unkulu. Hosana yabo hulu wakabe ali Sabhaswi. Umwe ali Npininga, batategula baJenje.

“Ntolo waMwali wamatangwa, wakaha kabakigwa Ntolo uwe padombo linoyi Chizeze likuBhehuba yeZamanyoni. Ntolo webubili ngeweNjelele; webutatu ngeweChibale; dombo likuntha yoBurwa kweZamanyoni.”

Translation: “Now the people of Lubimba arrived coming from the Venda country. They were the ones who came with Mwali into the Bakalanga country.

They were of Lubimba’s of the great Mwali- they were Venda. They arrived in this country and found that King Nichasike ruled over the Bakalanga country.

“So they entered under King Nichasike and were ruled by him, being his subjects. Those of Lubimba arrived together with those of Honyedzepasi and those of Sabhaswi. They were the clans, which came with Mwali. Their chief priest was Sabhaswi. Another was [according to some sources his son] Npininga, the grandfather of Jenje.

“The first shrine to Mwali after his coming was built at the mountain called Chizeze to the east of Zamanyoni. The second shrine was that of Njelele. The third that of Chibale; a mountain to the south side of Zamanyoni.”

According to the same traditions Nichasike, who honoured the new god through the annual offering of gifts, built all of the first Mwali shrines. In return Mwali, through his priests, became the King’s main advisor:

“Nichasike wakabe ehwilila Mwali kwazwo; chimwe nechimwe chinolebwa ndiMwali, Nichasike echihwilila kachiyeta.

Kene etuma banhu babe bakachiyeta kene kuli kunondiwa, bakayenda belibilidza, beziba kuti batumwa ndiMwali.

“Ngono nayiye Mwali kaunkudzabo kwazwo-kwazwo Mambo Nichasike, kaunpa masimba ogwa kakunda dzimwe njudzi. Nichasike kawana maha hulu kwazwo ngentha yaMwali, kawana phuti, kayitengesegwa ngemaChihu (Putugezi). Ndibo banhu bakabe tendeleka muna yino xango, betengesa zwinhu, kene nhundu dzabo.

Translation: “Nichasike was very obedient to Mwali; everything spoken by Mwali was obeyed and acted upon by Nichasike. When he was sending his people they did as was spoken by Mwali and when they travelled they made haste knowing that Mwali had sent them.

“But also he, Mwali, honoured King Nichasike very much, giving him the power to fight and conquer other tribes. Nichasike enjoyed great luck due to Mwali; he found a gun, which was sold to him by the Portuguese. They were the people moving about in this country selling things.”

The Kingdom was thus said to be enjoying peace and prosperity when, c. 1826, Mwali warned Mambo Nichasike of the coming of the Barwa (Batswana) of Kgari.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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