ZAMBIA’S fifth largest city Chipata, in the East of the country came to a complete standstill yesterday as Mpezeni IV, paramount chief of the Ngoni people made his royal journey to Mulaweni using the Great East Road.
Most business owners shut their businesses while most of working class in the city shut their offices to catch a rare glimpse of the celebrated traditional leader. And equally residents stopped doing their normal household chores to line up along the highly busy road to witness the national spectacle.
Most media houses in the city like Radio Breeze streamed live the annual showpiece that sees Ngonis from all corners of the country converge in Chipata at a place called Mtengeluni to pay homage to their ancestor spirits. Radio Breeze described the magnitude of the people that decorated the city today as ‘thousands of people’.
A highly cerebrated and decorated group of people, the Ngonis are descendants of Shaka Zulu who left their native Kwa Zulu Natal home to escape the Mfecane. They were led into present day Zambia, by their warlord Zwangendaba.
A leader of incomparable stature, Zwangendaba married two sisters of Chief Zwide (a fierce enemy of Shaka) before embarking on a dramatic journey that would last for 20 years, full of Ngoni glory as they disintegrated any group that did not acquiesce to their culture and tradition.
Mpezeni is the son to the one of the two sisters of Zwide that Zwangendaba married. Every year in late February, the illustrious leader leads his senior chiefs and thousands of Ngoni impis and women drawn from several Ngoni chiefdoms to Mtengeluni, about 45 kilometers away from the busy town center of Chipata to showcase their warrior dance.
Adorned in leopard skins and wielding spears, clubs, feathers and shields, they pound the ground and sing traditional songs that praise their chiefs and mighty as a people. Two days prior to the climax of the ceremony, Mpezeni is ‘secluded’ and goes through a cultural rebirth at Mulaweni.
The ceremony called Ncwala, climaxes when Ngoni impis spear a black bull to death and slit its throat to collect blood which is given to Nkhosi yama Nkhosi (Mpezeni) for him to drink.
PRINCE Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Zulu Kingdom of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa will grace this year’s N’cwala Ceremony.
Photo credit: Chipata Friends.
The author is a Ngoni from Langa Village muchibaya chaNZamane (from the chiefdom of senior chief Nzamane).