Caprivi Strip in Zambezi Region – Namibia is legally ours. Our forefathers had purchased it with toil and blood from the Lozi people of South Western Zambia, the history hardly accepted among our people today! The accepted history of Caprivi, however, is somewhat ambiguous and basically a myth. We lost our heritage long before the first Whiteman ever set foot on our soil in Caprivi.  

Introduction, though!

Hi, I’m Joseph Sambi and I’m a Namibian, born and bred in Caprivi, Zambezi region. Today I’ll take on how our people in Caprivi had lost their heritage, a topic even I dread most! But we owe it to ourselves as Caprivians to at least discuss the matter because it refers to our birthright, without it we’re just as good as lost.

Who are our people in Caprivi?

Our people I keep referring to in Caprivi are the big five tribes, excluding the San people. Long story short, before the first Whiteman ever set foot in Caprivi, there were six (6) tribes called Caprivians in Zambezi region. And those were the San people, whom our forefathers had found living in the region when they first entered Caprivi.

Our people are not related to them; in fact the San are the lawful founders of Caprivi. Even the Malozi people of Zambia had found them in the region when they marked Caprivi as one of their provinces. By then our people still lived in the Great Lakes Region. And the entire southern Africa was uninhabited at that point in time.

Therefore, by our people, I mean the Mbukushu, Mayeyi, Masubia, Mafwe, and Matotela. Those five tribes were called “Bantu-Bo-Tatwe” meaning the three people! That was so because they were biological brothers. Their story originated in West Africa, long before the Great Migration occurred.  

Why were they called the three people when they were actually five?

But since I covered this topic already on the ABOUT page of this website, I’ll briefly touch on it again, but I suggest you read the part on the ABOUT page as well. Otherwise, in simple terms, the five tribes of Caprivi were simply known as the three people!

The reason was that they were brothers from one man/chief who had multiple wives in West Africa. Of which the first born in the family was the Mbukushu, followed by a Muyeyi, and then the three brothers from the chief’s younger Tonga-Lea wives.

And the first born child in the Tonga-Lea line was a “Musubila Mwikuhane, followed by the Musubila Mufue, and Musubila Mutotela.” And these five are the ones I keep referring to as our people because they’re all indeed my people. Any Caprivian who knows their history would also refer to them as such! Unfortunately things are different today.

Different how?

Different in the sense that people don’t care about such things anymore! And that’s because in real sense, they don’t know that they’re related. What you don’t know basically can’t hurt you! But I don’t blame them because I know where and how their problem of heritage loss had started.

Where and how did it start?

In South Western Zambia where they lived for centuries after departing from the Great Lakes Region! Briefly, as they lived in Great Lakes Region, the Lui-Lozi approached them and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. That was so because the Lui-Lozi had heard and saw how good farmers our people were in the Great Lakes Region. And so the Lozi tricked them into working for them for a few years, and in return they would be given a great new country of their own in the far south west, they said.

Adding that it was a beautiful agricultural country in the middle of nowhere! But first they would have to work for it, as said. Our people liked the idea of having a country of their own, so they took the offer. And quickly, they put together a team of strong young athletic scouters to join that of the Lozi people to go survey the country and report back.

The scout teams finally picked up and it took them 3 years to complete the mission. They returned with good news about the wonderful country indeed! And that’s when our forefathers agreed to go work for the country, today known as Caprivi – Zambezi Region – Namibia.

By then our people barely spoke Silozi language, but their “Chisuvila” languages. And they had their own set of culture and traditions that were quite different from those of the Lozi people. Unfortunately all that changed when they entered Zambia. The Lozi people who were so nice in the Great Lakes Region now changed completely!

Their country (Caprivi) came with conditions that turned out unbearable for our people. Of which the most unbearable ones were that, in order to qualify for Caprivi, our people had to abandon their culture, traditions, and Chisuvila languages and become Lozi people themselves!

And so it became punishable at times by death, for our people to practice their traditions. Only Lozi language and Lozi traditions were allowed, particularly in public places. And there was no going back to either East or West Africa. Those who tried were publicly put to death straightaway!

And then our people started working to develop the entire Barotseland, hoping that someday they or their children would settle in their own country. But it took them 400 years for their dream to get realized. It was only during the time of Litunga Liwanika (1) that our people finally occupied Caprivi. But even that came with unbearable conditions, of which the hardest of them had been to pay tax every year in the form of grain, livestock, and fruit to the Lozi authorities.

So how did they lose their heritage?

A century, not to mention 4, is long enough for any race to forget their culture, if they weren’t allowed to practice it. Fortunately our people had held tightly onto their native (chisuvila)) languages by practicing them on their children inside their houses; or else we wouldn’t be speaking them today!

And even when in Caprivi our people were still obliged to live as Lozi people. And that’s where the culture of clapping hands as a sign of respect had come from; otherwise that’s entirely not ours. Children in Caprivi were raised in Lozi culture because Zambia is where they had gone for school and work. So they had to appear as full Lozi speaking people in order to get schools and jobs in Zambia.

And as mentioned earlier, Caprivi was part of South Western Zambia. And that trend continued even when Zambia became a British colony. It was only Germany that dealt with Britain to connect Caprivi to Germany-South West Africa.   

But what did the Germans want Caprivi for when they had South West Africa, and apart from shifting the Caprivi headquarters to Schuckmannesburg, they didn’t govern Caprivi, so why did they want it?

They wanted it for Zambezi River in order to ferry their military hardware from Lake Tanganyika to Walvis Bay. Remember, this was in the 1890s when the Nama, Herero, Owambo, and many other races took up arms against the Germans in South West Africa. And since both Tanganyika and South West Africa were German colonies, Zambezi River therefore connected the two countries quite quickly!

So how can the people of Caprivi reclaim their heritage?

Well, they can’t because they don’t know what their heritage is or how it should be like!  All they know is Lozi culture, and that’s the reason they’re called Lozi people even if they aren’t!  But can you believe that according to the national census of 2004 in Namibia, there are 80 thousand Caprivians, of which only 17,000 of them are pure Lozi? Apparently, the rest are made up of different sub-ethnic groups with their own dialect of Silozi language. But now what does that mean?

Some people might not find that offensive but I do! Luckily I understand that it’s hard to detect such mistakes if people don’t know the truth! After all, as far as our people are concerned, it’s like a pat on the shoulder to be called a Mulozi person.  

But again just for example, how would you expect a Herero or Owambo person to react if you called him a German simply because his forefathers had been colonized by the Germans? A slap in the face, that’s it!

But why is it important to seek our heritage if we don’t even know what it is?

It’s important because only then would we start living honestly, as for now we’re not! The way I see it, we’ve been living a lie far too long enough for us to know the truth by now. For instance, if we looked at the rest of other races in Namibia, we’d see that they have nearly all their indigenous languages taught in schools.

And they use their native languages on regional and national radio, but our people only use Lozi language. None of our native languages are taught in schools since the beginning of civilization, except Lozi. Everything is Lozi in Caprivi, as though we were still sending our children to seek employment in Zambia!

But there is a solution, isn’t there?

Of course, there are solutions but exploring them is the question since people don’t know the answer. And that’s the reason our people aren’t doing much about it because It’s hard to fix something which you don’t know if it’s broken or not!

And our lost heritage as far as I know is just the starting point of our quest to finding our proper identity in Caprivi. Unfortunately, we’ve pressing regional crisis to deal with at the moment; therefore, it might take forever before finding solutions to the question of our identity. 

But if we’re not careful, we might end up blaming Mr. Muyongo for all our weaknesses in the region. Blaming him even for our culture that’s been broken long before he was born. Unfortunately, he also isn’t making things easy for us in Caprivi. Well, maybe I should leave this part for now! Thank you.

Chief Kisco of the Masubia and the people of Caprivi
Chief Kisco and the the people of Caprivi

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