Botswana / Namibia:
Cultural Sojourn

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 3 - Katima Mulilo


Road to Salambala Community Camp Site, Ngoma NamibiaMan bicycling to buy fish, Salambala NamibiaWhat goes in must come out, so the day started with the return trip on the dirt road to the highway.  We weren't the only bicyclists out there so the road couldn't have been that bad.  We met a bicyclist with a cooler on his bike who was heading to a lake several kilometers away to buy fish.

Refueling bicyclistFor a relatively well populated area there still seemed to be a scarcity of commercial activity. After Ngoma, the next stores were at 20 km, 30 km and 48 km up the road.  We returned to the highway 15km from Ngoma, so the store at 20 km was well placed for a breakfast stop.  [From later experience, it turns out that this level of retail was frequent.] 


Men in makoro (canoe), Katima Mulilo NambiaWomen selling fish, Katima Mulilo NamibiaBesides creating a couple of refuge camps along the road, the high water brought a lot of people out for some fishing on a Sunday afternoon -- both on land and in boats -- and the product of their activity was being sold at the side of the road (right).


Ground horn bill, Katima Mulilo NamibiaSecretary bird, Katima Mulilo NamibiaThe high water probably helped the bird watching.  It was decently good for bicycle seat bird watching.  Among other species, we saw ground hornbills (left), hamerkops, lampwing (plover), loury (go-away-bird), a secretary bird (right), lilac breasted rollers, starlings, bateleur and several other varieties of hornbill.

bicycling the open road, with little traffic, NamibiaFood security project signBetween the scattered housing there was a lot of open road with very little traffic. Generally, Namibia doesn't seem to embrace signs in a big way.  Even schools and other public buildings lack labels, as do churches and many stores. However, houses frequently have signs naming the family.  One of the few institutional signs we saw highlighted a project on women and development and food security (right).

Downtown Katima Mulilo NamibiaKatima Mulilo is the biggest town in the Caprivi Strip and more of a town than Kasane.  But even so, the commercial district measured about five linear blocks.  It had a bank, a couple of restaurants, large grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, clothing store, traditional market with vendor stalls, tire shop and the like.

Elaborate traditional houseWe missed the Internet Friday afternoon and Saturday morning in Kasane because we arrived late and left too early.  The next likely place to cross paths with modern technology was Katima Mulilo.  But the relatively strong Christian underpinning of the culture had most of the downtown, including the Internet, tightly "closed Sunday."

Three days along and we should be learning our third and forth languages.  The dominate ethnic groups in Katima Mulilo are Fwe or Mafwe (speaking Sefwe) and Lozi (speaking Silozi or Sikoko).  The Lozi ethnic group has its center of its population in Zambia, but their language is still spoken in this area as a legacy of their domination of the region in the late 1800s. Good morning is "mozuhile chwang".  Good afternoon is "mutozi chwang".  And, thank you is "nitumezi." Sefwe is the largest language group in the Caprivi Strip and is close to Subia and Totela: Good morning is "mavoka."  Good afternoon is "malisala."

We ate dinner at the Take Away near the bus ranks.  The restaurant also had tables and chairs for dine-in customers.  Everything was pre-packaged for clients popping off the long haul buses for a quick meal.  The selection included rice with curried chicken, papa (corn meal boiled stiff) with chicken, and spaghetti with a tasty sauce. At least if you dined in the meals would be heated in a micro-wave and served on a china plate.

Mukushi Cabins, Katima Mulilo NamibiaMukushi Cabins, Katima Mulilo NamibiaOur digs for the evening were Mukusi Cabins.  The grounds were nicely wooded and landscaped. The cabins had kitchenettes and were clean and comfortable.  The house keeping staff also provided extraordinarily fast laundry service -- about two-hour turn-around time.


The Makololo:
(Source Sangwali Museum)
   The Makololo controlled a vast area north and south of the Zambezi, including the Caprivi from about 1838 to 1864.  Under their chief Sebetoane, they had become one of the most powerful groups of people in southern Africa.
   The story of the Makololo begins in about 1822, when they were known as the Fokeng, living on their ancestral land at Kurutlele, near Senekal in the Free State.  It was the time of the mefacane or difiquane, a great upheaval of people, mainly due to the conquests of the Zulu king Shaka.
   Sebetoane became chief of the Fokeng when he was about 20 years old.  At that time they had already had to flee their homes and had crossed the Vaal River.  Sebetoane decided that there would be no peace for his people in this region and he persuaded them to march north, to find a ‘place of tranquility’ where they could settle.  This march was to take them on a journey of more than 5, 000 km, through the Kalahari Desert, right into the kingdom of the Lozi north of the Zambezi.
   His first great battle was at Dithakong, June 2823, near Kuruman in the Cape.  Here, for the first time he saw firearms being used by the Griquas against the large invading army of which he was part. [Before this battle, at this place, he had had a fight with another people, the Phuting, who had also been uprooted.  Sebetoane won and amongst the prisoners that he took was a young woman of the Kollo clan called Setloutlou. He later took her as his wife.  She was the mother of Sekeletu who, much later, succeeded Sebetoane as chief.  Tradition says that because Sebetoane favored her so much, his people became known as the Makollo or Makololo.] (cont)

  The Makololo (cont)

After the battle at Dithakong,  Sebetoane fled the area and started his long journey north with his people.  He had already encountered the power of Mzilikazi and his Ndebele people who were also fleeing from Shaka (along with other groups, led by ex-generals of Shaka, destined for Mozambique and Malawi).
   Sebetoane fought his way through the land of many other tribes as he proceeded north across what is now Botswana.  He defeated the Kwena in 1825.  Continuing north, he fought his way through the land of the Hurutse and near Serowe he encountered the Ngwato who, after a battle, fled west to Lake Ngami.  Entering the country of the Kalaka, Sebetoane also turned his followers west, across the thirsty lands of the Kalahari.  He settled for a while again at Lake Kamadou near Rakops before uprooting and continuing to Lake Ngami.  Here he defeated Moremi, who took his Tswana people north and settled here at Sangwali, which he called Tshoroga.
   Sebetoane realized there was no peace in this region. It was also unhealthy, his people were dying of fever and his cattle were being bitten by the tsetse fly.  He took his followers north through the Okavango Delta, then turned east and entered the Linyanti marshes.  He launched a surprise attack on the Ngwato, defeated them and made them one of his subject tribes.  He made Sangwali his capital, but re-named it Linyanti.  After two years he realized that the marshes were too unhealthy and he continued north.  He crossed the Zambezi near Kazangula, west of the Victoria Falls.  He settled for a while on the healthy and fertile Batoka Plains.
   Alas, he was not to enjoy peace and tranquility for long here.  Sebetoane’s greatest enemy was still Mzilikazi of the Ndebele.  He too had made his way north and settled in the region of Bulawayo.  A great battle was fought between these two  mighty armies at Thabana ea basari, in the Kalomo region, which Sebetoane won.  After this, he took his people further north into Barotseland, the kingdom of the Lozi, now part of Zambia.  He defeated the fragmented people and for some time made his capital at Naliere, where the Kabompo River joins the Zambezi, which is near the border with Angola.  This was in about 1838.  Sebetoane now controlled all of the Lozi kingdom as well as a vast area south of the Zambezi.  He was a conqueror, but he was a just and wise ruler and gained the respect of all his subjects.
   In 1850 Sebetoane returned to Linyanti to meet David Livingstone, who arrived from the south in June 1851.  However, soon after Livingstone’s arrival, Sebetoane was riding Livingstone’s horse and fell, opening an old wound to his chest. He died on 7 July 1851 and was buried the Sangwali Museum. [His grave is still visible and can be visited.]
   Sebetoane was succeeded by his daughter Mamochisane.  She was chief for just a short time before his son Sekeletu, who was just about 20 years of age, became chief.
   Sekeletu was a harsh man and committed many cruel deeds.  He was not popular.  To this day he is blamed for the deaths of the victims of the Helmore/Price missionary disaster.  Sekeletu died of leprosy in August 1863 and was buried at his capital, which he also called Linyanti.  It was where Malengalenga now is.
   After Sekeletu’s death there was a lot of infighting and in intrigue amongst the Makololo.  The Lozi took advantage and one night staged an ambush.  Many fled, but those who remained were captured.  So ends the story of the mighty Makololo.


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