Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Changa Changa" - Zambia's John Dunn.

FOR INFORMATION - Material gathered on a recent trip to Zambia

Luangwa township is today a small district headquarters and border post at the end of a road that goes no further. It is the lowest point in Zambia and probably the hotest, being situated at the confluence of the Zambesi and Luangwa rivers on the Mozambique and Zimbabwean borders. In these notes, its ancient name of Feira is used to avoid confusion with the latter river.

Feira is one of the most historic sites in Zambia. Except for the former Portuguese coastal settlements and Tete downstream on the Zambezi in Mozambique, no other place in the whole of Southern Africa has such an early recorded origin as Feira.Although the documents on its subsequent history are fragmentary and at times confusing, they chronicle an eventful sequence of violent struggles between the local people and the Portuguese intruders for control of this stategic site at the junction of what used to be two lucrative trade routes along the river. the records also give fascinating glimpses of life in what is now Zambia during the pre-colonial period.

In the absence of early written records before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, historians can only rely on verbal legends and on archaeological evidence of events in this area. The latter evidence indicates that the Zambezi was a trade route at least as early as the 8th century A.D. It is probable that the imported goods found in graves at Ingombe Ilede some distance up the Zambesi river from Feira were brought there by intermediaries between the Arabs on the coast and the local people, if not the Arabs themselves. Beads, ceramics, cloth and cowrie shells were exchanged for copper and malachite from Katanga, gold from the country south of the Zambezi, rhino horn and ivory.

The Luangwa was less important as a trade route as it was not so easily navigable. However it did give access to the abundant wild life that can still be seen in the Luangwa valley today - except for the rhinos which have been exterminated by poachers in recent years.During the Portuguese period, the Luangwa valley was also used as a trade route to the court of Chief Luapula, where copper was exchanged for imported foods.

After displacing theArab traders on the coast, the Portuguese followed the Zambesi inland in search of ivory, slaves and precious metals. At first they established ports at Sena and Tete on the river.The earliest record of their arrival in what is now Zambia, is that of the foundation of Zumbo on the east bank of the Luangwa in 1546.It is certain from this base they would have crossed the Luangwa. The exact date of Feira's foundation is not known but it would have been about the same time. Feira means "market or fair" in Portuguese.

Chronology

1600 AD ; Zumbo and Feira abandoned

1726 : Father Pedro da Santissima Trinidade, a Dominican priest installed as vicar of Zumbo ".............with the cross in his hand and virtue in his soul, and also like St Francis Xavier, with a host of remedies for the ills both of body and the spirit, he made an enormous number of converts whom he raised from a state of barbarism.....He rapidly became famous for his piety and virtues.

1729 : First church built at Zumbo.

1751 : Father Pedro dies, "respected by the inhabitants......for helping to dissolve with his advice old standing hatreds, making up differences, comforting souls and dispensing widely from his stock."

1754 : Portuguese driven out of Zumbo by local people, taking refuge in Feira where Jose Pedro Diner was appointed commandant. He fortified the perimeter of the settlement with a massive stone wall, traces of which still exist. However, he did not fortify the river frontage thinking that no attack would be launched from the water. In this he was mistaken ; the local Nsenga tribe did indeed attack from the river and destroyed the town! Diner was gaoled for incompetence and replaced by da Souza

1763 : 200 Portuguese families were living in Zumbo.

1780 : Zumbo occupied by Francisco Pereira, nicknamed "The Terror", no doubt for his brutality

1804 : Zumbo captured and destroyed by Chief Mburuma IV.

1811 : New churches built at Zumbo and Feira.

1813 : Zumbo again destroyed by Chief Mburuma IV.

1818 : Chief Mburuma IV driven out of Feira by the Portuguese who rebuilt the town.

1827 : Captain Jose Manuel Monteiro in charge of Feira.

1830 : Chief Mburuma IV killed during a night attack on Feira.Peace agreement negotiated with Chief Mburuma V by brother Pedro.

1835 : Zwangendaba's Angoni impi crossed the Zambesi near Feira on his long march from Zululand to the shores of lake Victoria and then back to what is now Zambia's Eastern Province leaving a path of death and destruction.

1836 : Feira evacuated by Ensign Jose de Sequeira after further attacks by local Nsenga. Zumbo again overrun and destroyed.

"Easter Sunday 1836 is perhaps the blackest day of all in the history of this small colony which had already passed through so many vicissitudes. From the few trustworthy data now available, it appears that nearly all the inhabitants of Zumbo, including their commandant, has crossed the river to Feira and were the guests of Father Joao.During their absence, Captain Alexandre da Corta, who had quarrelled with the Resident Cactapa and who had refused to accompany the party to Feira, betrayed the town and opened the gates of Zumbo to Chief Zeka who, with his warriors, entered without firing a shot. The first intimation that the people of Zumbo had of his treachery was when they saw flames leaping out of their new convent and church. The few residents that had remained behind were foully murdered, the stores were ransacked and before this impi left, the town was for the second time, practically razed to the ground. After this calamity the inhabitants of Zumbo appear to have lost heart. They did not attempt to rebuild the township ; some went to Feira, others left for the coast."

1856 : Dr David Livingstone visited Feira on his epic coast to coast journey from Luanda to Mozambique. He found the place deserted and in ruins.

Despite all the massacre and desruction at both places there were intevals of peaceful trading and prosperity, notably under Fr. Pedro's wise and benevolent guidance 1726-1751.
At other times relations with the local population were poor.The Portuguese tended to be serville when at a disadvantage and brutally oppressive when they had the upper hand ; a recipe for trouble.

Feira remained in ruins until the arrival in 1857 of Harrison Clark, or "Changa Changa"as he was known to the locals. Born in the Cape Province in South Africa he fled north to escape justice after an accident involving the death of an African. There were still some Portuguese at Zumbo but it had become little more than a base for slave trading and elephant hunting by half caste Chikunda who terroirised a wide area. Clark raised his own militia amongst the locals and restored order suppressing both the slave trading and inter-tribal warfare. He negotiated several treaties with various chiefs highly favourable to himself.

On one occasion he crossed the Luangwa drove the Portuguese out of Zumbo and raised the Union Jack there. His authority extended up onto the plateau as far as the Kafue river. He came to be regarded as a chief and imposed licences and export taxes on traders. He consolidated his position by marrying the daughter of Mapuka, chief of the Chikunda.

A Portuguese who had built a fortified post on the Lunsemfwa river was banished by Clark who destroyed the post. Later he was arrested by the Zumbo Commandant who had to release him when the Chikunda refused to guard him as he was "too great a man to be imprisoned."

In 1895 he moved from Feira to a fortress built at the confluence of the Lumsemfwa and Lukusashi rivers. This was more centrally situated in his vast domain.

However his days as uncrowned king were numbered after Cecil John Rhodes' British South Africa company was granted jurisdiction over the country north of the Zambesi. In 1901 the company sent Shekleton to open a station at Feira. Clarke's treaties with the chiefs were not recognised by the company. However he was granted three farms as compensation.

With the establiashmnent of Company rule at Feira, peace and order was finally established in this lawless area in accordance with Company motto "Justice, Freedom, Commerce."

In the early 1900's Feira became an important transit depot for the movement of cattle bought by traders in German East Africa and walked down through the Luangwa Valley. They were them swum across the Zambesi for sale in Southern Rhodesia. During this period, there were three hotels at Feira.

In 1917 a rebellion in Mozambique and Portuguese discouragement of Catholic missions caused a Jesuit mission to move over the Luangwa to Katondwe in Feira district. This mission now provides medical services to the local population at its impressive hospital.

In later years, Feira became to be regarded as a punishment station for officials who were out of favour. Feira's isolation and intense heat was thought to be a suitable environment for reflection of their errors. During the 1950's one of the District Commissioners (DC's) conducted business in his office sitting in a bath of water in order to keep cool.

During the Rhodesian bush war in the late sixties, violence returned to Feira in the form of skirmishes between communist backed terrorists and Rhodesian security forces based at Kanyemba. Nowadays, the district remains quiet, remote and impoverished. Its soils are generally poor, the rainfall scanty and erratic. There are few economic possibilities tho this could improve with the development of tourism to this corner.

Acknowledgment:

John Hudson OBE. MA. from who most of this material is gathered &collated.
Management -Bridge Camp, Luangwa river

1 comment:

Philip said...

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