BY Paul T. Shipale
FOLLOWING the death of Omukwaniilwa the late Tatekulu Japhet Malenga Munkundi of the Ongandjera Royal House and Traditional Authority, who passed away on the 25th July 2012, it is relevant and opportune to give a brief genealogical outline of the Ongandjera Royal House and Traditional Authority and look at its three aspects of power, rivalries and economic recovery.
We have learnt at the memorial service dedicated to the late Tatekulu Japhet Malenga Munkundi that he was enthroned -alala oshilongo, following the untimely death of the late Omukwaniilwa gwaNgandjera Uushona waShiimi, in a car accident on 14 November 1971.
According to the book of Nela-Frieda Williams (Nela-Frieda Williams; Pre-Colonial Communities of South Western Africa; A History of Ovambo Kingdoms 1600-1920; Chapters on Historical Events and Political Development in Ovamboland p.116-141; Legends and the Foundations of Kingdoms p.90-93; Structures and Functions of Kingdoms p.105-115; Ongandjera Development of Kingdom p.132-135), after Oshamba, which served as a nucleus of most of the Owambo kingdoms, the Ngandjera hunter-pastoralists arrived after their migration and settled in the area of the seasonal river of Tamanzi where they found good grazing land for their cattle and established permanent settlements in the area.
Mangundu yaNdjalalo became the leader of all the clans and later married a Nkumbi princess, Niilwa, who came accompanied by people with hoes to cultivate and weed a large area (iilwa) after which the princess was named Niilwa. After Mangundu’s death, the royal succession followed Niilwa’s royal clan (Akwaaniilwa), which became a royal title and it is said it was for this reason that some princes from other kingdoms went to Ongandjera to find royal princesses to marry.
Since the Owambo line is matrilineal, Niilwa’s son Nangombe yaMangudu took over the Kingdom founded by his mother and strengthened the bonds of unity between his people and the ancient occupants of the land under his kingdom and treated them as equals. The latter served in his kingdom as bodyguards and as custodians of the sacred fire. Consequently, during his reign, many Ngandjera people intermarried with the ancient occupants of the land.
The deceased king was buried at his own royal court in the ox-pen. After the period of mourning, the successor dispatched people under the leadership of the custodian of the sacred fire to a neighbouring kingdom from where they traditionally obtained their new fire. The enthronement ceremony was to be performed preferably by an old ‘circumcised’ man serving as a High Priest (Estermann, 1976, p.121; Aashipembe, Eelu, Mic.No. 10-11 ELC. 344) who handed over to the new king the royal insignia as a symbol of power, consisting of the royal girdles (Omiya dhoshilongo), the dagger of honour (omwele goshipika); the royal bows and arrows (uutati niikuti yoshilongo); the royal knobkierie (ondhimbo yoshilongo); and the royal iron whistle (ohiya yoshilongo), among others.
The actual coronation was conducted when the new king was annointed with fat from the lion mixed with ochre (okugwayeka) (p.104-105). As a matter of fact, this is also done once a couple has twins, (Akwaanambwiyu).
Economically, Nangombe’s Kingdom became strong because it had skilled blacksmiths who probably came from Onkumbi along with the founders of the kingdom. They obtained iron and copper ore from which they produced daggers, spears, bracelets, anklets and many other iron and copper articles for barter and local consumption.
Nangombe did not have an heir, and since his brother Kanzi had left Ongandjera after their father’s death due to a succession dispute between them, Amatundu gaNima, who belonged to the Zebra Clan (Etundu) that ruled Uukwambi before Ashipala, succeeded him. Niita yIitula succeeded Amatundu and ruled together with her two sisters, Nuunyango and Nandigolo. Nandigolo produced heirs to the throne and, after their rule, her child Nkandi kAmwaama thus became king. Nkandi was said to have abandoned his position as king and migrated to Uukwaluudhi and his sister Nangombe yAmwaama succeeded him.
Nangombe was married to another royal, prince Iileka yUugwanga, and they ruled Ongandjera together and strengthened their relationship with the ancient occupants and were the first to use poison-tipped arrows in their warfare or raids called Ekumbu or okashava which started in the 1870s after the introduction of long-distance trade.
These two were praised and given names whereby they became known as Mukatha and Nambula. By the time of their death, the kingdom of Ongandjera was powerful; its wealth grew and its population increased and a demand arose to find alternative grazing areas by establishing cattle-posts in the neighbouring kingdoms.
Nangombe was succeeded by her sister Namatsi. Tshaanika yIileka (Amatundu) succeeded his mother’s sister Namatsi and he was a great seer who predicted the coming of Europeans and the enslavement of the Ngandjera people. His brother Asino Niipindi ascended the throne after his death. Asino continued the tradition laid down by his parents and strengthened his kingdom. His brother Amwaama, who also continued to strengthen the Ngandjera kingdom, succeeded Asino. The throne was then ascended, in turn, by their nephews, the grandchildren of Niipindi yIikela, and the children of Nandigolo yIithete, over four successive reigns.
When Amunyela gwaTshaningwa (Tshapaka) ascended to the throne in 1858, the Ngandjera kingdom had already been at the height of its royal prosperity over three generations. Amunyela was succeeded by his sister’s child, Ekandjo lyaKadhila, and Nakashwa kaTsiimi Tshivute - who by then was exiled in Uukwambi, sent her husband Ndjene to seek help from the Ndonga King Shikongo shaKalulu who had acquired weapons and horses from the south, especially through Frederick Green, the hunter. By 1866, German missionary Hugo Hahn had established the first Christian mission in Owambo.
Nakashwa ousted Ekandjo with the help of Ndonga warriors commanded by King Shikongo’s counsellor, Amoomo gwaKatondoka, and Nakashwa became Queen in 1859. Ekandjo fled to Ombalantu but later went to Uukwambi where Nuuyoma yaHeelu gave him warriors to help him in overthrowing Nakashwa.
Ekandjo attacked Nakashwa and occupied her royal palace in 1862, but his nephew Tsheya tsUushona, who had returned from his forced exile in Uukwaluudhi, in turn overthrew him there. Tsheya ascended the throne at a time when long-distance trade had reached its apex in neighbouring Uukwambi and Ondonga, as well as in Uukwanyama. By that time, the arms arsenals of these Kingdoms were packed with modern weapons which were a direct threat to Tsheya’s kingdom.
In 1871, Omkwaniilwa Tsheya gave missionaries Rautanen and Reijonen a place to build their mission station in an attempt to acquire guns. Realizing he could not get guns from them, the missionaries’ stay was short-lived and they abandoned their station two years later.
Following Tsheya’s death in 1878, he was succeeded by his step-brother Iiyambo yIileka, who established his royal palace at Engonda. Iiyambo was overthrown by his step-brother Tshaanika tshaNatshilongo who took over the kingdom in 1887 with the help of his brother-in-law, Namulo yIitula. Tshaanika set about building his kingdom once again but his kingdom was affected like other kingdoms by the Rinderpest in 1896-1897, followed by years of famine and successive droughts. King Tshaanika was succeeded by Sheya shaAmukwa in 1930 and he ruled for six years and was followed by Tshaanika shIipinge in 1936 who ruled up to 1948 when he was succeeded by Uushona waShiimi, who in turn was succeeded by the late Omukwaniilwa Tatekulu Japhet Malenga Mukundi in 1971.
The late Omukwaniilwa Tatekulu Japhet Malenga Mukundi will be dearly missed for his pivotal role and steadfastness as a custodian of the norms and values of Aangandjera people and for his peaceful and humble nature that helped to keep the Aagandjera people united. May His Soul Rest In Eternal Peace.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen