"For the Tonga people like me, there is something deeply biblical about the word MULONGA, yet it is a modern story too. One of massive but unshared technology. One of plentiful water but perpetual drought."
Dominic Muntanga
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On the Domainname MULONGA
Thursday, 01 March 2001 00:00
By Dominic Muntanga
Tonga is synonymous to "the people of the great river". MULONGA is a term which summaries that concept. This is a term deeply rooted in the history that we as Tonga people share, both Zambian and Zimbabwean. For the Tonga people like me, there is something deeply biblical about the word MULONGA, yet it is a modern story too. One of massive but unshared technology. One of plentiful water but perpetual drought.
The story of the RIVER PEOPLE!

In a southern corner of Africa where Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia meet at the banks of the mighty Zambezi river, you will find the Victoria Falls. Water falls from a great height into a huge pothole creating mist which rises up to form a rainbow when the sun shines. The great thunder with which the water flows and splashes into the pothole is so stunning.
As you go further down the river, Kariba dam. Spectacular Lake Kaliba (Kariba as it is known) is a thing of beauty for tourists. But for the local Tonga, it buried their ancestors under water, separated their families -- and failed to bring irrigation to their arid farmlands.

The great lake speaks of the power of the Gods. The Zambezi river has immense spiritual significance and was the focal point around which the lives of the Batonga people revolved. Its history cannot be told without making mention of the power of water that formed the gorge, the animals that drink from it, the people that fed on its fish, inhabited its banks and used it as a means of transport.

The dam, intended as a source of hydroelectric power and tourist revenue for the Government of Southern and Northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), flooded the homelands of the Tongas, destroying their ancestral burial grounds and effectively disrupting their whole way of life. In particular, the Tongas were completely cut-off from family and friends living across the river in Zambia. In this desiccated exodus of the Tonga, it is no wonder that the old fondly recall their lost existence, and that the young are unaware of the fine heritage of their name.

Words from the Tonga poet Fanuel Cumanzala capture historic time:

Down the mountains lay the mighty river
The Zambezi of the Tonga
Gift of God, river of life
The banks which yielded food for all.


The words of a young Tonga poet Tom Chuma:

When I see the blood red sun set
In the waters of the lake
I hear the voice of the people
Beckoning me.
To know what they want
Must we ask the stars?

From these above Tonga narratives, you can see how the river is such an important part of us. It is what identifies us. Go to Zimbabwe, Tonga people are known for selling fish, although it is merely a stereotype. This word MULONGA is deeply significant in our lives.