They Call me Shangaan, but I’m Hlengwe

You “original Swatis” as you call yourselves

what poor  ignorant creatures you are!

The verge of foolishness has covered your faces

you call me Shangaan because you think you are insulting me


Don’t you know that the Shangaans are an ethnic group of Africans

just as you too are an African with your own ethnic group?

I know where I come from, and it is not from the Shangaans


I am a descendent of Chauke

the seed of Bhangwana, the father of my clan

I am one with the blood that runs in the Mabaso and Xahumba,

the Hakwana, Muhlengwe and Xinyori

I come from the Hasani and Xikhovela

I come from the Matsena and Mateka

I come from the Hlengwe of Chauke

and my totem is the Giant African Snail


I am from the Hlengwe ethnic group

the Hlengwe of VaTsonga

we Tsonga people are a complex people

the Shangaans are Tsonga as well, but not all Tsongas are Shangaans

I am from the Hlengwe of Chauke whose foundations are in Zimbabwe

and had spread throughout Southern Africa

Go to South Africa you will find the blood of my ancestors

in Mozambique, my people are there still

come to Eswatini, you will find my people still


run, flee and survive


father says he was a thirteen year old kid

when he fled mozambique

to work for the baas in south africa

father says mozambique was in raging flames

and before her death, his mother, my grandmother

told him to run, flee and survive


father says he was scared, but had to be brave

he had to flee, flee from the bullets

flee the booming bombs and dodge land mines

father says he was a kid when he held

his mother, my grandmother’s cold corpse

father says he watched his mother, my grandmother

choke with blood and held her head close to his ear

while she whispered he dying words “run, flee and survive”


father says he fled south africa because

the baas was a very bad man

I said “father, why not find a good baas”

father said “son, all baas was bad”

father showed me many scars in his back

scars that made me quiver and shiver with pain

he said it was the baas’ whip


father says he then fled to Eswatini

to work for the white man of britain

in his sugar plantation at mhlume

father says he was sixteen at that time

and was ten years older than me

I asked father what happened to his home, in mozambique

he said it was burnt to ashes, destroyed,

and no one survived but him, he says he went back after the war

father says this is how we came to be swati people


–Sabelo Chaukeis a graduate student in the  Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Swaziland.