Malambugi, Isakwisa Lupogo Malang’ombe
Isakwisa M. Malambugi was born in 1922 at Makoga, Ieje District in Tanzania and given the name Lupogo. A member of the Ndali tribe, his father’s name was Malang’ombe Lunda Malambugi. His mother, Kafyele Njejo, had originally been the wife of Mwakamogela Malambugi, Malang’ombe’s younger brother, but as he died without children, Malang’ombe inherited Kafyele as his wife, according to the Ndali traditional social and religious custom. According to this tradition, if a man dies, his wives are inherited either by the elder brother, a younger brother, a stepbrother or any man from the nearest kin within the circle of the clan in order to continue the name of the deceased husband. Furthermore, according to the Ndali (and many other African tribes), the wife does not belong to her husband only but to the extended family or the clan–not in matters of sexual relationships but in relationships to the family clan–and she is counted as a member of the clan through marriage.
Kafyele came into the family as the fourth wife because Malang’ombe already had three wives whose names were Nangulukila (who gave birth to Mwangamilo), Nachibona (whose children were Mwakanemela, Njeni, and Maswinya), and Najongo (who gave birth to Bageni). Kafyele Nanjejo gave birth to Isakwisa (Lupogo), George, and Mastara (Pakipanga).
Lupogo’s father, Malang’ombe, was the chief’s councilor and priest. He was also a well known traditional doctor. He was responsible for making the new fire for the Malakalinga kingdom or chiefdom. He owned wild animals like leopards and jackals so he was very much feared. He was the rainmaker for the kingdom and beyond.
As a young man Lupogo Malambugi was seriously ill and his mother took him to the African traditional doctor at Malasi where he recovered after receiving treatment.
Lupogo enrolled at the Tetiteti school where he learned to read and write some portions of the Bible. Later Lupogo owned cattle and was a very good farmer, growing coffee, bananas (plantains), maize, beans, sorghum (finger millet), sweet potatoes, cassava (manioc) and more. Lupogo was also an African traditional religious priest. He liked to participate in traditional dances–especially Ing’oma–and was chosen as the king or leader of ing’oma.
In the 1940s, Lupogo had three wives. Their names were Fwabubi (inherited by levirate law after the death of her husband Makanemela Malambugi; her children were Eliah and Pibangili), Erika Na Mwilwa (whose children were Afwilile, Angyelile, Tupokigwe, Ndimbwelu–now Oliva–and Margaret), and Lahabu Mwandemele Nakalinga (who bore him eight children, only two of which survived beyond infancy: Angolwisye–this present author–and Nikuswiga). Years later, in 1965, he married a fourth wife named Lyojo (now Tumwitikege) Mwakitalima Nakasebele who gave birth to Elizabeth, Lazaro, Abrahim, Lusajo, and Kisa (Mastara). After giving birth to two children, Fwabubi ran away in the late 1940s, reportedly to Zimbabwe (then called southern Rhodesia).
In 1950 Lupogo and his family moved from Makoga village (where the teachers of the Makoga primary school now have their houses) to Mbisi village. In 1962 Lupogo suddenly became very ill and fell into a coma. Several hours later he revived and told two of his wives that he “had now returned.” “From where?” they asked. He said he had returned from another very nice world. He then told them the story of the other world whence he could see this world rotating very swiftly. While there, he heard very sweet songs sung by people who wore bright robes. God spoke three times saying, “Ne Bwandilo ne Bumalikilo-Chala gwa bwila na bwila” (“I am the beginning and the end–the everlasting God.”). Then he heard the voice say to him, “Lupogo Gomoka!” (“Lupogo return!”) Although he did not want to return he suddenly found himself back on earth.
Though he was a non-Christian, his encounter with the divine can be compared to the story of Cornelius in Acts 10:1-4. After this Lupogo started to admonish his two wives, Erika and Lahabu, who had been Christians in the Moravian church at Ibungu since the 1940s, to be firm in their faith and show patience in striving to live a good Christian life. He also told the same to us, his children. He often told us about the visions in his life. He was a prophet in one way or another. From this time on he began to call himself Ne mwana gwa chala which means “I, the child of God” in Ndali.
As he was a polygamist and the leader of the Ing’oma dance, it took him years to turn to Christ. His memories of the vision continued to haunt him throughout his life. He was nevertheless very good in reading the New Testament. He sometimes did so in the afternoon or the evening or both. He also sometimes went to the church, especially on Christmas day.
He allowed his wives to continue professing their Christian faith but warned them that all Christians who do things contrary to their faith would be condemned to hell. He allowed his children to be baptized and made sure they lived a good Christian life. He allowed his wives and children to take from his wealth to give tithes and contributions to the church.
In addition, Lupogo was very willing to join the Moravian church but he was hindered by the church’s constitution which stipulated that he could not be accepted into the church with more than one wife. He therefore decided to join the church with Lahabu, his second wife. But Erika informed the church elders that she was against Lupogo’s decision. “Why not choose his first wife? What is wrong with me?” Erika asked. When the church leaders asked him to join the church with Erika, he absolutely refused, saying he would not because his heart was totally against her and he sometimes had conflicts with her. He preferred to join the church with Lahabu because she was polite and humble and “nkundwe” (“more loved” in Ndali).
In due time he decided to join the Roman Catholic Church and worshipped there for several months. But once again, he was told that if he wished to be baptized he had to send away two of his wives and join the church with his first wife. Finally he tried to go and worship at the last church of God in the area. He worshipped there for two years but he did not feel at home there and did not approve of this church.
Lupogo Malambugi again tried to dialogue with the Ibungu Moravian church elders’ council but they responded as they had before. He had to join the church with his first wife or his third wife. Still he was not willing. When the elders told Erika that her husband insisted on joining with Lahabu, she responded that if he followed through on this decision, she would make their marriage very unpleasant. She then proposed that Lupogo join with his third wife, Lyojo. This was impossible as he had already divorced her and sent her back to her parents’ home. Moreover, she was not a Christian. Erika volunteered to convince Lyojo to return to Lupogo, to become a Christian, and to join the church with him. Finally Lyojo agreed to remarry Lupogo so that he could join the Moravian church.
Lupogo therefore joined the church and changed his name to Isakwisa which means “He (Jesus) will come again.” He was baptized in 1973 at the Ibungu Moravian church by Rev. L. Mayagila. He witnessed to his wives, children, relatives, friends, and neighbors, many of whom eventually became Christians.
In 1978 Isakwisa moved from Mbisi village, Ileje district to Mlowo village, then to Mahenje village in Mbozi district. Unfortunately Lyojo did not join the church until after Isakwisa had died.
Isakwisa was a gentle, humble, patient, visionary man who nevertheless had strict ethical standards. He died on June 9, 1986 at Mbeya Referral Hospital. He was buried on June 10, 1986 at Mahenje/Mbozi.
Angolwisye Isakwisa Malambugi
Author’s Note: Isakwisa was my father. I owe so much to him and to my mother, Lahabu Nakalinga, for their parental care, for sending me to school, and for being good spiritual models to me. God has used them to make me the man I am today.
Mrs. Erika Mwilwa Mbugi, former wife of Mr. I. M. Malambugi, 83 years old, interview by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city on October 26, 2006.
Afwilile Isakwisa Malambugi, son of Isakwisa M. Malambugi, 59 years old, interview by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city, on October 25, 2006.
Tumwitikege (Lyojo) Mwakitalima Kasebele, 59 years old, interview by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city on October 26, 2006.
Angyelile Isakwisa Malambugi, son of Isakwisa M. Malambugi, 56 years old, interview by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city, on October 25, 2006.
Anania Mwandemele Malakalinga, brother-in-law of Isakwisa M. Malambugi, 72 years old, interview by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city, on October 26, 2006.
Elizabeth A. Malambugi, daughter-in-law of Isakwisa M. Malambugi, 58 years old, interview by the author, at Iwambi, Mbeya city on July 7, 2006.
Nikuswiga Isakwisa Malambugi, son of Isakwisa M. Malambugi, 48 years old, interviewed by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city on October 27, 2006.
Esther George Malambugi, daughter of Isakwisa’s younger brother, 58 years old, interviewed by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city, on October 26, 2006.
Elizabeth Isakwisa Malambugi, daughther of Isakwisa M. Malambugi, interviewed by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city, on October 26, 2006.
Lazaro Isakwisa Malambugi, son of Isakwisa M. Malambugi, 31 years old, interviewed by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city, on October 26, 2006.
This article, received in 2007, was researched and written by Rev. Angolowisye Isakwisa Malambugi, former chairman of the Moravian Church in Tanzania, Southwest Province, lecturer at Teofilo Kisanji University (formerly Moravian Theological College) in Mbeya from July 1995 to December 2006, and part-time lecturer at Open University of Tanzania from 1999 to the present. He was also Project Luke fellow in Spring 2007.