Inheritance and Social Change Among the Tonga of Southern Province of Zambia, 1900-1989
Mizinga, Moono Flexon
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This study is an enquiry into the matrilineal inheritance of the Tonga of Zambia between 1900 and 1989. We argue that before the penetration of capitalism the Tonga Society provided for the social security of all the members of society. We also argue that inheritance did not precipitate controversy since wealth accumulation was minimal because of constant raids from the more powerful ethnic groups like Lozi and Ndebele. Technology employed by the Tonga in production was limited as most of their tools were made from locally produced materials. The death of an individual did not bring about inheritance quarrels as he left little durable property worth inheriting.The penetration of capitalism brought new changes in the Tonga Society. Capitalism brought with it state machinery which protected the life and property of an individual. This, coupled with improved technology facilitated wealth accumulation. The Tonga sold their agricultural produce and livestock on the markets provided by the mines and urban centres.The household became the basic unit of production in the Tonga Society. Ownership of household property remained in the man who was the head of the household. This brought about strain in the Tonga inheritance system since customary law dictated that after a man's death the property he owned should circulate within his matrikin leaving his immediate members of the family (wife and children) without despite their contribution to the accumulation of the estate just because they belonged to a different lineage from which they inherited.We argue that after 1945 gender struggles became evident as women started fighting for a law of inheritance which would enable them to inherit the wealth they generated within the household. We also argue that there emerged a class of Tonga, who no longer saw relevance of the customary law of inheritance which tended to disperse the wealth of the deceased throughout his matrilineal group. The new class wanted a law that would enable them leave their estates in the hands of immediate members of their families.The indigenous capitalist class consolidated itself after the end of colonialism in 1964. This class fought side by side with the women for a new law which would reform Tonga customary law of inheritance.This research also reveals that the impact of the capitalist forces was more evident in the emerging urban sector than in the rural sector of the Tonga society. This uneven impact of capitalist forces tore apart the Tonga society as the new class with new ideological inclinations and values began to question the viability and relevance of the old social order. This class used its access to the state apparatus to bring about new property relations to suit its interests. This trend manifested itself in the participation of this class in the inheritance debate until the intestate Succession Act of 1989 was passed.