The Sena people of Nsanje and Chikhwawa are a branch of an ethnic group known as the Lemba. The Lemba are found in parts of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Northern Province of South Africa. Through oral history, these people claim to have descended from one of the sons of the biblical Jacob.
A number of their traditions and practices bear testimony to this fact. For example, they (the true Lemba) observe one holy day in the week, which they call the Shabat; they refrain from eating pork, mice and indeed any of the foods forbidden by the Law of Moses; they put a star of David on the tombstones of their dead. Without any written code, the Lemba follow most of the requirements found in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament).
Their story is that 2 500 years ago, their great forefathers left Judea and settled in present day Yemen. While in Yemen, they built a city known as Sena. It was from Sena that they began to go southwards into Africa in search of gold. When they arrived in Ethiopia, one band remained there and another continued further south to as far as South Africa. It is the latter band whose descendants are the Lemba people.
This may sound farfetched to the doubting reader, but recent scholarly research has lent some credibility to the Lemba story. Spurdle and Jenkins (1996) conducted a study of the genetic make-up of the Lemba and of the Jewish people and observed that 50 percent of the Lemba Y chromosomes (the male gene) were Semitic (Near Eastern) in origin.
Professor Tudor Parfitt of the University of London’s Centre for African and Oriental Studies has spent 20 years trying to understand the Lemba story, and actually lived with them for six months. He undertook an extensive tour throughout Lemba territory, including Malawi, and later travelled to Yemen. He was startled to discover a village called Sena in Yemen, which, as it turned out, has indeed hosted large Jewish communities in the past. He has given an account of his fascinating discovery in a book titled Journey To The Vanished City.
As they trekked into Africa, the Lemba brought with them some religious artefacts, notably the Ark of the Covenant. Recently an object called Ngoma Lungundu Coventant (the drum that thunders), resembling the Ark of the Covenant, went on exhibition at a museum in Harare. Carbon dating conducted on the Ngoma Lungundu showed that it was roughly 700 hundred years old. It obviously was not the original Mosaic Ark of the Covenant but a replica. One school of thought holds that since the original ark was used in battle and would sometimes be captured or even destroyed, the Jews undertook to make replicas in its place.
It is claimed that when they moved into Zimbabwe, the Lemba built or helped to build the Great Zimbabwe enclosure (popularly known as the Zimbabwe Ruins). However, this claim is a matter of conjecture. Many scholars believe that the Great Enclosure was the work of the ancestors of the Shona people.
In addition to tracing the places where the Lemba live and where their tradition claimed they had come from, Parfitt also conducted DNA tests and got similar results to those of Spurdle and Jenkins. Simply put, the results show that Jewish males have contributed to the gene pool of the Lemba people. Yes, the white Jews have begotten the black Lemba, including our own Sena people. Some may love it, others may loathe it, but no one can change it.
I said in one of my earlier articles that truth usually lies hidden from the basic biological senses. One needs to dig and shove for truth to be exposed. Parfitt et al did their bit of digging and shoving and today the truth stares us in the eye. The truth about the Lemba people must have come as a shock to those who harbour the notion that the black and the white people are fundamentally and inherently different. In fact, there are more similarities than differences among the various ethnic groups of the human race. The racists, the fascists, the tribalists (and other ists) tend to overemphasise the differences and play down the similarities. History and science point in a different direction. n
The author is a printing service provider and a social commentator.