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Mazengo Chalula
c. 1860 to 1967
Anglican (CMS Mission)

Chief Mazengo Chalula, Paramount Chief of Ugogo: Date of Birth

Mazengo's date of birth is not known. [1] A biographical note about him [2] gives 1852 as Mazengo's date of birth. But this is too early. Knox [3] suggests that Mazengo was a "child" when John Price (one of the earliest CMS missionaries at Mpwapwa) first visited what was then described as "Ugogo proper,"--the "country" west of Mpwapwa in 1888 [4]. Perhaps not a child, but a young man. Had Mazengo been a mature adult, he could have assumed the throne when his father died in the late 19th century. Lazaro Ndajilo suggests that Mazengo died at the age of 107. This puts his date of birth at 1860. Even so, the strange thing is that CMS archival sources do not mention him in connection with the opening of the Mvumi station in 1900--a time when apparently Mazengo was 40, and had assumed power from his uncle, Msonjela. Nor do they mention Msonjela.

Succession to the Throne

Chief Chalula, the father of chief Daudi Mazengo Chalula, died of small pox sometime in the late 19th century. Mazengo was young, and therefore Msonjela, Chalula's younger brother became regent. During Msonjela's regency, the chiefdom was divided. The Idifu and Chamwali people formed a new chiefdom. The rest of the chiefdom, that is Chihembe, Mission, Ndebwe, and all the rest remained under Mvumi. This place was called "Mvumi Makulu Itumbi." Other parts of Mvumi were called Mvumi Chelema, Mvumi Mzula, Mvumi Ndaladya, Mvumi Kikuyu, Mvumi Magudugudu, Mvumi Chandwi, Mvumi Nhundulu, but all of it was still part of Mvumi chiefdom.

Soon after the establishment of their rule in the interior, the Germans started to stop the unlawful killing of those who were suspected to the rain-killers (wakoma-mvula) in Ugogo. Ndajilo gives details of how Mazengo ascended to the throne.

When Mazengo came in, he did not rule according to the old tradition. He ruled in the presence of the Germans. (...) But both his father Chalula's, and uncle Msonjela's chieftainship were not under foreign rule. They had ultimate authority and power. That is why if someone was accused of witchcraft, they simply said "Bring him here, and slaughter him." Or if they heard that someone was doing something wrong in the chiefdom, they simply said, "Bring him here, and get him slaughtered." More still, if they heard news of war aggression, they simply told their people, "Get ready, we shall go to war," and so forth. " (...) Killing one another was something that was happening long time ago when Msonjela was chief, before the arrival of the Germans.

When the Germans arrived they prevented chiefs from doing such things. They questioned them saying, "You used to beat your fellows and kill them for allegedly preventing rain, you accused your fellows of witchcraft and killed them. If anyone suggested that someone was a witch, then you killed that person. If you were told that "this man prevents rain," you killed him. You must be imprisoned for years. (...) Msonjela was imprisoned for two years. And when he was freed he said, "No more of this. Being a ruler and then being under the rule of others is something I can't bear." He said, "Now my elder brother's son is old enough. I cannot work with these Europeans." Then Mazengo succeeded him.
It seems that Mazengo was in power when Maji Maji war broke out in 1905. In 1909, Bertha Briggs--CMS missionary at Mvumi, six miles from Mazengo's main palace at Mvumi Makulu--described Mazengo as "the big chief of this country" [5].

Paramount Chief of Ugogo

When the British arrived, they realized that there were too many chiefs and they began to re-group them. Subordinate chiefs were appointed for Handali, Idifu, Chita, Chamwali, Fufu, Loje, Ng'hong'hona, Msamalo. All these were under Mazengo. Other neighbouring chiefdoms were as follows: Matumbulu, Mwitikila. Nondwa, Chinyambwa (Unyambwa), Bahi, Makutupora, Zoona, Itiso, Buigiri, and Dodoma. The mpembamoto at Handali, at Igandu, Chamwali, Iringa Mvumi, Idifu, Chita, Ngh'ongh'ona, Msamalo, all of them chose Mazengo to be the paramount chief. The mission people were in favour of his election.

Thus Mazengo inherited his position as paramount chief, and was not elected, but was chosen. Even Mr. Briggs [CMS missionary at Mvumi] was in favour of seeing him chosen. The district commissioner and Mr. Birinje, the chief of Dodoma, too stood by him. The provincial commissioner, the district commissioner, the wapembamoto--all of them, and the whole of Dodoma region wanted Mazengo. Birinje came second. When they said, "Let him this man [Birinje] be the senior chief, because he is closer to the boma"--Kiswahili word, meaning fort--the public refused. They said, "Even though Mazengo lives far away [some 50 km], he is the one who must become paramount chief."

He was very much loved by many people but people hesitated a little during the Second World War, because Chief Haule was picking people as conscripts for the British army. Mazengo did the same. Therefore some people with negative views on him started to ask, "Mazengo nondomague?" (Kigogo saying, meaning "what has become of Mazengo?"). But he responded, "Yes, Hitler must not come here. He is a German. We are used to the British. We will be better off if we continue under his rule." Truly, when Hitler had been pushed back, the British made great efforts to build schools for standard four to twelve. [6]

Protector of His People

Mazengo's had good relationship with the colonial governments, particularly the British, whom he supported during the Second World War. But his support had its limits. Mazengo was gentle and kind and he didn't like corruption. He would not tolerate an order from the district commissioner that might have resulted in cruelty toward his people. He would consult with Ndajilo, his chief official, in order to make a wise and just decision. For example, if the district commissioner wanted the people to work as slaves for the development of the country or to contribute cows toward the costs of the war, Mazengo intervened so that the richer contributed out of their wealth and the poor gave of their labor. He did not want his people to go hungry by losing their cows to the government. Most of the time the district commissioner accepted this arrangement except on one occasion during the war when the minister had to intervene to resolve the case.[7]

Polygamist and Holder of Chieftaincy Stones

Many Wagogo chiefs (as were those of Ukaguru) refused baptism for two main reasons: they were polygamists and ritual leaders of their people. Mazengo was no exception. He chose to remain an inquirer because he had the rain stones. Mr. Briggs advised him saying, "People would be offended and hate you if you are baptized because they like the tradition of keeping the stones… Postpone it for the moment. Because you are leader of the Wagogo." But every year whenever there was drought, they washed the stones and used them to offer sacrifices to ask for rain, he said to him, "Make a choice. Appoint a successor to be chief. If you want to be a Christian, then give yourself to Jesus." This continued until the time of the independence of Tanzania in 1961, when he stepped down as chief and was baptized later, probably in 1964.

Besides being the keeper of the rain stones, Mazengo's baptism was also probably delayed by the fact that he was a polygamist. His senior wife was called Mariamu (Nyinamwaluko). The second wife was Hagulwa. Both were Christians. Mamvula (Nyinailamba) was the third. The fourth wife ran away. The bridewealth was given back because, as they never cultivated a farm together and were together for less than a year, she wasn't counted as being his wife. Mazengo's eldest son was called Paulo Mwaluko. Other sons were Mapoto, Kubota, and Mbega. Daughters were Changato, Dabwa, and Makanda. Those were his children by the senior wife, Mariamu. Children by his second wife, Hagulwa were: Mbeche, Welusi, Mbuchila, Mary, Msechelela [Sechelela] and Julia. By Mamvula, Mazengo had Chalula, Kenneth, Mary and Eunike. But Ndajilo adds: "There are also children whom he fathered by making women pregnant outside marriage, an act which the Wagogo call kutumla. This was more so in the other villages where he had semi-official residences." [8]

A Social Modernizer

Mazengo is also remembered for his promotion of health initiatives especially in the way he encouraged the Wagogo women to use modern maternity services at Mvumi hospital. In the early 1930s, he issued an order that no woman should give birth at home. Ndajilo gives the reason for this order:
They did not keep the new-born baby's navel hygienically, the general nursing for infants was poor. There were many infant deaths. So everyone should go to Mission [hospital]. 1932 up to 1940. (...) It was Mazengo who first exhorted people to do that. Nowadays, people are used to this, for their own benefit. (...) Since he [Mazengo] was a Christian, he urged all people to take heed of education and offer voluntary help.
Mazengo is also remembered as one of the chiefs who supported and promoted education in his chiefdom beyond the colonial period. A government high school near Dodoma town is named after him as a tribute to him for this role. For example at Mvumi Makulu, near Mvumi station, Mazengo maintained his involvement in mission education and had a good relationship with CMS missionaries at Mvumi station.

As a strategist, he wanted many young people in his chiefdom to get employment in their own land, and work as clerks, tax collectors, agricultural officers and so on. [9] He had no doubt that the school was the road that led to the achievement of that goal. In his chiefdom, those who registered at the mission, to attend a Shule ya Saa Nane (Kiswahili phrase, meaning "the two-o'clock school"), and made themselves known to him were exempted from government roadwork. This was done as an incentive to enable more people to attend literacy classes. [10] A small requirement for these people was that they should offer free labour at the mission, particularly in connection with the collection of local building materials for the construction of classrooms. During his official meetings with his people, Mazengo often invited the indigenous teacher to be there too, and often asked him to confirm or deny whether people were attending the school and Sunday gathering. If the number was small, he exhorted his people not to stay away from the opportunity to learn to read and write, an exhortation that was well heeded by many of his subjects in the chiefdom. [11]

Whether in connection with literacy, or attendance at gatherings where Scripture was taught, the influence and power of the chiefs was significant over their people. The chiefs' involvement in traditional religious and social practices also had a similar effect on their people.

A Friend of the CMS Mission

Ndajilo and his fellow palace officials would advise Chief Mazengo about supporting the mission. Ndajilo narrates how Mazengo contributed to mission work.
Let me say this. As Christians, we did like the mission to make progress. The mission itself had no powers to compel people to work for it. So we had to use that method in collaboration with the chief. First we had to make a request to the chief, that the people living within the mission station should do the mission work instead of government work. That was the first thing we agreed on. After we had agreed on that, we summoned the wazengamatumbi responsible for the mission area. We went there and spoke to people, and said, "This church will bear fruit. If this school is built, the people of Chambi, Nhundulu, Mzula - the whole of Mvumi will come here to learn. Isn't that beneficial to you?" They said, "Yes."

We must therefore assist in the construction of this building, we told them. "You have heard that the people in the Birinje's chiefdom are building a church and their children are learning. What about yours?" We persuaded them using a good method. We said to the people of Chambi and Chelema that they must help the mission and told them things that were beneficial to them. For those within the mission station we said, "We can see that you are doing the Lord's work. You who have other responsibilities should fetch water, mould the clay, and make the bricks." The mission's responsibility was to hire the builder, I mean the mason who would build the wall. They also hired the roofer. That was what we did with the mission.

He also encouraged people from Nhundulu, Makulu, Chelema and so forth to send twenty volunteers each to participate in erecting a church building at Mvumi Makulu. He then instructed the wazengematumbi to ensure that each day there were new volunteers to ease the burden on those who were helping to build the holy house of God." That was his contribution, to make people volunteer to work without pay. Not by receiving a salary.
His Last Days as Chief

Despite such contributions, like all mortals, old age defied Mazengo. Ndajilo is one of the few Wagogo who know better about Mazengo's last days as a person, as chief, and watched his health disintegrate, rendering him inactive. He says:
He was one hundred and seven years old. He used to have multiple complaints. Sometimes pain in the eye, in the leg, and so forth, then he became blind. He couldn't see. He continued to be chief. But it was me who performed all the duties. Yes. But I would say the chief has done it. He could not write, his hands were shaking. Therefore I used to write. I sent letters and said the chief had written them, but in fact it was me who composed them. For things which came under my direct responsibility as a civil servant, I signed the letters in my name, "Lazaro Ndajilo, the servant." But for matters that needed the chief's approval I had to use his official stamp--even if the letter was written by me. It would be regarded as the chief's order. I would do the same at the store. I distributed food and said the chief did it. And everything was being done properly. We used to sit and talk as I am doing now with you, at the palace sitting room. Only the two of us. That was what we used to do.
Death, and a Semi-State and Christian Funeral for Mazengo, 1967

Though Ndajilo performed such duties, old age and numerous illnesses got the best of Mazengo. He died in 1967 and was given both a Christian and semi-state funeral to honour his contributions to the social development of Ugogo. This, according to Ndajilo, was because even the British loved him, and were in favour of him being the paramount chief.
He was the one who enthroned President Nyerere. He rubbed flour [cereal powder] on him. That is why he used to address him as "father." That is why he [President Nyerere] sent Job Lusinde, a government minister, to represent [him]. It was me and Job Lusinde who supervised Chief Mazengo's funeral. Nyerere instructed Job Lusinde. He came at the time when he was minister for Local and Regional Governments. [But] It was Job Lusinde's father [Rev. Canon Petro Lusinde Malecela] who lifted Mazengo's body. And Mbeho, and Mabichi. We lifted the coffin from the house, and were the ones who lowered it in the grave."
Ndajilo explains why no traditional rite of burial was performed for Mazengo as chief.
He was already a Christian. He was Daudi, a Christian. Bishop Stanway led the funeral. So we were chosen to supervise the burial ceremony, I mean four of us, and the purpose was to prevent the introduction of the traditional ways in the ceremony. It is not that we were against everything that was traditional. No. It was only those things, which were incompatible with Christianity.
That is how the life of Daudi Mazengo Chalula ended. He was one of the greatest chiefs in central Tanzania, and arguably in Tanzania as a whole. Like most chiefs, he served both his country and the local church with dedication.

Raphael Mwita Akiri


1. This story focuses especially on Mazengo's life as chief of Ugogo. The account that follows is based on oral data supplied by Lazaro Ndajilo of Mvumi Makulu (the seat of Mvumi chiefdom). He is an authority on Mazengo, and the political life of Mvumi chiefdom. He served as Mazengo's chief palace official and administrator from 1944 to 1967. Part of the notes used are extracts from an oral interview between this writer and Ndajilo.
2. Ralph Uwechue, ed., Makers of Modern Africa: Profiles in History, 2nd edition (London: Africa Books, 1991): 463-464.
3. In Signal on the Mountain, 96.
4. Church Missionary Intelligencer, Vol. XIV, March 1889: 168.
5. Bertha Briggs to Baylis, 3/3/1909, G3 A8/O/1909/28.
6. From an interview with Lazaro Ndajilo.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Dan Mbogoni, oral interview, 11/6/1997.
10. Ibid.
11. Lazaro Ndajilo, oral interviews, 14 and 16/6/1997.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from "The Growth of Christianity in Ugogo and Ukaguru (Central Tanzania): A Socio-Historical Analysis of the Role of Indigenous Agents 1876-1933," unpublished Ph.D. thesis (University of Edinburgh, 1999) by Raphael Mwita Akiri.