About the Tonga in Gwembe Valley

The Tonga are one of the major tribes in Zambia. They speak Chitonga. Many believe in ancestral worship. There is a lot of polygamy and early marriages. Many people don’t know how to read and write due to low value towards education.

The Tonga people in the Gwembe valley rely on farming and fishing. Children and women do most of the work in the fields and other household chores. Because of the construction of the Kariba Dam in 1954 across Zambezi river, the Tonga people lost their fertile land as the lake expanded. They now live in the higher grounds where the conditions are not good for farming. This has made them to lose their identity as farmers as they now do much fishing for survival.

We are based in the Southern part of Zambia, in the Gwembe valley, under Siavonga, in a village called Munyama. This village is isolated and not easily accessible by road due to poor rocky and gravel roads. It takes three hours to get there by boat from a small town on the mainland called Siavonga. There is a primary school and a small clinic which serves the village and other villages and islands around it.


Worldview refers to the way one views his/her world. It is a mental model of what one perceives to be real and true. It goes deeper to influence our ideas, priorities, values, personality and our belief system in life on things that matter to us. The Tonga, fall under the ‘Animistic’ worldview. Normally, according to the animists; their concept of a Creator God is that He is distant, impersonal, and works slower than Satan, so working through Satan or with a sorcerer is preferred. A loving, holy God is unbelievable. The spirit world controls all and is to be feared.

In an animistic worldview, events are directly linked to the spiritual world, leaving humans with no will power or a drive to take action. If one is doing well in life, this is directly associated with one’s spirit being happy with him or her while on the other hand, failure, pain and suffering are a direct indication that the spirits are not happy with you. In this regard, people consult the spirits to enquire why they are not doing well and to know whether the spirits are happy with them or not. In the events of death of a family member, a witchdoctor is consulted to point out the cause of death and the ‘killer’. Nothing just happens in the animistic world.

Natural disasters and accidents are easily associated with witchcraft. Because everything is spiritual, many people consult the witchdoctors for protection from their enemies, for the success of their businesses, and healing when they are sick. Witchdoctors play a major role in the animistic world as they are the closest link and mediator between the people and the spirit world.

We are coming in this society believing God that He can bring a Biblical worldview to the people. As we desire to see healthcare, education and community development flourishing, we believe this can only happen if people’s worldview is transformed. A biblical worldview will cause people to be responsible of their choices and trust God for guidance for their lives. We believe God wants to bring a revelation of who is in this community and bring the much needed community transformation. Worldview change is a key to what we do here. Please continue praying with us that as we share His word, eyes may be opened to and hearts be receptive to see and receive His truth.

Examples of how an animistic worldview can hinder the needed development:

If one believes that the spirits are not happy with him or his family or with the whole community, and will never get out of poverty unless the spell is broken. His or her actions will reflect a hopeless future. Creating a fatalistic approach to things. ‘we can’t do anything about it, that is how it is meant to be’. And for generations none dares to change a way of life because it is already determined by the spirits. Humans feel less responsible and are always blaming God for their circumstances rather than taking action and be responsible.

Examples of how an animistic worldview can hinder health-care: If all sickness is from the devil, spiritual, then it can also be treated with a similar power hence it is better to consult the witchdoctor who has more power to deal with the spiritual world.

Examples of how an animistic worldview in natural disasters and accidents: When one is bitten by a snake, a crocodile. People consult the witchdoctors to try to find the owner of these animals and why they were sent to kill. This belief hinders people from taking safety precautions and instills fear in people’s lives.

In general; everywhere, different people have a different worldview. Our worldview has so much influence on how societies are built. 

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