Mbukushu people


Mbukushu / Bukushu / Hambukusu / Mamakush / Ghuva / Haghuva / Gova / Kusso

Hambukushu (Mbukushu, Bukushu, Bukusu, Mbukuschu, Mamakush, Mampakush, Ghuva, Haghuva, Gova, Cusso, Kusso, Hakokohu, Havamasiko), are a small Bantu-speaking amalgamated people of Barotseland origin of the Central Bantu matrilineal agricultural complex living especially in Ngamiland (The Okavango Delta) in Botswana and some part of  South West Africa.

Apart from Botswana, Hambukushu people live in northern Namibia and southern Angola. There are also Hambukushu people in southwestern Zambia.

Mbukushu People Map

The Tswana-speaking people of Botswana call these Bantu natives from Barotseland in Zambia as "Mbukushu," but the collective name the people have given to themselves is "Hambukushu."  One person from the tribe is Mbukushu and their language is Simbukushu.

The Hambukushu are known for their rain-making prowess in Okavango Delta and as a result they are known as "The Rain-makers of Okavango." They are known for their basket weaving artistry and their woman are also known for using traps to catch fish.

The Hambukushu  people together with four other tribes in South Africa are known as "The Okavango Delta" people. The four including:

(1) Bugakwe (Kxoe, Bugakhoe, Kwengo, Barakwena, Mbarakwena, Mbarakwengo, G/anda, /anda),
(2) Dxeriku (Dceriku, Diriku, Gceriku, Gciriku, Vagciriku, Giriku, Mbogedo, Niriku, Vamanyo),
(3) Wayeyi (Bayei, Bayeyi, Bakoba, Bajei, Jo, Hajo, Tjaube, Yei), and
(4) Xanekwe (Gxanekwe, //tanekwe, tannekhoe, River Bushmen, Swamp Bushmen, G//ani, //ani, Banoka).  Note that for each of these groups, there are many different spellings (and pronunciations). Some of these are names from another language; others are corruptions or misinterpretations. Since many outsiders have contributed to the written history of these groups and people have moved across national boundaries, it is important to recognize this disparate nomenclature to preserve the breadth of each group’s cultural history.

In the time past, Hambukushu people called themselves as the Haguva, "the people.'and one person is a "guva."  According to some Hambukushu oral historians, Hambukushu also used to refer to themselves as "Havamasiko" before they arrived along the Okavango River about the beginning of 19th century.

Mbukushu people


The Hambukushu are scattered in small extended family homestead and larger communities along the rivers of the northern Ngamiland of Botswana, northern Namibia, and Barotseland of Zambia along the Kwando River in what is called the Mashi region. In Mashi region Hambukushu live along the banks of Kwando River which forms the southeastern border of Angola and Zambia and also further south where the River flows through the Caprivi Strip of Namibia and thence into the Chobe.

The main concentration of hambukushu in Namibia is along the banks of Okavanago river and on the islands in the River from Andara to the border of Botswana. Humbuskushu also live in small communities along the river in smaller numbers as afar as Dirico westward along the Okavango to the conjunction of  the Cuito River of Angola. There are others who also live on the Angola side of the river.

It is believed that many Hambukushu were sold into slavery to Mambari traders for the Portuguese.and others became the slaves of the Lozi.

The villages where this ethnic group is found include Gumare, Etsha, Shakawe, Mohembo, Kauxwi, Gowa Xakao, Sekhondomboro, Mogotho, Seronga, Ghonotsoga and Beetsha.


Hambukushu people speak Simbukushu, a Bantoid language of the larger Niger-Congo phylum.


Historically,Hambukushu have  a legend that their Supreme God, Nyembe created the first people of their tribe and let them down on a rope from Heaven to the Tsodilo Hills. they authenticate their story by saying that they can show the actual footprints of the first men and animals on the rocks. However, many historians disagree with this legend, claiming that the prints on the rock are the Rock Arts of San (Bushmen) people.

Historically, Hambukushu is first recorded as a tribe of Barotse origin.

The history of Etsha settlement in north-western Botswana dates back to 1967 when 3,300 refugees from the Hambukushu tribe in southern Angola crossed into Botswana, fleeing Portuguese attacks during Angola's war of independence. In those days, Portuguese forces used to attack villages, burn the houses and take the livestock away, leaving the Hambukushu without any means of subsistence and finally forcing them to leave their territories.

Mbukushu people

The first arrivals in Botswana were recorded in December 1967. Reverend Wynne, a priest who worked with the refugees for many years, describes how they came in a terrible state: "They were naked except for a rough cloth covering their middle. The women had simple traditional ornaments and carried a plaited screen mat, a bundle with a few things and a water pot on their heads."

The refugees had nothing to eat but wild fruits in the bush. Emaciated and weakened by war and famine, many people died of sleeping sickness. In order to survive, the refugees looked for work among the Bayeye people who were traditionally farming the Etsha region of northern Botswana.
When the Hambukushu first arrived in Botswana, they were met by a wave of overwhelming hospitality and support. In order to give the newly-arrived refugees a status in Botswana, the Paramount Chief of the Batawana, Letsholatebe, adopted them as members of his tribe and allocated them land. The refugees were settled in 13 villages.

The UN launched an emergency feeding programme, provided agricultural tools and seeds while the national Red Cross helped with medicine. The Botswana government sent an agricultural expert to train the Hambukushu on how to farm on a soil and in a climate foreign to them. The District Council financed the building of a school. Literacy training for children and adults was organised.



Hamkubushu people are agro-fishery people. They engage in subsistence agriculture coupled with some sort of animal husbandry. Fishing is the major occupation of the Hambukushu people as the are riverine people.

The Hambukushu are resourceful people, they grow maize, pumpkins and watermelons and occupy themselves with brick-making, bee-keeping, and reed trade. But above all, they are known for their basket-making skills.

The elaborate baskets are made of palm fibre that is dyed with roots or bark to achieve different shades of brown, orange and cream. They sell their baskets to the Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), which sells them to craft traders in Botswana and abroad. These baskets are of high quality and beautiful design and are among the finest pieces of craft produced in Africa.

Katutu has been working in the basket project for five years. On behalf of the BCC, she receives the order, buys the basket from the women in the village and prepares the shipments to the capital. She also supervises the basket shop in Etsha.


Political structure

Hambukushu people has a chief that preside over their territory. It used to be like that before the coming of the White man and subsequently, the taking over of the Okavango area administration by the Tswana people. According to Passarge, "At the head of the tribe is the chief who is assisted by counsel of family heads. The power of the chief was not so unlimited as for instance with the Ovambo, but still considerable. One pays to him yearly dues ((gifts) in corn, skin, cattle and wild game. To him alone one owes military allegiance (service) and treatment of foreign travelers depend upon his mood."
The chief has servants, the harpika, and special body guards, ngambera, to protect him against his enemies and foreign attacks.
Hambukushu has a role for a chief rain-maker. The great traditional rain-maker chief ushers in agricultural activities, officiated and performed by the leading dances of Rengo (Harvest festival).


Religious belief

Hambukushu have a keen belief in religion. In their traditional cosmology, they worship a Supreme being and a creator god, Nyembe. They believe that he is that God above every other gods. He punishes the evil doer and bless the good one.

Hathimo; Hambukushu believe in large group of spirits who are individual souls of the deceased ancestors. the Hambukushu offer practical sacrifices to these ancestral spirits. For more on this,click on this link:The-Hambukushu-Rainmakers-of-the-Okavango.

Hambukushu or the ‘rainmakers of Okavango’ (believed to perform rituals that make rainfall), whose language is called sembukushu,  are a tribe found in the Okavango, which is in north-western parts of Botswana.

They are said to believe in a God called Nyembe whom they worshiped and obviously because of the colonization of Botswana had to abandon that belief and adopt a new religion, Christianity, which led to abolishing most of the religious and cultural practices. There are, nevertheless some Hambukushu who still practice this worship of gods to date.


Death and Life After death

According to their belief a dead person is not really dead. Though a body upon death is laid to rest, the soul, the spirit (hathimo) departs the body and goes to the spirit world. Good peoples spirit ascend to heaven (Diwiru) to live with Nyembi (god). The evil spirit goes to live with Shadapinyi`s (Nyembi`s evil messenger of death`s) abode where they must work hard in the sun eat bad food and drink bad beer. The spirit Both evil and good return to earth to visit their relatives, to make demand upon them during muthimo (spirit`s) visitations and to maintain Hambukushu establishment values.



They are known also for their traditional music that they call seperu, a dance that was used initially in rituals as they are ancestral worshipers. This dance is performed by both men and women alike. Hambukushu also have a dance called njangura, which is performed to conduct a healing.