The Lemba Bantu tribe in South Africa

South East African Bantu History

About 3,000 years ago, a group of Niger-Congo languages called Bantu (meaning “people”) originated in West Africa in an area that includes modern-day Nigeria and Cameroon. Early Bantu speakers farmed yams and oil palms and lived on the edges of forests where resources were richer and they could supplement their diet with bushmeat. A stable and somewhat varied food supply led to population growth, and the people spread in two directions. Some went south along Africa’s west coast, while others headed east across the continent in one of the greatest migrations in human history. Today, Bantu peoples are found throughout much of southern and eastern Africa.

Spread of the Bantu Languages

The South Asia region is the birthplace of both Hinduism and Buddhism, the world’s third- and fourth-largest religions. Islam arrived later, in the 7th century A.D., with the Arab conquest. “The Gate of Islam,” is what the Arab Empire called Pakistan and the country remains primarily Muslim to this day.

Eastern Bantu Migrations

The Eastern Bantu migrations began about 1000 B.C. As they moved toward modern-day Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, the Eastern Bantu learned to grow grains and smelt iron, which they used to make farming tools. Increased food production led to larger populations, which displaced other peoples along the way as the Eastern Bantu moved into southernmost Africa.


Western Bantu Migrations

About 1000 B.C., the Western Bantu moved south from Cameroon along the west coast of Africa, ending up in what we know today as Angola and Namibia. As some groups moved deeper into central Africa’s rainforests and riverine environments, they added fishing to their skills.










Watch The genetics of the Lemba tribe who are classed as Jewish and Hebrew

Watch a modern Jew confirm the Lemba are genetically Jews descended from Aaron

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The Only Truth: lemba people (Vhashavhi or Vhalemba)



Although they are speakers of Bantu languages related to those spoken by their geographic neighbours, they have specific religious practices and beliefs similar to those in Judaism, which some[who?] suggest were transmitted orally. Today, many Lemba are Christians (including Messianic Jews) or Muslim, and maintain several Jewish practices. Recent genetic analyses have established a partially Semitic (Middle-Eastern) origin for a significant portion of the Lemba population.[3][4]

The name “Lemba” may originate in chilemba, a Swahili word for turbans worn by East Africans or lembi a Bantu word meaning “non-African” or “respected foreigner”.[5] 



Judaic or Arab links

Many Lemba beliefs and practices can be linked to Judaism. According to Rudo Mathivha,[2] this includes the following:

They call God Nwali.
They observe Shabbat.
They praise Nwali for looking after the Lemba, considering themselves part of the chosen people.
They teach their children to honor their mothers and fathers.
They refrain from eating pork and other foods forbidden by the Torah, and forbid combinations of permitted foods.
Their form of animal slaughter, which makes meats fit for their consumption, is a form of shechita.
They practise male circumcision; (furthermore, according to Junod,[6] surrounding tribes regarded them as the masters and originators of that art).
They place a Star of David on their tombstones.
Lembas are discouraged from marrying non-Lembas, as other Jews are discouraged from marrying other non-Jews.
Circumcision, not marrying non-Lembas, their dietary practices and a suggested relationship between many Lemba clan-names and known Semitic words; e.g., Sadiki, Hasane, Hamisi, Haji, Bakeri, Sharifo and Saidi led W. D. Hammond-Tooke to the conclusion that they were Arabs.[7]

Lemba traditions and culture 

According to some Lemba, they had male ancestors who were Jews who left Judea about 2,500 years ago and settled in a place called Senna, later migrating into East Africa.[8] According to the findings of British researcher Tudor Paurfitt, the location of Senna was more than likely in Yemen, specifically, in the village of Sanāw within the easternmost portion of the Wadi Hadhramaut.[9] The city had a vibrant Jewish population since ancient times, but it dwindled to a few hundred people since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.[10]
According to their oral tradition, the male ancestors of the Lemba came to southeast Africa to obtain gold[7][11]


All pictures from Google

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Zimbabwean Lemba men

Many Lemba are Christians and Muslims, but they embrace their Jewish roots


By Steve Vickers 
BBC News, Harare

The Lemba people of Zimbabwe and South Africa may look like their compatriots, but they follow a very different set of customs and traditions.

They do not eat pork, they practise male circumcision, they ritually slaughter their animals, some of their men wear skull caps and they put the Star of David on their gravestones.

Their oral traditions claim that their ancestors were Jews who fled the Holy Land about 2,500 years ago.

It may sound like another myth of a lost tribe of Israel, but British scientists have carried out DNA tests which have confirmed their Semitic origin.

These tests back up the group’s belief that a group of perhaps seven men married African women and settled on the continent. The Lemba, who number perhaps 80,000, live in central Zimbabwe and the north of South Africa.

Zimbabwean Lemba women

Lemba women do not have Jewish DNA

And they also have a prized religious artefact that they say connects them to their Jewish ancestry – a replica of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant known as the ngoma lungundu, meaning “the drum that thunders”.

The object went on display recently at a Harare museum to much fanfare, and instilled pride in many of the Lemba.

“For me it’s the starting point,” says religious singer Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave.

“Very few people knew about us and this is the time to come out. I’m very proud to realise that we have a rich culture and I’m proud to be a Lemba.

“We have been a very secretive people, because we believe we are a special people.”

Religion vs culture

The Lemba have many customs and regulations that tally with Jewish tradition.

They wear skull caps, practise circumcision, which is not a tradition for most Zimbabweans, avoid eating pork and food with animal blood, and have 12 tribes.

Tudor Parfitt
 Many people say that the story is far-fetched, but the oral traditions of the Lemba have been backed up by science 
Tudor Parfitt
University of London

They slaughter animals in the same way as Jewish people, and they put the Jewish Star of David on their tombstones.

Members of the priestly clan of the Lemba, known as the Buba, were even discovered to have a genetic element also found among the Jewish priestly line.

“This was amazing,” said Prof Tudor Parfitt, from the University of London.

“It looks as if the Jewish priesthood continued in the West by people called Cohen, and in same way it was continued by the priestly clan of the Lemba.


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Transatlantic journey from West Africa to beyond

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