The Vhandalamo are the Singo. They were part of Karanga-Rodzvi clan, and came to Venda with the Singo conquerors in the 17th century. According to Vhavenda oral tradition, the Singo Kings had a magic drum known as Ngomalungundu. This was a sacred drum of Mwali (Mwari), the Great God of the Singo. Ngomalungundu was the spear and shield of the Singo. Their king is believed to have worked miracles with this drum which had magic and killing powers.
The leader of the Vhandalamo house was the bearer of Ngomalungundu and was responsible for crowning and blessing Singo kings. The leader of Vhandalamo house was regarded as the Prime Minister of the kingdom. During King Dyambeu’s reign the leader of the Vhandalamo house was Tshishonga, and he was King Dyambeu’s nephew.
Ngomalungundu was, according to Mwali’s instructions, not supposed to touch the ground. It was supposed to be carried by six Vhandalamo men when moving from one place to the other and when the Singo were in combat. It was also, when not being moved or used, supposed to be placed safely at a place where it would not touch the ground.
Oral history has it that during King Dyambeu’s reign, and when he was busy conquering all Vhangoņa clans, the Singo tried to conquer the Vhaţavhatsindi of Fundudzi. Dyambeu is said to have underestimated the Vhaţavhatsindi and decided to subjugate them without the use of Ngomalungundu. He, therefore, instructed the six Vhandalamo men who carried Ngomalungundu to hang it on a plum tree. Ngomalungundu is said to have fallen from the plum tree, touched the ground and cracked while the Singo were busy fighting the Vhaţavhatsindi. This led to the defeat of the Singo by Vhaţavhatsindi, and the broken Ngomalungundu was taken by the Vhaţavhatsindi. King Dyambeu was killed. This was the first defeat of the Singo by any of the Vhavenda clans.
It is said that the Vhaţavhatsindi took Ngomalungundu to their royal kraal, Tshiheni. Mwali, the Great God of the Singo, is said to have made contact with Tshishonga of the Vhandalamo house and gave him a golden pipe which had similar powers to those of Ngomalungundu.
Tshishonga led the Singo army to conquer Vhaţavhatsindi. The army set up its base camp at a place known today as “Mudavhi wa Tshishonga” (Tshishonga’s field). The Singo army defeated the Vhaţavhatsindi with the help of the magical golden pipe given to Tshishonga by Mwali. The Singo also managed to get hold of Ngomalungundu and took it back to Dzaţa.
Phophi Masindi (Ţhohoyandou) took over as the King of Vhavenda due to the support he got from Tshishonga. Phophi was the youngest son, and the Tshishonga leader was aware of the fact that Phophi’s elder brothers would object to him becoming king. Tshishonga, therefore, devised a plan that required all claimants to the throne to try open the door of the hut where Ngomalungundu was stored. He stated that whoever succeeded in opening the door was the one anointed by Mwali as the new king. The claimants were required to state their names before attempting to open the door. Tshishonga placed strong Vhandalamo men in the hut to block the door. This men were instructed to only allow the door to open with ease when Phophi Masindi attempted to open it.
Phophi Masindi’s brothers, Ravhura and Raluswielo all tried to open the door but failed. But when Phophi Masindi approached and stated his name, the door opened by itself without him pushing it. Phophi Masindi became the new undisputed Vhavenda king and was given the title of Ţhohoyandou.
When the Vhavenda kingdom started disintegrating, after King Thohoyandou’s disappearance, Tshishonga and his brothers, Lutswiki, Lugongolo, and Lukomboluńwe left Dzaţa and settled at Fondwe. They, however, maintained good relations with Ţhohoyandou’s son, King Munzhedzi.
Tshishonga left Fondwe and settled at Tswinga and died there. Lutswiki’s son, Mammoko, who had married King Ţhohoyandou’s daughter, Gumbu, settled with her at Ņiani and Maţokoţa. Gumbu had been made the chief of Niani by King Ţhohoyandou. The Vhandalamo of Ha-Tshikundamalema descended from Mammoko and Gumbu.
Lugongolo settled at Khubvi. His descendants are known as the Vhandalamo of Randima, and they are the rulers of Khubvi village.
Lukomboluńwe settled at Mukula. His descendants are known as the Vhandalamo of Mammburu. They were the rulers of Mukula village until 1912 when they were dethroned by the Tshivhases who installed a Tshivhase chief at Mukula.
The dethronement of Mamburu in 1912 led to the following popular stanza in a famous Tshivenda poem:
Mamburu vulani ndila;
Hu a dzhena tshihu Rańwedzi;
Ene ndi Nyamudaļotsha;
Ţhama khulu ya Mundalamo
Ya Mukhada mulila-vhathu;
Mukhada ndi Nyatshiemula;
Tshiemula midi ya vhathu.
The stanza states that Chief Mamburu of the Vhandalamo must vacate the chieftainship in favour of Rańwedzi (the new chief who is a Tshivhase), and that Rańwedzi ‘is a great friend of the Vhandalamo’.
The Vhandalamo are today scattered all over Venda. But they are the rulers of the following villages:
- Tswinga; and
The most famous Mundalamo is the late guitarist and vocalist, Vho-Avhashoni Albert Mundalamo Tshikundamalema whose hits include the following:
- Vho-Mutshekwa (Munna wavho u vherega Brits);
- Mahosi a Venda (Ha-Ţhohoyandou Mphephu hu ya nzhangama Venda);
- Mvula ya Madekwe (Tshiņoni tshavho tsho wa sekondari ya Mukula);
- Domba ļa Ha-Tshivhasa; and
- Vha na phele ya gegulu.
WMD Phophi – Nganea dza Vhurululu ha Lwamondo na Ha-Tshivhasa.