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For the related ethnic group in Malawi, see Tonga people of Malawi. For the Pacific island kingdom, see Tonga. For other uses see Tonga (disambiguation).

The Tonga people of Zambia and Zimbabwe (also called 'Batonga') are a Bantu ethnic group of southern Zambia and neighbouring northern Zimbabwe, and to a lesser extent, in Mozambique. They are related to the Batoka who are part of the Tokaleya people in the same area, and also to the Tonga people of Malawi.


The Tonga of Zambia

The so-called 'Valley Tonga' live along the Zambezi River valley and on the shores of the Kariba Dam. Their culture was severely disrupted by the creation of the Kariba Dam, which resulted in the displacement of many people.

The so-called 'Plateau Tonga' live on the southern plateau of Zambia and are traditionally farmers who place great importance on cattle as symbols of wealth.

The Tonga are thought to have migrated from central Africa into the region during the 12th century. The Tonga people were the first tribe to settle in Zambia and are the good subsistence farmers mainly keep cattle to support their way of life. They are also great crop farmers, supporting the entire Zambian nation.

The Tonga of Zimbabwe

The BaTonga people of Zimbabwe are found in and around the Binga District, the Kariba area, and other parts of Matabeleland. They number up to 300,000 and are mostly subsistence farmers. ln Zimbabwe the language of the Tonga people is called chitonga.

The Tonga of Mozambique

They live south of Zambezi River and along the border with Zimbabwe.


The Tonga language of Zambia is spoken by about 1.38 million people in Zambia and 137,000 in Zimbabwe; it is an important lingua franca in parts of those countries and is spoken by members of other ethnic groups as well as the Tonga.[1]

The Malawian Tonga language is classified in a different zone of the Bantu languages.

Tonga also speak Shona in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, English in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and Portuguese in Mozambique as second languages.


  1. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). "Ethnologue report for language code: toi". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Retrieved 2006-05-08.  


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