Ndembu - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Neighborhoods join informally at healing rituals and initiations, and friends join in informal groups to use or borrow a vehicle, molds for brick making, or the like. Women share pounding mortars. The churches, schools, and branch committees of government have replaced most of the crosscutting functions of the old cult associations, which were based on spirit manifestations in the form of illness.

Political Organization. A paramount chief, Kanongesha, heads a local law court and promulgates edicts concerning local safety or housing measures. He ideally attends the finale of the circumcisions. Subchiefs visit villages and harangue the inhabitants on local issues, thus creating a sense of self-identity among the Ndembu people. Village headmen, although they are becoming less important, are now chosen by election. The numerous farms give a strongly individualistic character to rural life. Modern elections are held to choose political branch heads and the rural council. Certain chiefs are nominated for the rural council by the minister of provincial and local government and culture in Lusaka.

Social Control. Very revered elders eventually become judges. They meet to hear civil cases in a village meeting shelter. More serious cases go to the district court.

Conflict. Bandits occasionally enter the region and ransack isolated villages. Local violence is mainly owing to alcoholism or jealousy, the latter being expressed in deeds of witchcraft. These are countered by antiwitchcraft rituals. Overt conflicts are resolved in the village courts.

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