Lemba Tribe – People, Culture & Language

The population of the Lemba tribe in Southern Africa is between 70,000 to 80,000 people. In 2002, they were estimated to be 50,000 people. These people live in South Africa and central Zimbabwe. According to some genetic tests carried out by British scientists over the years, these people have the Jewish origin. The name “Lemba” may have originated from Chilemba, a Swahili word for turbans worn by some Bantu people, or Lembi, a Bantu word meaning “non-African” or “respected foreigner”

According to the Bible in the book of Hebrew, Jacob the son of Abraham had twelve sons. Each son became a leader of the twelve tribes of Israel. As years went by, these tribes separated and moved to different parts of the world such as China, India, Japan and Ethiopia due to political and geographical reasons. The Lemba people are some of the groups believed to have descended from one of the twelve tribes and to have made their settlement in Southern Africa.

Lemba Tribe: Their Culture & People

Image Source

Today, these people still maintain several Jewish practices and customs. For instance, every male child undergoes circumcision rituals just like the Jewish. They still offer animal sacrifices. However, before an animal sacrifice is eaten, all the blood must be drained completely from the body. According to their traditions, meat is not supposed to be mixed with blood. They believe in one God who is the creator of heaven and earth. They have strict rules concerning intermarriages and, they strongly emphasize that a Lemba man should only marry a wife from his own community similar to the Jewish community. A non-Lemba man who wishes to marry a Lemba woman must undergo rituals such as circumcision and all purification procedures before he will be qualified to do so. A Lemba man who wishes to marry a non-Lemba woman may be banished from the tribe unless the woman agrees to follow the norms and beliefs of the tribe. These include their dietary rules, religion and other traditions. The woman is in most cases prohibited from carrying any cooking utensils from her old home. Previously, the woman may need to shave off her hair. More than that, any child resulting from such marriage must be brought up as a Lemba.

One day of every week is considered holy. These people spend this day giving thanks and praise to their God. They also follow the ten commandments given to Moses by God. They hardly eat animals prohibited in the Old Testament such as pork and fish without scales. These communities respect the Sabbath day. Children in these communities are also taught how to obey and respect their parents at a tender age.

5 Notable Truths About Afrikaners

These communities have a ritual sacrifice called Pesah which resembles Jewish sacrifice of Passover. They perform their sacred prayers in both Hebrew and Arab languages. These tribes have a Ngoma Lungundu Covenant which has the same meaning as the Ark of the Covenant in the Bible. The word Ngoma Lungundu means ”drum that thunders”, which they believe is a voice from God. The calendar of the tribe follows the path of the moon.

The way Lemba people choose their priests is also similar to that of the Jewish community. They believe that only ten percent of the Lemba population priests are descendants of Aaron. According to DNA tests researchers, Lemba males carry a high concentration of Jewish priestly DNA chromosomes than both the European and the Jewish population. These tribe also place the star of David on their tombstones.

Image Source

However, there are some other customs and rituals which are similar to the Muslim religion. For example, these communities perform their circumcision rituals between the age of seven and fifteen years, unlike the Jewish people who perform the same rituals some days after birth. The ritual slaughter of animals is however practised by Lemba, Muslim and the Jewish people alike.

The Lemba share a lot in common with their geographic neighbours including their language and physical appearance, but they have some disparities in religion and culture. This is linked to the fact that Lemba cultural and religious practices appear to be more Semitic than African. For this reason, many scientists have suggested that the tribe is of Jewish descent. However, before the modern era, the Lemba religion and cultural practices can be connected to Islam and Judaism.


Since Lemba people, also known as Mwenye or Wa-Remba are a Bantu ethnic group, they speak Bantu languages. The ethnic group is native to Zimbabwe and South Africa, with smaller known subdivisions in Malawi and Mozambique.

Was this article helpful?
Andile Smith
Andile Smith
Andile provides articles on anything from Politics, Sports, History and entertainment to funny, creepy and weird. His passion for writing allows him to take what is ordinary and transform it into a real masterpiece. He's a true storyteller with a passion for tech and literature
data-matched-content-rows-num="2" data-matched-content-columns-num="4" data-matched-content-ui-type="image_stacked" data-ad-format="autorelaxed">


How Quinton Jones’ Met, Married and Started a Family With Minnie Dlamini

Quinton Jones' marriage to South Africa's sweetheart, Minnie Dlamini was one of the biggest events of 2017. The news also broke so many hearts...

An Interesting List of Nandi Mbatha’s Boyfriends – Past and Present

Nandi Mbatha apparently loves the feeling of love and being treated to dates. Since the actress stepped onto the scene, she has dated a...

How Did Themba Ntuli Become So Famous and What Car Does He Drive?

Lovers of entertainment in South Africa would know the popular filmmaker, actor, and comedian, Themba Ntuli. Perhaps, one reason he has gained so much...

A Deeper Look at Quinton Jones’ Net Worth and How He Acquired His Wealth

Quinton Jones is one of the most mysterious South African celebrities. He has managed to keep his personal life very much private through the...

Analyzing Litlhonolofatso Litlhakanyane’s Role as Tebello on Scandal and Becoming A Famous Child Actor

Litlhonolofatso Litlhakanyane has been a mainstay of the e.tv soapie Scandal! ever since he broke out onto the scene of the popular South African...

Featured Today

10 Lesser Known Facts About the Historical Zulu War

What Really Happened Between Kelly Khumalo and Jub Jub – Details About Their Love and Son

There was a time that Kelly Khumalo and Jub Jub were easily tipped to be the next big celebrity couple in South Africa. They...

All About Themba Ntuli’s Marriage to Wife Hope Masilo and The Age Difference Between Them

Themba Ntuli is a Zimbabwean-born actor who rose to immense fame through his role in the South African television show, Rhythm City. The son of...

Inside Quinton Jones Time With Pearl Thusi and Other People He Has Dated

In 2017 when Quinton Jones got married to Minnie Dlamini, not a small number of people were left heartbroken that Minnie, who is almost...

Kelly Khumalo and Chad da Don’s Fairytale Romance, Why It Ended and Who They Moved on To

South African songstress, Kelly Khumalo knows her game when it comes to dishing out hot tracks that make her fans go gaga, but the...

Surprising Facts About Nandi Mbatha’s Biography and Age Milestones

Nandi Mbatha is a talented actress with a fast-rising career in the South African entertainment industry. She is easily recognized for effortlessly playing the...
Was this article helpful?

Related Stories