The population of the Lemba tribe in Southern Africa is between 70,000 to 80,000 people. These people live in South Africa and central Zimbabwe. According to some genetic tests carried out by British scientist over the years, these communities have the Jewish origin. The Lemba people are Bantu speaking. The name “Lemba” may have originate 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 become 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.
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.
Every one day of the 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 community respect the sabbath day. Children in these community are also taught how to obey and respect their parents at a tender age.
These community have a ritual sacrifice called Pesah which resembles Jewish sacrifice of Passover. They perform their sacred prayers in both Hebrew and Arab languages. These tribe have a ngoma lungundu Covenant which has the same meaning as the Ark Covenant in the Bible. The word ngoma lungundu means drum that thunders which they believe is a voice from God. The calendar of these community follow the path of the moon.
The way these 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 researches, 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.
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 practiced by Lemba, Muslim and the Jewish people alike.