The Wanda are a Bantu ethno-linguistic group based in Mbeya Region and southern Rukwa Region of Tanzania. The Wanda population was estimated to be 24,000 in 1987, having increased from 5,745 in 1931, 7,677 in 1948, and 9,477 in 1957.

Wanda people

Oral tradition states that the Wanda people originally came from the Mwanga tribe of Zambia. A new chief set himself up in the valley south of Lake Rukwa and gathered followers. They became known as the Wanda, "the people who cut grass."

The Wanda live in a relatively small area far away from any main roads. There is a large river that cuts through the area and serves as the boundary between the Mbeya and Rukwa regions. During the rains, the river is impassable for vehicles due to rising water levels and the addition of crocodiles. A foot bridge joins two of the larger villages together.

The Wanda live in houses of fired mud brick with thatched roofs. Their dress is mainly western, although many women wear colorful African wraps called kangas.

Primarily the Wanda are agriculturalists growing millet, maize, rice, peanuts, and potatoes. Some also raise livestock, including cattle, goats, pigs, and chickens.



The Wanda's native dialect is also called Wanda. Linguists group Wanda with Fipa, Lungu, Nyamwanga, Pimbwe, and Kuulwe as dialects of a single language. Most people also speak some Swahili.


Political system

Following German occupation, the Wanda came under British rule, and the northern chiefdom of Uwanda was abolished, being incorporated into the Fipa chiefdom of Lyangalile. The chief was always called Mwene, and was generally related to others in the group. The Mwene was greeted with clapping hands and the phrases "You are the only one" or "Guard us well".



As with many of the peoples of southwest Tanzania, in marriage ceremonies the groom carried a bow in his right-hand and an arrow in his left "to pierce any man who seduces your wife".

At a chief's burial a grave is dug inside the chief's hut, but only after a whole sheep is buried. The chief is placed in a sitting position on his royal stool, with a brightly colored bird's feather placed in his hair.

The main crops of the Wanda were finger millet, sorghum, sesame, peanuts, and maize. These crops were cultivated on ridges. Iron tools and weapons were not produced by the Wanda, these being traded in, mostly from the Fipa.

The Wanda worshipped gods, certain large trees, and the graves of certain chiefs.



Most of the Wanda people claim affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church. There are also other churches in the area, such as Moravian, Evangelical Assemblies of God, Evangelical Lutheran, and Grace Churches; however, few of the members are Wanda. It was reported that there are no Wanda Muslims. The traditional religion is reported to still exist, but it is not openly practiced.