The Bahananoas are a tribal branch of the Sotho people (Sotho was one of the ancient ethnic-tribal groups, or nations, indigenous to Africa). They are further identified as a part of the Bapedi, or “Pedi” people, which are a large segment of the Sothos. Their original tribal name is Hananoa (sometimes pronounced phonetically as Hananwa). The “Ba” part of the current name simply means “people”, thus the “Hananoa People”. They identify with the Pedi, or Northern Sothos, as opposed to the Southern and Western Sothos. This, of course, is an indication of the inter-tribal rivalries that have always characterized African people groups.
The Bahananoa are located between Lebowa, (one of the former Black Homelands designated by the Republic of South Africa [RSA] during the apartheid era), on the southwest, Venda (another Black Homeland) on the east, and the nations of Botswana and Zimbabwe on the north. Some of the Bahananoa are actually located within Lebowa that is primarily inhabited by other Pedi groups. The Bahananoa were geographically isolated during the apartheid era, and their circumstances, which are currently almost identical to the people from the “Black Home Lands”, affirm this.
The Bahananoa population is approximately 612,000 which is about 80% of people in an area of approximately 10,000 square kilometers located due North of Pokowane (formerly Pietersburg), RSA, and spreading East and West up to the point where the RSA, Botswana and Zimbabwe borders meet. Even though they are officially referred to as “Pedis”, they now have an established identity as the “Bapedi Bahananoa” people, and their first language is Sepedi. The remaining 20% of people are a mixture of all the other groups that are indigenous to the Limpopo (formerly Northern) Province.
Subsequent to the true independence of the RSA in 1994, all of the “Black Homelands” have been reincorporated into RSA. However, many rural areas still retain their tribal systems and chiefs, which are recognized and supported by the central Government. There are a few developing towns and small cities, such as Dendron and Bochum, within Bahananoa, where urban style governmental systems exist.
A demographic “snapshot” from the 1996 Census of the Limpopo Province illustrates the life style of the Bahananoa people. More than: 95% have lived their entire lives in the area; 50% are under 19 years of age; 37% have little, or no education; 46% are unemployed; 15% have skilled jobs; 41% of the employed make less than $50 per month; five people live in a household consists, 29% of whom live in two rooms, or less (this includes 8% who live in makeshift shacks, or worse); 64% cook with wood; 17% have running water; 7% have telephones; and, 13% have flush toilets, 64% have pit latrines, and 21% have no toilets.
The religious picture is also grim as 27% claim to be Christians, however, we believe no more than 4% are “born again Christians”. Thirty seven percent (37%) claim membership in African Independent Churches (AICs, which purport to indigenous churches, but usually have outside influences/sources, such as the Zionist Church). Most AIC’s teach a combination of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and African Traditional Religion (animism and ancestor worship). Over 35% reported no religion, or would not respond. There are no known Baptist churches, or workers in this area.
IMB’s Southeastern Africa Cluster (SEAC) is not engaged with the Bahananoa people, but we believe God is working with them, and that they are responsive to the Gospel. These conclusions are based on evangelistic surveys, experiential data, and interaction with other Great Commission Christians who are familiar with the area. We have requested that missionaries be assigned to this area, and are praying that God will send workers into this harvest field.