The population of the Caprivi, estimated at a little under 100,000 is distributed along the river banks, alongside the major roads of the Caprivi and in and around the main centre Katima Mulilo and the villages of Sibinda, Sangwali, Linyanti, Chinchimane, Bukalo, Ngoma and Isize. There are two main tribal groups, the Fwe in the wet and the Subia in the east. The Fwe include several smaller communities of Yeyi, Totela and Lozi, (Malan, J.S.: Peoples of Namibia)
The head of each village is the oldest male and will have assumed the position by descent. Groups of villages (wards) are headed up by a senior Headman who is elected. The senior headmen act as local representatives on the tribal council (kuta), which is presided over by the ‘ngamela’ (chief councilor). The ngambela, who is appointed by the tribal head or chief, is the conduit through which communication from the chief to the tribe via the headmen flows in a two-way direction.
In addition to hunting and fishing, the Caprivians till the soil, planting maize, millet, beans, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, pumpkins, melons and also sugar cane. They are also gatherers and pastoralists, with well structured usage of the communal grazing areas.
Their isolation and remoteness have been responsible for their continued dependence on this traditional subsistence economy.Although polygamous marriages are on the decrease, it is not unusual to encounter some people still clinging to the old tradition of having more than one wife. If a man is wealthy, it follows that he can maintain more wives, have more children and thus have more hands to perform daily chores. The payment of ‘lobola’ by the groom for a wife to legalize the marriage contract is still practiced and is usually in the form of a number of head of cattle.
After the marriage and a short stay with the bride’s family, the couple moves to the ward of the husband. They must erect their own living quarters, which, at the start of their married life, consists of one hut for cooking and storing purposes and another as sleeping quarters. Huts are added from time to time as the family increases in size, and may eventually be enclosed within a wide reed fence. The building of huts is a joint venture by men and women. The huts have a basic construction of poles with a lath support on top, which is thatched with grass. Walls are plastered with mud mixed with cow dung, and doors may be of simple construction, sometimes only a few poles tied together or a grass mat hanging from above.
As a result of their historical social interaction with Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, the majority of Caprivians learned to speak English. Numbers of the men worked for some time, on mines in Johannesburg and hence learned to speak Fanagalo. This is the only region in Namibia where minimal Afrikaans is spoken.