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History of Matabeleland

12 years ago | 157541 Views

King Mzilikazi, as portrayed by Captain William Cornwallis Harris, circa 1836
Mzilikazi Khumalo -1st King of Matabeleland
Reign 	ca. 1823 - 1868
Coronation 	ca. 1820
Born 	ca. 1790
Birthplace 	Mkuze
Died 	9 September 1868
Place of death 	Matabeleland, buried in a cave at Entumbane, Matobo Hills ( 4 November 1868)
Predecessor 	Founder (father murdered; formerly a lieutenant Zulu King Shaka)
Successor 	Lobengula
Consort 	several wives
Offspring 	Lobengula (son), Nkulumane (son), and many others
Royal House 	Khumalo; founder of the Ndebele people
Father 	Matshobana KaMangete (c. late 1700s — c. 1820s),
Mother 	Nompethu KaZwide, daughter of Chief Zwide of the Ndwandwe people (tribe).

Before we tell you about King Mzilikazi It is important to understand a little bit of His background and our connection to the ZULU Kingdom of Shaka Zulu. So let's begin with a little bit of background information about King Shaka .

Historians have called him "Black Caesar" and compared his military skills with Alexander the Great, and there is no doubt that the history of southern Africa would have been very different had Shaka not lived.


Shaka Zulu: a statue in South Africa and a contemporary sketch of the king

The man who founded the Zulu nation was born around 1787 and was murdered by his half-brother, Dingaan, in 1828 near the banks of the Thukela (Tugela) River. In his 41 years, he united the northern Nguni people - known today as the Zulus - and set the tribal boundaries of the Xhosa, Sotho and Swazi nations.

Many stories have been told of the Zulus and the tribes that grew from them including the Shangaan and Matabele, and because we had no written language most accounts were logged by explorers, hunters and missionaries.

But we also have a spoken version of history, handed down by grandparents, uncles, aunts and elders to wide-eyed children sitting by the fire at night. There under the open sky, tales are told without interruption, except from the animals and birds that call to each other in the dark.

There, in the forests and clearings, our history has been passed from one generation to the next. Now, with the glow of your computer screen on this website in place of the fire, let us share it once more with each other and with new friends from Africa and around the world.

Shaka changed the nature of warfare by inventing a short stabbing spear to replace the long throwing assegais. This meant that his soldiers could attack and not lose their weapons. And he established battalions and companies similar to those used in modern armies, even though at the time there had been no contact with western explorers. It is safe to say a lot of the military warfare used by the West today - WAS COPIED and LEARNT from These great AFRICAN KINGS - although they will never tell you that - BUT WE WILL !!

One of these military units was headed by Shaka's friend and most gifted general, Mzilikazi Khumalo, son of Matshobana.

Mzilikazi, king of the Matabele, with his royal attendants.

NOW - Mzilikazi was only three years younger than Shaka, and had become widely respected within the kingdom for his daring raids on rival tribes.

In 1823, Shaka sent Mzilikazi on a punitive expedition against another chief. The general was successful, but on his way back, he sent a message asking whether he could keep some of the cattle, slaves and women captured in the raid, and retire to an area west of Zululand to see out his days.

The law was clear: all spoils of war belonged to the king and the very impudence of asking was enough for Mzilikazi and his family to be executed.

Sensing danger, the Khumalo army turned north and settled first at a spot near the modern town of Bethal, 150 kilometres south of Johannesburg, which they named Phumuleni or "The Resting Place."

Some say Shaka sent an army in persuit, others say he let the Khumalos go, perhaps an indication of his love for Mzilikazi. Either way, rains were good, the soil was rich, and the exiles prospered.

As their herds grew, the new king worried that Shaka would hear of their good fortune and grow jealous, so he moved his people to where Pretoria now stands, then to Brits, and finally to a site on the Groot Marico River near Botswana.

Over the next decade, Mzilikazi and his warriors came to dominate the entire northern region of South Africa, destroying local kingdoms and pushing others like the Shangaan, Venda, Pedi and Tswana off the best land.

Their rivals named them amaNdebele, "the people of tall shields" and a nation was born.

The Roman empire became great because, on conquering another country, they would incorporate those who surrendered to create an ever-greater force. And this is how the Matabele built their numbers.

Men and women of working age who would not submit to the new order were taken as slaves. Shaka was, without doubt, the biggest slave-owner in the history of southern Africa and Mzilikazi became a close rival. This may be difficult to understand in our modern world, but it was in line the great empires of West and East Africa, the Incas of South America and even China.

In lands damaged by war, and cattle driven off by the victors, anyone left behind would starve. Instead, they were either brought into the winning tribe, or kept as slaves who would, in time, be assimilated. And children of these workers were full citizens at birth.
Zulu is a rich language, but as more villages and settlements fell to the Matabele, their languages enriched our own so that, now, isiNdebele has a greater number of words than Zulu, along with variations of pitch and tone. In South Africa, a Zulu will spot a Matabele as soon as hears the person talk.

By 1830, the area ruled by the House of Khumalo covered modern-day Gauteng and much of the Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo Province and even part of North West.

Zulu traditions were maintained. Young men were all in regiments and were forbidden to marry without permission of the king.

The Matabele and Zulu traditions continue to this day in ceremonies for special events.

From the age of seven or eight, boys were tasked to herd livestock, and spent their leisure time fighting with sticks and talking of the day when they would be old enough to join the army.

By 12, a boy could drive cattle for 10 hours, walking barefoot over stones and thorns without cutting his feet.

The Matabele could count, but they had no starting point of time like our BC and AD positioned around the birth of Christ. Instead, the years were numbered in relation to various events. For example, someone was said to have been born two seasons before the flood or eight years after the great fire or at the time when lightening killed 14 cattle on a hilltop. As a result, few could be sure just how old they were.

Boys tended to work and play in groups based on age, but when it came time to join a regiment, each teenager would stand naked in front of the unit commander. If the recruit looked as if he was close to manhood, he was allowed to proceed. If he appeared to still be in the early stages of puberty, he had to wait another year.

Women had roles depending on their age, and there was a strict code of respect and discipline. Planting, cooking, harvest, collecting wild fruits and maintaining the home were all important duties along with the most treasured role of raising children.

Like Solomon in the Bible, Mzilikazi was expected to sit in judgement over squabbles between his subjects. First, an issue would go before the induna or chief. If nothing was resolved, the king held court and his word was final.

By this time, the first white missionaries and explorers had entered the region and, provided they asked permission to pass, all were welcome to call on the king.

Among his regular visitors were Robert Moffat who had set up a mission at Kuruman in the northern Cape, and his son-in-law, David Livingstone. French and American missionaries asked permission to settle in the area and, under the king's protection, were not only kept safe, but came to be looked on as friends. Dr Moffat, especially, became so close that the king referred to him as, "my special guest".

Moffat was fluent in Zulu and the two men would sit up all night talking politics, while the missionary tried in vain to convert his host to the Church.


Robert Moffat (left) spoke fluent Zulu and was a close friend of the king, as was his son-in-law, David Livingstone (right).

Throughout the year, there were feast days and celebrations: the first rains, first fruits on the trees, birth of the impala antelope in the wild around December, flooding of the rivers, harvest of crops, the coming of snow.

At every event, women would sing, warriors would dance and the nation came together in unity, reaffirming itself before the ancestral spirits and to every member of the tribe as a people united by language, culture, tradition and loyalty to the king and to each other.
The Matabele were here to stay.

But Africa was changing. The great Shaka had been assassinated and King Dingaan heard exaggerated reports about the wealth of Mzilikazi whose cattle were so numerous, they stretched over plains, into the mountains and on through neighbouring valleys, almost without end.

A series of droughts had cut the Zulu herd, and Dingaan sent his armies north to raid the Matabele.

Almost a thousand kilometres away in the Eastern Cape, the new British rulers were sailing their ships from England, laden with farmers, tradesmen and their families who, it was hoped, would develop the area around Port Elizabeth and East London.
The Dutch, who had been in the Cape since 1652, were not happy with the British influx and in 1834 large numbers packed their wagons and headed north in what became known as the Great Trek.

In covered wagons, the Voortrekkers (Dutch = first travelers) pushed north to escape British rule.

In 1835, these pioneers, forefathers of today's Afrikaners, crossed the Vaal River and established themselves less than 100 kilometres from the Matabele. Unlike earlier travellers, they refused to seek permission from the king, and war was inevitable.
In August 1836, a Matabele patrol killed an Afrikaans hunting party. The whites retaliated and Mzilikazi sent his army in response.
War came on 16 October at the Battle of Vegkop in northern Free State. The Voortrekkers placed 50 wagons in a circle and held off more than 4 000 warriors with their guns, only to see the Matabele withdraw with most of their cattle and nearly 50 000 sheep.
Not long after, Dingaan's army made a surprise raid on the Matabele and while Mzilikazi's forces were regrouping, the Trekkers attacked.
The tribe responded by burning their settlements and pushing north across the Limpopo.

A great number of books have been written about the battles between the Afrikaners, Zulus and Matabele, and the Voortrekker Monument near Pretoria has an excellent display and a well-balanced account of the war, laid out in models, maps and wallcharts.
Of the many stories that came from this history, there is one that runs rich in Matabele legend, even though we are never likely to know the truth.

During the battles of August 1836, the warriors raided the wagons of Barend Liebenberg.

Liebenberg was a difficult man who argued constantly with the other Trekkers and, as a result, he had pitched camp with his family and servants some distance away. The Matabele overran the position and slaughtered the entire party, except for three children -- two girls and a boy -- who were taken back as a gift for Mzilikazi.

The king was angry, saying he did not regard children as prisoners of war and wanted them returned to the Trekkers. But with the conflict reaching its height this was not possible and, when the tribe went north, they took the children with them.

For years, travellers to Matabeleland spoke of seeing a number of whites who seemed to be part of the tribe. A young man -- possibly the Liebenberg boy -- had a senior position in one of the regiments and a teenage girl had taken on the role of nursemaid to Mzilikazi's youngest son, Lobengula.

In our own folk takes, it's said that the trust Lobengula would eventually place in the British may have come from being raised by a white woman.

As they moved north, the Matabele army split, a tactic often used when they feared that an enemy may be following.
In this case, however, the two patrols became separated, with one under command of the king and the other led by his son, Nkulumana who had been named after Robert Moffat's mission at Kuruman. There is no letter "R" in the isiNdebele language, and this was how the word sounded to their ears.

Mzilikazi pushed into the land of the Tswana people, then turned east about 80 kilometres from the Zambezi River. Nkulumana marched across the Limpopo and settled near the Matobo Hills.

A year passed and there was no word from Mzilikazi. In September 1839, as winter gave way to spring, custom demanded that the new settlement should celebrate ncwala or the ceremony of first fruits, but a king had to be present before the event could take place.
Believing that Mzilikazi had died in the desert, the tribe placed Nkulumana on the throne.

Not far from Hwange National Park, news reached Mzilikazi that he had been replaced. He called his followers together and they marched south, reuniting with his sons early in 1840.

Nkulumana sent a party to meet his father, and the king, learning that they really had thought him dead, forgave the treason. Until, that is, he asked what great sorrow and mourning had filled the land on news of his death.

But, exhausted from their journey, the settlers had not held the usual ceremonies on the loss of a king. Mzilikazi was angrier than ever and he had Nkulumana and all the other sons and their advisors taken to a nearby hill and executed.

Today that mountain is known as Ntabazinduna or the hill of chiefs.
Only the youngest son, Lobengula, was spared when his white nursemaid hid him in the Matobo mountains.

The death of so many from the royal house gave rise to a fresh name for the site they had chosen as the Matabele's new home, and it was christened, "the place of great killing," which in our language translates as Bulawayo.

The next 50 years became a time we look back on as the greatest period in Matabele history.

King Mzilikazi ruled wisely and grew in his people's affection. Unlike Shaka who had seen several attempts on his life before being murdered by his brother, Mzilikazi lived in peace and, from around the world, traders, hunters and explorers came to Bulawayo.

The Voortrekkers settled in our old lands, creating two countries which they called the South African Republic (ZAR or Transvaal) and the Orange Free State.

Having met the Matabele in battle, they made no effort to cross the Limpopo and in the ZAR, President Paul Kruger established diplomatic relations with Matabeleland.

History told well must be the truth, and we would have to accept that to the north and west, the Matabele were not always good neighbours.

We raided the Tswana people for cattle and the great great grandfather of current Botswana president, Ian Khama, shot at Mzilikazi who carried the bullet in his body for the rest of his life.

The remainder of what is now Zimbabwe was mostly occupied by the Shona, a tribe that originated in eastern Congo and moved down Africa over a period of more than 800 years until around 1200 AD they crossed the Zambezi River and colonised much of modern Zimbabwe. The Shona are related to the Venda people in South Africa and the Ndau of central Mozambique.

For 100 000 years or more, one people occupied central and southern Africa. The Bushmen or San grew no crops and kept no cattle, but hunted game and gathered wild fruits. They lived in caves where they drew their life in pictures on the wall and this art - some of the oldest in the world - can still be seen today.

For 100 000 years, only the Bushmen or San occupied hinterland of southern Africa where their art can still be seen in caves where they lived.

The Shona brought with them cattle and a great skill in growing crops. The San saw cows as just another animal to be hunted, and conflict broke out between the two until the Shona exterminated the Bushmen completely, driving the last of their number into Botswana.

Around 1500AD, the Shona built the Rozvi kingdom near Masvingo.

They traded with merchants from the Middle East and possibly even China, selling gold, silver and slaves in exchange for beads and fabric.

The Shona Rozvi kingdom

The Matabele sent raiding parties into Mashonaland, taking cattle and eventually imposing a tax on the Shona who had little military tradition and were unable to resist the warrior nation.

Conquering the neighbours was a common event in history throughout Africa, and in Europe, Asia and South America. It established the world's great nations including Russia, China, India, Germany, France and Britain, and was seen as a normal part of foreign policy. And it was this policy of expansion that saw first Portugal, then Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium taking chunks of Africa as colonies from which they would draw minerals, timber and, in some cases, slaves.

Mzilikazi died on 9 September, 1868 and was succeeded by his son, King Lobengula

King Lobengula of Matabeleland

1893: who led a revolt against encroaching British gold miners, flanked by images of two of his wives.

Reign September 1868 - January 1894
Coronation 1869
Born ca. 1845
Birthplace Matabeleland
Died ca. January 1894
Place of death ca. 70 km south of the Zambesi river in Matabeleland
Predecessor Mzilikazi (Father)
Consort Lozigeyi (1st royal wife), Lomalongwe (2nd royal wife)
Offspring Mpezeni (royal son and heir) born in Bulawayo ca. 1880 and died at Somerset Hospital on 9 December 1899 of pleurisy, Njube (royal son), Nguboyenja (royal son) sent to Cape Town after death of Lobengula and buried at Entumbane near to Mzilikazi, Sidojiwa born at Nsindeni ca. 1888 (royal son) and died 13 July 1960 (buried at Entumbane near to Mzilikazi), and at least one daughter
Royal House House of Khumalo

Father Mzilikazi Khumalo, first King of the Ndebele people

Princess of the Swazi House of Sobhuza I., an "inferior" wife of Mzilikazi

Lobengula Khumalo

After the death of Mzilikazi the first king of the Matabele nation in 1868 the izinduna, or chiefs, offered the crown to Lobengula, one of Mzilikazi's sons from an inferior wife. Several impis (regiments) disputed Lobengula's assent and the question was ultimately decided by the arbitration of the assegai, with Lobengula and his impis crushing the rebels. Lobengula's courage in this battle led to his unanimous selection as king.

The coronation of Lobengula took place at uMhlanhlandlela, one of the principal military towns. The Matabele nation assembled in the form of a large semicircle, performed a war dance, and declared their willingness to fight and die for Lobengula. A great number of cattle were slaughtered and the choicest meats were offered to Mlimo, the Matabele spiritual leader, and to the dead Mzilikazi. Great quantities of millet beer were also consumed.

About 10,000 Matabele warriors in full war costume attended the crowning of Lobengula. Their costumes consisted of a head-dress and short cape made of black ostrich feathers, a kilt made of leopard or other skins and ornamented with the tails of white cattle. Around their arms they wore similar tails and around their ankles they wore rings of brass and other metals. Their weapons consisted of one or more long spears for throwing and a short stabbing-spear or assegai (also the principal weapon of the Zulu). For defence, they carried large oval shields of ox-hide, either black, white, red, or speckled according to the impi (regiment) they belonged to.

The Matabele maintained their position due to the greater size and tight discipline in the army, to which every able-bodied man in the tribe owed service. "The Ndebele army, consisting of 15,000 men in 40 regiments [was] based around Lobengula's capital of Gubulawayo."

Lobengula was a big, powerful, man with a soft voice who was well loved by his people but loathed by foreign tribes. He had well over 20 wives, possibly many more. His father, Mzilikazi, had around 200 wives. It is said he weighed about 19 stone (120 kg or 265 lb) and he was a fine warrior though not an equal of his father. Life under Lobengula was less strict than it had been under Mzilikazi, although the Ndebele retained their habit of raiding their neighbours.

By the time he was in his 40s, his diet of traditional millet beer and beef had caused him to be obese according to European visitors. Lobengula was aware of the greater firepower of European guns so he mistrusted visitors and discouraged them by maintaining border patrols to monitor all travellers' movements south of Matabeleland. Early in his reign he had few encounters with white men (although a Christian mission station had been set up at Inyati in 1859), but this changed when gold was discovered on the Rand within the boundaries of the South African Republic in 1886.

Lobengula had granted Sir John Swinburne the right to search for gold and other minerals on a tract of land in the extreme south-west of Matabeleland between the Shashi and Ramaquabane rivers in about 1870, in what became known as the Tati Concession. However, it was not until about 1890 that any significant mining in the area commenced. Lobengula had been tolerant of the white hunters who came to Matabeleland and he would even go so far as to punish those of his tribe who would threaten the whites. But he was wary about negotiation with outsiders and when a British team, F. R Thompson, Charles Rudd and Rochfort Maguire, came in 1888 to try to persuade him to grant them the right to dig for minerals in additional parts of his territory, the negotiations took many months. Lobengula only gave his agreement to Cecil Rhodes when his friend, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson who had treated Lobengula for gout once before, secured money and weaponry for the Matabele in addition to a pledge that any people who came to dig would be considered as living in his Kingdom.

As part of this agreement, and at the insistence of the British, neither the Boer nor the Portuguese would be permitted to settle or gain concessions in Matabeleland. The 25-year Rudd Concession was signed by Lobengula on 3 October 1888 and by Queen Victoria on 20 October 1889.

Lobengula said ...

" The chameleon gets behind the fly, remains motionless for some time, then he advances very slowly and gently, first putting forward one leg and then another. At last, when well within reach, he darts his tongue and the fly disappears. England is the chameleon and I am that fly."

Cecil J Rhodes said ...

" The British happens to be the best people in the world, with the highest ideals of decency and justice and liberty and peace, and the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for humanity."
—Cecil Rhodes

King Lobengula maintained good relations with all comers, and Matabeleland was recognised as a sovereign state.

Also happening at this junction in HIstory was the beginning of the so called "scramble for Africa". The Berlin Conference (1884-1885) was to cut Africa into spheres of influence for the European powers, eager to establish colonies. The Ndebele kingdom's geographic position made it the center across which the ambitions of the Europeans collided. Lobengula's sympathies and soft spot for the missionaries, which he had inherited from his Father, King Mzilikazi, eventually led to the downfall of the Matebele Kingdom. Lobengula's Kingdom encompassed both Matebeleland and Mashonaland, but this country was rich in natural resources, which was the interest of European settlers. Through various concessions and treaties, Lobengula was tricked into signing over his Kingdom to the authority of Cecil John Rhodes.

Over the next 20 years, the European powers divided Africa between them and it became clear that, sooner or later, Matabeleland would become a target for colonisation. The famous hunter, Frederick Courtney Selous, became a regular visitor to Bulawayo and a friend of Lobengula. He brought tales of the outside world, of how Africa was changing, and warned the king that his territory was in danger.

Frederick Courtenay Selous was one of the first hunters to explore Matabelaland.

Ambassadors from Germany, Portugal, France and even Russia called on Bulawayo, each hoping to strike a deal. All were well received, but went home with news that a great army protected this country, and while the rest of Africa fell, no one was willing to try their luck with Matabeleland.

King Lobengula holds court outside his modest sleeping hut at Bulawayo.

In 1879, the British conquered the Zulus and colonised their country. The British had also gone to war with the Transvaal, but were defeated.

The mineral wealth of South Africa had largely been developed by Cecil John Rhodes, who came to Africa from England in 1870, and 20 years later was the richest man in the world.

Cecil Rhodes imagined a British corridor across Africa from Cape Town to Cairo and used his own fortune to colonize territories north of the Limpopo River.

Rhodes dreamed of uniting all of east and southern Africa under British rule, but after the expensive campaign in Zululand and their defeat again the Transvaal, the government in London was not keen on a war with the Matabele.

Cecil Rhodes; from Cape Town to Cairo

The Portuguese who controlled Angola to the west and Mozambique in the east were also looking at creating a strip across Africa to stop British expansion, while the Germans longed to link up South West Africa (Namibia) with their east African territories of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanganyika (now Tanzania).

But it was the abandoned Shona structure at Great Zimbabwe that caused the most trouble. In 1871, German hunter Karl Maunch had seen the stone walls and towers and convinced himself that it had been the source of gold for Solomon's temple as told in the Bible.
Rhodes believed that even greater gold fields than those in Johannesburg lay to the north, and after many missions to Bulawayo, he recruited John Moffat - son of Robert who had been a friend of both Mzilikazi and Lobengula - to negotiate with the king.

Moffat convinced Lobengula that Rhodes would protect him from other colonisers. But it was Charles Rudd, who had worked with Rhodes when they were both young and poor, who eventually talked the king into signing a deal that allowed mining and settlement in Mashonaland which was, by now, under control of the Matabele.

The British sent a missionary, John Smith Moffat, to Lobengula's court, to keep an eye on British interests. Moffat was the son of a missionary who had made a name for himself among the Botswana to the south. Lobengula welcomed him as a bearer of spiritual tidings. The missionary persuaded the King to sign a treaty with the British, by which Lobengula undertook not to cede land to any power without the consent of the British. Sections of the army opposed the treaty, on the score that it surrendered the sovereignty of the Ndebele to the British. Lobengula believed and argued that the man of God wanted a friendship which would protect that very sovereignty.

Rhodes followed the Moffat manoeuvre with a delegation to Lobengula, which asked for, and got, permission for Rhodes to trade, hunt, and prospect for precious minerals in Ndebele territory. This came to be known as the Rudd Concession (1888). In return Rhodes offered 1, 000 Martini-Henry rifles, 100, 000 rounds of ammunition, an annual stipend of £1,200, and a steamboat on the Zambezi. He formed the British South Africa Company to explore the concession, and organized 200 pioneers, promising each a 3, 000-acre farm on Ndebele land, and sent them north with a force of 500 company police.

Rhodes's plans infuriated the Ndebele. Lobengula cancelled the concession and ordered the British out of his country. As he had only spears to ensure respect for his commands, the British ignored his order, proceeded to complete the road link with the south, and brought in more settlers.

Cecil Rhodes used his own money to finance a pioneer column, led by Selous, and on 11 July 1890 they crossed into Matabeleland, setting up bases at Tuli, Fort Victoria (Masvingo) and, on 12 September 1890, at Salisbury, now known as Harare.

The pioneers had been told that the Shona lands were rich in gold. In fact they found very little, and as malaria and other tropical diseases crippled the settlement at Fort Salisbury, stories spread that the real mineral wealth lay in Matabeleland.

Despite Lobengula's best efforts at keeping peace with his new neighbours, war broke out but the new Maxim machine guns that Rhodes had sent with his forces were too much for even the great armies of Matabeleland, and with his people defeated Lobengula, set fire to Bulawayo and fled north.

In the battles that marked the end of Lobengula's Reign, there were many acts of heroism on both sides but two are worth special mention.

The Matabele were impressed by often fatal acts of bravery from some of the white pioneers.

Near Masvingo where the main war took place, our armies had been ordered to take the British position and, when the Maxim guns started firing, the Matabele rushed into the flow of bullets, over and over, in a failed effort to reach the fort. An order to attack meant risking your life, no matter how strong the enemy, and to die in battle was the only honourable way for a warrior.

On 3 December, 1893, a British patrol was trying to capture the king who had by now left Bulawayo. A small party went forward led by the Scottish Major Alan Wilson and his American scout, Frederick Burnham. Wilson and 33 men were cut off by floods on the Shangani River about 40 kilometres north-east of Lupane. Burnham and two others managed to cross and went for help, but while they were gone, what remained of Lobengula's army attacked.

Major Alan Wilson who died at Shangani.

Wilson and his volunteers fought bravely and killed close to 500 Matabele. When they ran out of ammunition, the men sang "God Save the Queen." Both of Wilson's arms had been broken by assegais and he had finally taken cover behind the body of his dead horse. When he realised that he was the last survivor, he stood up and walked towards the Matabele at which point a young warrior ran forward and speared him in the chest.

With the battle over, the Matabele gave the royal salute, Bayete! They had been impressed by the bravery of the pioneers, and the story is still told in our culture. The Matabele have great respect for courage, regardless of who wins the fight. Rhodes was in South Africa, but his senior man, Leander Starr Jameson, arrived in Bulawayo from Salisbury shortly after the king had left.

Jameson, a medical doctor, sought to limit the loss of life and sent a letter to Lobengula who was by this time near the Bubi River.

The note read:
"I send this message in order, if possible, to prevent the necessity of any further killing of your people or burning of their kraals. To stop this useless slaughter you must at once come and see me at Bulawayo, when I will guarantee that your life will be saved and the you will be kindly treated. I will allow sufficient time for this message to reach you and return to me and two days more to allow you to reach me in your wagon. Should you not then arrive I shall at once send out troops to follow you, as I am determined as soon as possible to put the country in a condition where whites and blacks can live in peace and friendliness."

Leander Starr Jameson tried to make peace, but Lobengula's reply was stolen by soldiers along with an offering of gold.

Lobengula received the envelope and sent a reply that he was willing to meet Jameson and make peace. As a sign of good faith, he included two bags of gold dust.

The parcel was handed to two private soldiers, Daniels and Wilson, who destroyed the note and stole the gold.
They were later tried and sentenced to 14 years jail, but they appealed on grounds that the magistrate newly arrived at Bulawayo only had power to pass sentences of up to three months. The men were released, but their act of selfishness cost many lives on both sides and destroyed what little chance there was for peace.

The British rounded up the huge herds of Matabele cattle and, in one of the greatest thefts in the history of southern Africa, the livestock was divided between the pioneers and Rhodes' British South Africa Company. This was a cause of lasting resentment.

What happened to Lobengula remains a mystery. Some say he died on the journey and his body was hidden in a cave. Others tell of how he crossed into Zambia, living quietly under a false name until his death in 1923.
Over the next few years, there were several attempts to revive the kingdom but the rebellions always faltered when machine guns opened fire on warriors armed only with spears.

Eventually, Cecil Rhodes travelled from his home in Cape Town to Bulawayo and sent word to the fighters that he had come to end the war. They replied that he should meet them, alone and unarmed, at a clearing in a forested section of the Matobo Hills.

To their surprise, Rhodes agreed and at the appointed time, he walked out onto the open grassland and sat on a rock. Impressed by his bravery, the warriors and their chiefs came out of hiding and sat in a half-circle around him and there they made peace.

Today, Cecil Rhodes is buried in the Matobo Hills and the Matabele have a special guard to protect his grave. In war and in peace, we respect courage and we honour the dead, and the grave of the man who conquered us will forever be sacred ground in our kingdom.


27 iNdabaNdaba


Comment as Anonymous Submit
Anonymous user 12 years
the second group was led bychief Gundwane Ndiweni,the kings uncle nort NKULUMANE
Anonymous user 12 years
thank you so much for the article, as opposed to the trash Lobengulas last words
Anonymous user 12 years
Great history. L'histoire c'est intressant! Proud to have Ndebele blood flowing in my veins.
Anonymous user 12 years
This is the kind of read that makes me proud to be Ndebele (Nguni) we as a people should be proud of ourselves, unlike some who are proud for the wrong reasons (I wont mention who they are).
Anonymous user 12 years
Thanks for the History but some facts are not consistent with Historical evidence.Lobhengula was born by Fulatha Tshabalala , secondly your assertion that Matabeleland was a Shona country is not only misleading but lack historical facts to back it up , the Birwa , Kalanga , Tonga are not part of Shona groups in fact there has never been a Shona Kingdom before 1890 , the Shona are a creation of British South Africa Company , there has never been a Shona Country and a Shona King actually the Shona are a grouping of unrelated Tribes who were grouped by the colonial rule and the word Shona is from the Ndebele.The tribes which form the Shona groups are not related the Korekore are from Mozambique , the Ndau are an offshoot of the Shangani , the Karanga are a mix of Sotho (Pedi), Swazi and Tonga , Kalanga is distorted name of Kalanga which means sons of Langa i'm sure you really need to research more on this subject , the Shona is a creation of whiteman please read more.
Anonymous user 12 years
You are summoned to explain further about the Kalanga issue and the creation of Shona by the colonial savages and the deep relationship that has always been there between the Shona and the white man. The creation of Mugabe and subsequent rise to power and becoming Prime Minister and the continuation of the annihilation of the Ndebele people and marginalisation process that is still in progress. The covert plan to destroy the Zulus in South Africa by using ZANUPF covert missions to introduce tribalism, the Malema case study issue. The shonas had no Kingdom, in Zimbabwe it was only the children of Langa and Mzilikazi, children of Langa meaning Baka Langa, shonas are none existent, they are British subjects up to today, Britain has supported MDC and more shonas flocked to UK, how come when Mugabe was killing Ndebeles, no one ever bothered to accept Ndebeles and give them scholarships in the UK and America, yes Ndebeles must wake up..........please explain further and expose this rot..........
Anonymous user 12 years
The Gukurahundi (Shona: "the early rain which washes away thechaff before the spring rains"[5]) refers to the suppression by Zimbabwe's 5th Brigade in the predominantly Ndebele speaking region of Matabeleland, who most of whom were supporters of Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU.

Robert Mugabe, then Prime Minister, had signed an agreement with North Korean President Kim Il Sung in October 1980 to have the North Korean military train a brigade for the Zimbabwean army. This was soon after Mugabe had announced the need for a militia to "combat malcontents." Mugabe replied by saying Matabeleland dissidents should "watch out," announcing the brigade would be called "Gukurahundi."[5] This brigade was named the Fifth Brigade. The members of the Fifth Brigade were drawn from 3500 ex-ZANLA troops at Tongogara Assembly Point, named after Josiah Tongogara, the ZANLA general. The training of 5 Brigade lasted until September 1982, when Minister Sekeramayi announced training was complete.

The first Commander of the Fifth Brigade was Colonel Perence Shiri. The Fifth Brigade was different from all other Zimbabwean army units in that it was directly subordinated to the Prime Minister office, and not integrated to the normal army command structures. Their codes, uniforms, radios and equipment were not compatible with other army units. Their most distinguishing feature in the field was their red berets.[4]

The 5th Brigade conducted public executions in Matabeleland, victims were often forced to dig their own graves in front of family and fellow villagers. The largest number of dead in a single killing was on 5 March 1983, when 62 young men and women were shot on the banks of the Cewale River, Lupane.[6] Seven survived with gunshot wounds, the other 55 died. Another way 5 Brigade used to kill large groups of people was to burn them alive in huts. They did this in Tsholotsho and also in Lupane. They would routinely round up dozens, or even hundreds, of civilians and march them at gun point to a central place, like a school or bore-hole. There they would be forced to sing Shona songs praising ZANU, at the same time being beaten with sticks. These gatherings usually ended with public executions. Those killed were innocent civilians, ex-ZIPRA freedom fighters, ZAPU officials, or anybody chosen at random.
Anonymous user 12 years
They were named Matabele by the British, a spelling that is still common in older texts, because they found it difficult to pronounce the word amaNdebele. Moreover, in the early 19th century, the Ndebele invaded and lived in territories populated by Sotho-Tswana peoples who used the plural prefix "Ma" for certain types of unfamiliar people or the Nguni prefix "Ama," so the British explorers, who were first informed of the existence of the kingdom by Sotho-Tswana communities they encountered on the trip north, would have been presented with two variations of the name, first, the Sotho-Tswana pronunciation (Matabele) and second, the Ndebele pronunciation (Ndebele or AmaNdebele). They are now commonly known as the Ndebele or amaNdebele (and were officially known as the Matabele when under British rule[1]).
Anonymous user 12 years
Early history

Life was simple for the Kumalos until the rise of chief Zwide and his tribe Ndwandwe. The Khumalos had the best land in Zululand, the Mkhuze: plenty of water, fertile soil and grazing ground. But in the early 19th century, they would have to choose a side between the Zulu and the Zwide. They delayed this for as long as they could. To please the Ndwandwe tribe, the Khumalo chief Matshobana married the daughter of the Ndwandwe chief Zwide and sired a son, Mzilikazi. The Ndwandwes were closely related to the Zulus and spoke the same language Nguni using different dialects.

When Matshobana did not tell Zwide about patrolling Mthethwa amabutho (soldiers), Zwide had Matshobana killed. Thus his son, Mzilikazi, became leader of the Khumalo. Mzilikazi immediately mistrusted his grandfather, Zwide, and took 50 warriors to join Shaka. Shaka was overjoyed because the Khumalos would be useful spies on Zwide and the Ndwandwes. After a few battles, Shaka gave Mzilikazi the extraordinary honour of being chief of the Khumalos and to remain semi-independent from the Zulu, if Zwide could be defeated.

This caused immense jealousy among Shaka's older allies, but as warriors none realised their equal in Mzilikazi. All intelligence for the defeat of Zwide was collected by Mzilikazi. Hence, when Zwide was defeated, Shaka rightly acknowledged he could not have done it without Mzilikazi and presented him with an ivory axe. There were only two such axes; one for Shaka and one for Mzilikazi. Shaka himself placed the plumes on Mzilikazi's head after Zwide was vanquished.

The Khumalos returned to peace in their ancestral homeland. This peace lasted until Shaka asked Mzilikazi to punish a tribe to the north of the Khumalo, belonging to one Raninsi a Sotho. After the defeat of Raninsi, Mzilikazi refused to hand over the cattle to Shaka. Shaka, loving Mzilikazi, did nothing about it. But his generals, long disliking Mzilikazi, pressed for action, and thus a first force was sent to teach Mzilikazi a lesson. The force was soundly beaten by Mzilikazi's 500 warriors, compared to the Zulus' 3,000 warriors (though Mzilikazi had the cover of the mountains). This made Mzilikazi the only warrior to have ever defeated Shaka in battle.

Shaka reluctantly sent his veteran division, the Ufasimbi, to put an end to Mzilikazi and the embarrassing situation. Mzilikazi was left with only 300 warriors who were grossly out-numbered. He was also betrayed by his brother, Zeni, who had wanted Mzilikazi's position for himself. Thus Mzilikazi was defeated. He gathered his people with their possessions and fled north to the hinterland to escape Shaka's reach. After a temporary home was found near modern Pretoria, the Ndebele were defeated by the Boers and compelled to move away to the north of the Limpopo river.
Anonymous user 12 years
Ndebele Kingdom

Mzilikazi settled on the western edge of the central plateau of modern-day Zimbabwe, in the late 1830s, with some 20,000 Ndebele, descendants of the Nguni and Sotho in South Africa and led by him, who invaded the Kalanga Rozwi Empire. Many of the Kalanga people were incorporated and the rest were made satellite territories who paid tribute to the Ndebele Kingdom. He called his new nation Mthwakazi, a Zulu word which means something which became big at conception, in Zulu "into ethe ithwasa yabankulu" but the territory was called Matabeleland by Europeans. Mzilikazi organised this ethnically diverse nation into a militaristic system of regimental towns and established his capital at Bulawayo. He was a statesman of considerable stature, able to weld the many conquered tribes into a strong, centralised kingdom.

In 1852, the Boer government in Transvaal made a treaty with Mzilikazi. However, gold was discovered in Mashonaland in 1867 and the European powers became increasingly interested in the region. Mzilikazi died on 9 September 1868, near Bulawayo. His son, Lobengula, succeeded him as king.

In exchange for wealth and arms, Lobengula granted several concessions to the British, the most prominent of which is the 1888 Rudd concession giving Cecil Rhodes exclusive mineral rights in much of the lands east of his main territory. Gold was already known to exist, so with the Rudd concession, Rhodes was able to obtain a royal charter to form the British South Africa Company in 1889. He established a state that held sovereignty over the region between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers to the north and south, and between the desert of the Makgadikgadi salt pans to the west and the realm of Shoshangana to the east, the Save River. Cecil Rhodes negotiated a territorial treaty with Lobengula, known as the Rudd Concession of 1888, which permitted British mining and colonisation of Matabele lands between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers, and prohibited all Boer settlement in the region. As part of the agreement, the British would pay Lobengula 100 pounds a month, as well as 1,000 rifles, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and a riverboat. Lobengula had hoped that the Rudd Concession would diminish European incursions, but as white settlers moved in, the British South Africa Company set up its own government, made its own laws, and set its sights on more mineral rights and more territorial concessions.

The social organisation of the Ndebele people was rigidly controlled by rules of service and hierarchy inherited from Shaka's reforms among the Zulu. Other subject peoples, such as in Mashonaland, were treated harshly; their lives and property were subject to the King's control and could be disrupted at any time by raids or exactions of tribute. This was the scene presented to British Pioneer Column when they arrived in Mashonaland in 1890.
Anonymous user 12 years
listen here you idiots.mzilikazi like Mugabe.and lobengula are or perfect candidates for trial in the hague.BLOODMURDERERS
Anonymous user 12 years
the history of the Ndebele has been pushed under the carpet by the brutal leader mugabe who wanted to finish them during the 80sgreat massacre. it is good to c that it is coming up now something impressive so to say.......
Anonymous user 12 years
Mzilikazi and Lobengula were rapists, renegades, and thieves who rebelled from Shaka
Anonymous user 12 years
and you raped/murdered how many in the midlands and matebeleland
Anonymous user 12 years
My question to all you scholars, what happened to the white nanny who took care of Lobengula and her brothers as suggested by the article?
Secondly, I do not believe that Ndebele expansion, was in anyway injustice as it may be defined today. So the links between the Ndebele actions then and Gukurahundi can not be equated. Just my thoughts.
Rise Zulu ka Ndaba this is your time. Bayethe!
Anonymous user 12 years
ama articles akho avusa amenxeba, amandebele akhwabitha ukuthula, let the sliping dogs lie.
Anonymous user 12 years
The sons and daughters of the Grand Wizard and Rhobengura are at it again. First your retard king Rhobengura ( what a people being led by a retard), sells our country we had occupied for close to a thousand years for a packet of sugar and some cigarettes. Come second Chimurenga while the mighty and intelligent Shonas were busy fighting the pink man your ZIPRA idiots were busy hiding in the bushes of Zambia. Then you lose in a democratic election and you do what you know best, dissidentry killing innocent Shonas for no apparent reason. Well you got a great lesson, you don't have to blame anyone for that but your stupid selves. Your radicalism is not going unnoticed, it only serves to radicalize tenfold and we shall wait till you bring it on, Hehehe we will wipe you out you people of an unrepentant tribe.Satan
Anonymous user 11 years
All thieves. Mzilikazi's body should be exhumed from Matopo and repatriated to Zululand.
Anonymous user 11 years
Well, there are a few points are do not agree with the writer of this history piece. Before settling in Pretoria, Mzilikazi settled at what is called Fraday today in Johannesburg where a hospital was established under hos name but was recently re-named Selby Hospital. His army, Imbizo, camped at a placed called, and still is called, Maye-maye, and it is still called by that name till today. The place is used by sangomas till today
Shona people originated from Tanzania, called Guru-uswa by then. They came through Malawi and Mozambique. The Nguni people also came through Mozambique. The Ndau people came through Mozambique and bounced off the sea at a place called KwaMhlabawalingana in Zululand from were the Ndau ancestral spirit emanates from till today. They were further pushed back north by the Ngunis who killed them for their live stock.
The Swazi people, the children of uMbo came through the present day DRC. They settled amongs the Tsonga people in a place called Swailand today. The small nation of Mbo conqured and subdued the Tsonga people and changed them into Swazi. His name was then changed to Nkosi and latter Dlamini when he was found sleeping with a woman on a rock in the afternoon while his soldires persued the Tsonga king in Gazankulu.
Anonymous user 11 years
we have thousands of ndebeles here in the uk for your own information. anger makes people blind. you will end up killing your own(its in your blood)
Anonymous user 11 years
As I would like to know who is the current King of the Ndebele Nation?
Anonymous user 11 years
shona, tongaa,ndebele, venda,etc, we are all zimbabweans. let old prejudices die. if we identify ourselves tribally ratjer than as one people of nation called zimbabwe we are bound to live in bitterness for the rest of our lives bcoz one tribe will always outsmart another
Anonymous user 9 years
probably the high kingship belongs to King Robert Dumakude Bango(high king in exile and pretender) exiled by his ''uncle robert(mugabe) traitor to the Bango family despite being loved by them at the time.) He is now resident in Australia. He has a clearer lineage to the zulu kingship than the junior dingawale line. being descended from the second brother(and therefore superior to shaka zulu in lineage) sigujana the eldest brother was killed by shaka but the second brother mzliikazi faking fealty bided his time and eventually made off to matabeleland after a supersuccessful cattle raid. One reason shaka never went north to punish him. mz was a brilliant general. shaka was a homocrucial so he had no issue. meanwhile Mz built a kingdom in the north. all while being heir to many chiefdoms in the south.
Anonymous user 7 years
something must be done to arrest this tendency of redressing our history to appease the chief benefactors of majority rule in this country. the ndau as we know today have long been classified as shona by similarity of dialect, but a closer investigation of ndau reveals its Nguni origins. the term itself originates from the word ndawo. these people 'banehamba bedinga indawo lapho abangahlala bezinze khona'. even ma bekhonza uSoshangane, or mzila or ngungunyana babecela indlovu lezi ukuthi baphiwe indawo yikho bethiwa ngamandawu. its true ukuthi idlozi labo elikhulu litholakala kwamhlaba uyalingana (where the land is even) from where they originate ie in northern KwaZulu natal. this place is the Chipinge of kwaZulu natal as it is saturated with powerful izangoma nezanuse, were people get even over their disputes. here we find abakoKhombe, Mabaso(often corrupted mabasa), amaNgonde and Mbayi nguni groups, Qwabe/Gumede, Mathetha, Sithole(jobe, manukuza, nkundlande), Mlambo, zikhali, nkomo(mlambo mnqobokazi hokoza) who make up most of the ndau today. these are the distortion points to ndaus originating from mbire near wedza. it says nkomu (sic nkomo) and muyambo ie Moyo and muyambo(sic mlambo) are the ones who came from mbire to settle at Chipinge founding the Moyo (sithole)calf n musikavanhu(mvuu/hippopotamus) lineages in Chipinge. what falls short is explaining how a Nguni related word nkomu or even the surname muyambo surface in shona vocabulary. the Sithole totem is linked to the rozwi, Moyo chirandu as these clans sought to find common ground with the resident rozwi chiefs, no one explains how semwayo/sengwayo becomes a shona praise name and is found in this so called rozwi clans lineage. other clans like the mtisi clan are referred to as hungwe clans yet they are mthethwa. the mtisi clan in particular travelled from KwaZulu Natal fleeing Dingane who was pouncing on former Shaka affiliated clans they arrived south of great Zimbabwe ruins n affiliated with the hungwe peoples whose totem is a bird or fish eagle. there the locals directed them to fellow Nguni kinsman under ngungunyana. that's why we have mtisi from chipinge. other unrecorded incidents tell of a Karanga girl, who upon wedding a local karanga man n suddenly started having problems efikelwa lidlozi lakubo. idlozi leli would speak in isinguni, how can one do that save that he's responding to the things of his heritage? this issue even baffled the Tsonga who came along with soshangane, they didn't understand how the ndawu manifested a Nguni dlozi. ndawu wear a Nguni affiliated traditional dress nxa begida amadlozi. just a little something for nothing, if uNdabaningi Sithole (uMagigwana) was of nativity, amadlozi of the land would have accepted him to lead this country. but the fact is that he's a foreigner ophuma kuJobe noMthembu easemgubazi uSithole, koba yinkani ke. then we've clans like the garawa, murawa(mabhena mrawa), zindi, samanga, saungweme, these are all Nguni n are now classified otherwise. this grand plan is the extention of a spiritual plan whose aim is to keep power within the local nexus, expel the notion of multiculturalism, n dominate this territory numerically, linguistically, socially, politically n economically such that all foreign elements serve subservient to its cause. if the spirit of lewanika dominates in Zambia, n tanganyika in Tanzania, the excuse is nehanda nyakasikana should dominate in zim. the Karanga must go join lewanika(the shona who allude to body parts as a totem), the ndawu must go back to mhlabuyalingana, the Gaza Nguni to mkhuze or mgungundlovu, and the Ndebele to kzn. that's the grand plan. that's why areas like Matabeleland n Chipinge are being marginalized, men go down SA looking for work, while our women are turned into prostitutes. why, to procreate favourable grand plan fathered ndau, Ndebele ,n Gaza Nguni sub tribes more inclined to the interest of the nexus. the grand plan is a racist hitlerism hand in glove, now open now closed in policy what we need to do is keenly preserve our identities, culture , language circumspect, beware lest the absorption-which is the true intent of land reform, a demographic weapon in the hands of the nexus. long live Gaza, ndawu, and Matabele identities.
Anonymous user 7 years
Anonymous user 6 years
My understanding from a book called: "Mlimo" by A A Campbell aka Mziki, that there were three children captured at the Vegkop massacre; A girl, her brother and a coloured boy. They were renamed by Mzilikazi as: Toloyi, Msweyana and Velani and he gave his mother's isiBongo (Surname) to them and that was Ndeweni. Reading the Afrikaans version of the Groot trek the girl's name was Sarah van Wyk who, like all of the party were related to Liebenberg. I suspect that I am a descendant of the little girl.
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