Mzilikazi, the Bull Ele­phant

In this week’s ex­tract from the ex­pan­sive and grip­ping South African his­tory books series Our Story, we con­tinue with the tale of Mzilikazi. We find out how the Great Bull Ele­phant briefly set­tles into his new kraal, where Pre­to­ria north is to­day, and lea

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Mzilikazi 3: The Great Bull Ele­phant South African Her­itage Pub­lish­ers 48 pages, il­lus­trated R100

As the traders came near to Mzilikazi’s royal kraal, they out­spanned their oxen to rest for the night in a nearby Mata­bele vil­lage. The vil­lagers were happy to see the two for­eign­ers, and gave them a cow as a gift. To re­turn the favour, Schoon did some­thing that left the en­tire vil­lage speech­less: he used his mus­ket to shoot the cow and told the vil­lagers to pre­pare a feast for the evening!

The crack of the gun, fol­lowed by the smoke pour­ing from the muz­zle and the al­most in­stan­ta­neous death of the cow sur­prised the crowd so much that they ran! Word flew straight to enKung­wini, and Mzilikazi knew that his guests were ar­riv­ing. Nev­er­the­less, as the wagon laboured over the hills that sur­rounded the royal kraal, Schoon and McLuckie were in­structed to wait un­til the Great Bull Ele­phant gave per­mis­sion for them to en­ter his home. This was the tra­di­tion of the Mata­bele, as well as many other com­mu­ni­ties in South Africa.

Mzilikazi was ea­ger to meet the strange trav­ellers from the south, and as soon as the wait­ing time had been ac­cept­ably long enough for a chief to wait, he sent his of­fi­cial dig­ni­tary to sum­mon the traders to his royal kraal. Leav­ing their ox wagon be­hind un­der the strict guard of the Mata­bele army, the two trav­ellers walked solemnly through the main gates of enKung­wini. Af­ter hear­ing all the tales about the Rov­ing Con­queror, the chief who ruled over the vast lands to the west, the two were wary about meet­ing Mzilikazi. They were ex­pect­ing a cold, ar­ro­gant tyrant, who would threaten them with­out warn­ing, but as soon as they for­mally greeted the Mata­bele chief, their fears were put to rest. In front of them stood an in­tel­li­gent, ob­ser­vant man with a ready smile and shin­ing eyes. Al­though Mzilikazi was a strong man, he was quick-wit­ted and seemed gen­uinely in­ter­ested in what the traders had to say.

Af­ter the ini­tial greet­ings, Mzilikazi called in his reg­i­ments to per­form a wel­com­ing dance for his guests. The army started to stamp their feet and sing in uni­son, and the sound echoed pow­er­fully through­out the val­ley. Schoon and McLuckie watched in amaze­ment as the reg­i­ments caused the earth to shake un­der their mighty feet, and it wasn’t long be­fore the Bull Ele­phant, Mzilikazi him­self, joined in the front lines to raise the dust in the royal kraal.

The smell of meat soon wafted through­out the vil­lage, and a feast was pre­pared, for this was a joy­ous oc­ca­sion! Not only had the two traders come to visit Mzilikazi, but the Mata­bele war­riors had re­turned vic­to­ri­ous, and while the meat was be­ing passed around, sol­diers who had per­formed out­stand­ing deeds of brav­ery were brought be­fore Mzilikazi, who con­grat­u­lated them in­di­vid­u­ally.

Schoon and McLuckie wit­nessed many per­for­mances, and no­ticed how much power the Mata­bele chief held. They saw that the Bull Ele­phant was in­cred­i­bly wealthy, sur­rounded by homes, cat­tle and grain. It wasn’t long be­fore Schoon ap­proached Mzilikazi to trade, as they were in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing ivory, but Mzilikazi told them to go to where the ele­phants roamed to col­lect the tusks them­selves. Af­ter a brief jour­ney, the two traders re­turned to trade the rest of their beads and valu­ables for a good amount of fine furs and other trea­sures from the Mata­bele kraal.

Be­fore long, it was time for the traders to leave, but be­fore they did, they were sum­moned be­fore Mzilikazi one more time. This time, in­stead of an­other feast, they were shown the mus­kets that the Mata­bele had taken from the Ber­ge­naars. Mzilikazi then asked them to demon­strate the work­ings of the weapon, and Schoon agreed. He first loaded the weapon with pewter and lead, and aimed at a nearby rock. The bil­low­ing smoke and ex­plo­sion of the rock caused much ex­cite­ment, but when Mzilikazi ex­am­ined the dam­age, he said that the force was not strong enough to kill a mighty Mata­bele war­rior! Then, a bul­lock was brought out, and Schoon once again loaded his mus­ket. This time, the roar was deaf­en­ing, and the bul­lock fell to the ground al­most im­me­di­ately, leav­ing Mzilikazi speech­less!

As the two traders left enKung­wini, Mzilikazi knew that if he were to re­main pow­er­ful, he would have to ally him­self with these mus­ket hold­ers, in­stead of fight­ing against them. He sent two of his most re­spected in­dunas to es­cort the traders, and one of them none other than uMn­cum­bata. These in­dunas were to meet with mis­sion­ary set­tlers to fos­ter good re­la­tions be­tween them and the Mata­bele.

WIN! To win an ex­clu­sive box set of the first 14 Our Story ti­tles, val­ued at R2 500, SMS us on 34217 us­ing the keyword HERITAGE18. In­clude your name, sur­name, email ad­dress and the an­swer to the fol­low­ing ques­tion: With what did Schoon load his weapon? Con­grat­u­la­tions to last week’s win­ner, Vic­tor Pooe from Soweto. AN­SWER: Rock rab­bits

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