The Nde­bele state: Ori­gins and tribes

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion -

But se­nior Nde­bele coun­sel­lors and chiefs had turned down that of­fer be­cause they said it was very risky. From about the end of 1868 to the end of 1869, messengers trav­elled from Lob­hen­gula to Natal to as­sure Theophilus Shep­stone that noth­ing would be left un­done to en­sure that the right­ful heir was iden­ti­fied and in­stalled.

Lob­hen­gula sent a del­e­ga­tion to Natal to in­ter­view Kanda (Nku­lumane). The del­e­ga­tion con­cluded that Kanda was a liar. But no sooner had the del­e­ga­tion re­turned than Kanda fol­lowed.

Lob­hen­gula had him­self writ­ten a let­ter to Shep­stone ex­plain­ing his good faith in the cam­paign, and also re­quest­ing Theophilus to send him a herbal­ist from the Bhaca tribe and some sea wa­ter be­cause he was not feel­ing well.

Theophilus, how­ever, re­fused on the ground that if he com­plied with the re­quest it would be in­ter­preted as sid­ing with Lob­hen­gula against Nku­lumane (Kanda) for the Nde­bele throne.

Those op­posed to Lob­hen­gula suc­ceed­ing his fa­ther were led by Mbiko Ma­suku who was the Zwan­gend­aba reg­i­ment com­man­der. Mbiko Ma­suku’s wife was Nku­lumane’s sis­ter.

Ma­suku’s group sent its own del­e­ga­tion to Natal for the same pur­pose that is to find out whether Kanda was in­deed Nku­lumane.

One of Mzi­likazi’s sons, Mang­wana, seemed to be on Ma­suku’s side, and to have been in­volved in the de­ci­sion that led to Kanda (Nku­lumane) leav­ing Natal hope­fully for Mzi­likazi’s ter­ri­tory.

For his part, Shep­stone did what he could to equip Kanda (Nku­lumane) for the long jour­ney. He pro­vided that man with a cou­ple of wag­ons, some oxen, some pro­vi­sion, ser­vants, blan­kets and what­ever else.

Back in the Nde­bele king­dom, those who sup­ported Lob­hen­gula had en­throned him at the be­gin­ning of 1870.

That led to a civil war in which Mbiko Ma­suku was killed, some oral his­to­ri­ans say by Lob­hen­gula him­self. Ma­suku’s vil­lage was burnt to a cin­der.

His reg­i­ment tried to stand its ground but was over­whelmed by Lob­hen­gula’s sup­port­ers. Some of those who sur­vived es­caped to Kazun­gula, Ka­tima Mulilo, Barot­se­land where there are de­scen­dants of the Ma­suku clan up to now.

Some es­caped south­wards and met Kanda’s north-bound party whom they ad­vised to halt and set­tle down in the north-west­ern reaches of what was then called the South African Repub­lic un­der “Oom” Paul Kruger. Those peo­ple’s rem­nants are found there up to this day.

Re­searchers have dis­cov­ered a grave of some­one de­scribed as their king.

Oral tra­di­tion among the old Kalanga com­mu­ni­ties said that the man, Nku­lumane (Kanda), was poi­soned by a spe­cial emis­sary of Lob­hen­gula, one Mpande Mpofu, who was later ap­pointed chief of the Em­pan­deni area south of Plumtree.

Chief Tshit­shi’s ter­ri­tory is an ex­ten­sion of that orig­i­nal area. The 1870 Nde­bele civil strife turned brother against brother, un­cle against nephew, fa­ther against son, and son-in- law against fa­ther-in-law.

A typical ex­am­ple was that of Mzi­likazi’s son called Qalin­gana whose mother, Lomokazi was Mbiko Ma­suku’s sis­ter. Qalin­gana Zwan­gend­aba mem­ber.

How­ever, he chose to be on Lob­hen­gula’s side dur­ing the con­flict and fought against his ma­ter­nal un­cle, Mbiko.

But, sur­pris­ingly, Qalin­gana was later clubbed to death on King Lob­hen­gula’s or­ders.

He was sus­pected to be op­posed to Lob­hen­gula be­com­ing king. But whether or not Kanda was ac­tu­ally Nku­lumane, we will prob­a­bly never know.

Had those who in­ter­viewed Kanda left a list of ques­tions they asked him, and his an­swers, we could pass a some­what in­formed opin­ion on the mat­ter. As it is, we are left with a sce­nario of the proLob­hen­gula group ver­sus that of the anti -Lob­hen­gula side.

The for­mer sus­pected the usual trick­ery of the colo­nial­ists against the black peo­ple; the lat­ter were highly prej­u­diced against Lob­hen­gula be­com­ing king. That was the case with Gugumi, son of Mantinti. Gugumi was a cap­tain of the Zwan­gend­aba reg­i­ment which was un­der Mbiko Ma­suku’s com­mand.

Af­ter that reg­i­ment was routed, Gugumi and many others es­caped and sought asy­lum for a few years across the Lim­popo River. A few of them re­turned later but were ex­e­cuted on King Lob­hen­gula’s or­ders. Gugumi was a reg­i­ment and a col­league called Mafa were among them.

How­ever, Gugumi’s el­dest son, Malevu sur­vived that mer­ci­less cam­paign and be­came an In­siza District chief in the 1900s. He was suc­ceeded his younger brother, Mal­en­daniso in the 1920s.

The reader must not con­fuse Chief Malevu of In­siza with Mlevu Ndlovu orig­i­nally of the So­lusi Mis­sion area, and whose de­scen­dants are prom­i­nent and abound in the Tsholot­sho, Gwayi, Ma­tobo re­gions.

Some his­to­ri­ans have ex­pressed the sus­pi­cion that Kanda was a mere cre­ation of Shep­stone, and was not for a fact Nku­lumane. Kanda had some­how lost one of his eyes.

Shep­stone most prob­a­bly wanted Kanda to take over Mzi­likazi’s throne so that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment could eas­ily ex­tend its colo­nial em­pire to the then Nde­bele King­dom.

At that time, west­ern Euro­peans thought the re­gion be­tween the Lim­popo and the Zam­bezi rivers was an El Do­rado where gold nuggets lay in rivers and streams for pick­ing.

An­other view on the Nku­lumane ver­sus Lob­hen­gula suc­ces­sion con­tro­versy was that Nku­lumane was a gen­uine claimant, and that he was not ac­tu­ally ex­e­cuted but was given a cou­ple of cows and ser­vants and or­dered to re­turn to his fa­ther’s orig­i­nal coun­try.

This was Mbiko Ma­suku’s opin­ion but was op­posed by the MuNg­wato ser­vant sent to ex­e­cute Nku­lumane who said he ac­tu­ally killed the prince, ap­ply­ing the coup de grace with a knobker­rie till it broke.

The pro-Lob­hen­gula del­e­ga­tion con­cluded, how­ever, that Kanda was an im­pos­tor will­ing to be used by the white peo­ple.

Eli­jah Kam­bula who had a fairly high level of ed­u­ca­tion was said to have stopped claim­ing that Kanda was Nku­lumane af­ter he had been con­fronted by King Lob­hen­gula him­self.

The truth will never be known. In­ci­den­tally, a Mr Kam­bula from Natal taught at Thek­wane High School, a Methodist mis­sion near Plumtree, in the late 1930s. Was he a rel­a­tive of the man who fea­tured in the Nku­lumaneLob­hen­gula suc­ces­sion is­sue?

It was un­for­tu­nate that no re­search on the mat­ter was in­volved dur­ing his time at Thek­wane Mis­sion. He could have prob­a­bly thrown some light on Eli­jah Kam­bula’s role in the con­tro­ver­sial is­sue.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a re­tired, Bu­l­awayo-based jour­nal­ist. He can be con­tacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sg­

King Lob­hen­gula

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