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Lobhengula's legacy embodied unique tactful diplomacy, military heroism

by Staff reporter
12 Jan 2024 at 05:05hrs | Views
DISTINGUISHED researchers and historians have utterly dismissed the narrative that Ndebele monarch King Lobhengula Khumalo is associated with selling out to colonial settlers, arguing his distinct legacy embodies tactful diplomatic and military heroism uncommon during his time.

Noting how King Lobhengula led his warriors in relentlessly resisting colonial forces as he defended the Ndebele sovereignty against invaders who relied on superior weaponry comprising Maxim guns and cannons, they reiterated the need for all Zimbabweans to diligently study their history and cherish its rich legacy while embracing unity in diversity.

The argument follows a heated public debate emanating from two of ZBC's Good Morning Zimbabwe show presenters, who flagrantly remarked that King Lobhengula sold the country to satisfy his purported "sugar cravings".

The national broadcaster has since apologised to the nation and announced that disciplinary action would be taken against the two presenters who seemed to glorify colonialism as a "necessary evil". The national broadcaster has also distanced itself from the remarks.

Researchers yesterday said King Lobhengula deserves more respect for his astute leadership in fighting colonialism.

History is replete with evidence of how Ndebele warriors engaged in fierce battles with the British South Africa Company in what has become known as the Gadade Battle in November 1893, where the colonialists used the newly acquired Maxim Gun to massacre the Ndebele warriors in the Mbembesi area, about 60km from Bulawayo.

The Maxim gun, designed by an American Hiram Stevens Maxim was the world's first automatic gun that was used for the first time against the Ndebele warriors, who tenaciously fought the settlers.

On December 4, 1893, King Lobhengula's army led by strategist General Mtshana Khumalo, killed Major Allan Wilson and his men at the Battle of Pupu in Lupane, blocking the attempted capture of the King by the colonialists.

Government has since taken a bold step to correct a one-sided narrative of the famous Battle of Pupu, which for many years deliberately overlooked the African perspective.

Under President Mnangagwa, the Second Republic has made an undertaking to correctly portray and promote the country's rich history and cultural heritage. Hence in 2020, President Mnangagwa posthumously conferred National Hero status on the revered military tactician, General Mtshana Khumalo who was the commander of King Lobhengula's Imbizo regiment that defeated Allan Wilson.

Ndebele history researcher, Mr Thomas Sibanda said King Lobhengula was a diplomat par excellence.

He said the widely publicised Rudd Concession was not the only business deal that the Ndebele King had previously signed with the White settlers.

He said the BSAC and the British Government used the Rudd Concession to justify colonialism. King Lobhengula countered its claims, by publishing an article in the press as part of his diplomatic initiative.

"It is not surprising that when the fraudulent interpretation of the verbal and written Rudd Concession was published in the newspapers, King Lobhengula issued a newspaper notice in the Bechuanaland News and Malmani Chronicle on 2 February 1889, countering the fraud and instituting investigations," said Mr Sibanda.

"Furthermore, in November 1888, King Lobhengula sent a delegation of chiefs to England, who met Queen Victoria to make his position clear that he was not handing over his territory to either the British or Cecil John Rhodes. King Lobhengula also refused to receive the ammunition  from Rhodes in total rejection of the Rudd Concession."

Mr Sibanda said it is well documented that Zimbabwe was colonised as the brave Ndebele warriors were outclassed by the might of the maxim gun. The warriors under the leadership of King Lobhengula fought during the battles of Insukamini, Gadade, Empandeni and Pupu.

He said King Lobhengula should be remembered for his firm leadership qualities. "King Lobhengula's legacy is, therefore, one of diplomatic and military resistance to colonialism, sacrifice, and unparalleled heroism. Allan Wilson and his soldiers never captured him but were instead decimated during the battle of Pupu," said Mr Sibanda.

"For any African to allege that such a great King sold his country is ridiculous, misguided, and unfortunate. The white settlers were not in Africa to seal deals or trade but to take everything by military force."

King Lobhengula's descendent Dr Peter Zwidekalanga Khumalo said King Lobhengula's legacy was rooted in protecting the country against colonialism.

"The first thing is that this (Ndebele) nation was created by King Mzilikazi, so King Lobhengula's role as a successor was to sustain the nation and its nationhood. He did that through the military wing but at the same time he used diplomacy and negotiation between his nation and the British," said Dr Khumalo.

"King Lobhengula's position was well rooted in saving this nation and protecting the resources of this country against colonialism. You will recall that he had controlled a border post in Mangwe and had another one between Gweru and Kwekwe near Connemara."

Dr Khumalo said the border posts were meant to identify those who were entering the Ndebele nation. He said the BSAC had to bypass the Matebeleland region as it moved to the northern parts of the country.

"All the whites that came in through border posts had to declare whether they were coming in as preachers, miners or hunters.

He knew exactly the number of whites that were coming in," said Dr Khumalo. "Unfortunately, due to his strong character and clear vision to protect this nation, he was not as armed as the colonialists that came to the country. They had better ammunition than him and ultimately, they won the war but did not defeat the Ndebele."

"When you defeat an army, you need to capture the commander or kill the commander. King Lobhengula was not captured or killed, abadala bathi he disappeared."

Dr Khumalo said it was worrying that the national broadcaster had to broadcast distorted history. He said it was high time the Government made deliberate efforts to address distorted history in schools.

He commended the ZBC for taking action to rectify the issue, saying distorting a people's history is tantamount to stealing their identity.

Source - The Chronicle