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King of Matabeleland or King of the Ndebele: does Matabeleland even need a king?

04 Mar 2018 at 11:35hrs | Views
The last few months, the land erroneously named "Matebeleland" (Land of the Ndebele) by the British Colonialists has witnessed much activity and talk surrounding the installation of a King. Two things need to be made clear right from the beginning: an affirmation has to be made that the Ndebele have a right to a King (if indeed in their customary practices their Traditional Leader is a King); and secondly, the Land called Matebeleland is NOT Land of the Ndebele ONLY, there are other Ethnolinguistic Nations that are not of Ndebele stock.

With the above affirmations, there are few questions that I believe the proponents of the King need to answer, be they followers of Bulelani Khumalo, Stanley Khu(Tshu)malo or Zwide Khumalo. I don't purport to effectively answer these questions, but only hope to contribute to the debate, and perhaps, instigate more debate and thinking around this matter to help us as a society more clearly diagnose our regional problems, and as a result, take hopefully the right steps to solve the real ailments plaguing the region. I shall ask the following seven questions:

1. Is this king supposed to be "King of Matebeleland" or "King of the Ndebele"?
2. Who are the Ndebele anyway?
3. What will be the Demographic and Territorial Jurisdiction of this King?
4. Was a survey ever done to establish if the majority of the Peoples of Matebeleland want a King?
5. What happens to those who don't recognize this King?
6. How does he promote, protect and preserve the Cultures and Languages of the non-Ndebele?
7. Does Matebeleland need a King or a Powerful Regional Political Coalition?

Is this king supposed to be "King of Matebeleland" or "King of the Ndebele"?

As previously indicated in the affirmation in the introductory paragraph, the land called "Matebeleland" was so named by the British Colonialists, cooperating with the Ndebele Indunas who were then the rulers since the violent conquests of the Kalanga, Nambya, Venda and Tonga in the mid- to late-1800s after successive onslaughts by no less than 4 Nguni Impis fleeing Shaka's Mfecane in the East Coast of South Africa. As things stand, the name Matebeleland remains a contested one, the same way the name Botswana (Land of the Tswana) is contested by BaKalanga, BaYeyi and others in that country.

Found in Matebeleland and the majority population are the Kalanga, Nambya, Sotho, Tonga and Tjoa and Venda. These are Peoples whose Chiefs, Cultures and Languages were decimated over the last 100 years at the hands of the Ndebele Impis, Ndebele Indunas, British Colonialists and the Gukurahundist Zanu Government of Mugabe. In the process they were deliberately minoritized and villagized, their languages barred from the Schools, Government, the public media, etc.

The question that anyone member of these Nations is faced with now is: if the Mzilikazian-Lobengulan enterprise of rapine and murder initiated the destruction of our Peoplehood and Nationhood, what does the revival of the same mean to us? What are the chances of survival of our Languages and Cultures in the face of a revived, caste-system Ndebele Kingdom which recognized the Ndebele as the upper-class Zansi and the rest of us as the lower-class Hole?  

If Ndebele Indunas imposed by the British on the Kalanga and Nambya remained at the forefront of the destruction of our Languages and Cultures, what's there to make us think that all of a sudden, we will have an egalitarian Ndebele King who will promote, preserve and protect our languages and culture?

As such, the big question remains: will this be a "King of Matebeleland" (ruling over the Ndebele, Kalanga, Venda, Nambya, Tonga, Sotho, etc) or, will he be "King of the Ndebele", which brings us to our second question.

Who are the Ndebele anyway?

What we have come to learn thus far from proponents of the Ndebele King and Mthwakazi Project in general is that they label everyone from Matebeleland "a Ndebele", supposedly because if you were once conquered by Mzilikazi and his Impis, you are therefore a Ndebele subject and shouldn't think otherwise.

This of course begs the question: why did the Ndebele themselves at some point rebel against Rhodes? Why are they themselves not Rhodesians? Or why are they not Shonas? And does being conquered in the past mean that one has to live in perpetual servitude? If so then what was the point of the anti-Slavery, anti-Colonial and anti-Apartheid, and indeed the modern anti-Gukurahundist liberation struggles?

Let's make no mistake, that the Ndebele (properly the Nguni who crossed the Limpopo already called Matebele) are fellow Black Africans (who we are proud of and love) doesn't exonerate them from the fact that they are as equally colonialists as the Europeans when it comes to the land now called Matebeleland. European Colonialists first set foot in Southern Africa (particularly in the land now called Zimbabwe) in the 1500s, and the Ndebele in the 1800s. This simply leaves both in the same bracket: they settled through Colonialism, and Colonialism is an evil that had to be defeated.

If it was right to fight off British/Rhodesian Colonialism because it was wrong, then surely there is nothing right about accepting Ndebele Colonialism (or Shona Colonialism for that matter) as being right. Colonialism remains Colonialism, whether practiced by Black or White!

Now, lest we misinterpret what I am saying above, the Ndebele, like the British, coming in as Colonialists, are now FULL CITIZENS OF ZIMBABWE, just as those of originally British or European stock are. But that does not give them the right to seek to perpetually impose upon us a societal order from the 1800s arising from colonial conquests. As such, the Ndebele must, to all intentions and purposes, be allowed to preserve, protect and promote their Language and Cultural Customs, but they DO NOT have a similar right to impose the same upon the Kalanga, Nambya, Sotho, Tonga, Tjoa and Venda.

We thus submit that the Ndebele are those people of Nguni stock who crossed the Limpopo already called "Matebele", who are largely identified by non-animal and non-body part surnames such as Khumalo, Tshabalala, Sithole, Mthethwa, Ndiweni, Dlamini, Dlodlo, etc. Only these can be legitimately expected, if at all they so wish, to submit to the Ndebele King, for indeed, he can only be "King of the Ndebele", not "King of Matebeleland".  

What will be the Demographic and Territorial Jurisdiction of this King?

In a sense this question has already been answered in previous paragraph, but it still needs separate treatment. Whether King of the Ndebele or King of Matebeleland, the question has to be asked, are the Kalanga, Nambya, Tjoa, Tonga, Sotho and Venda expected to bow to this king? Will his supposed rule reach Bulilima-Mangwe, Matobo and Tjolotjo (remaining Kalanga Areas), Binga (Tongaland), Hwange (Nambyaland) or Beitbridge (Venda)? And how about cosmopolitan Bulawayo? Once again, the question is asked: what happens to those who in these territories refuse to recognize, let alone bow down, to this King?

Or shall it now dawn upon the Kalanga, Nambya, Venda and Tonga to invoke the constitutional provision allowing for the changing of provincial names and redrawing of the maps thereof to have their own provinces? Is it time for the Tonga and Nambya to pursue their idea of a Kasambabezi Province on the Zambezi Valley, and the Kalanga, Sotho and Venda to seize Matebeleland South and Tjolotjo and rename it to something more representative of themselves? Afterall, if there is a Matebeleland, Mashonaland, Manicaland Provinces, why should there be no BuKalanga, Tongaland, Shango Lya BaNambya, Shango La Venda, etc? We therefore continue to ask: over what territories and peoples will this king rule?

Was a survey ever done to establish if the majority of the Peoples of Matebeleland want a King?

In a 21st Century world as opposed to the 19th Century world, one expects that a matter of this nature ought to at least be backed by scientific evidence. We therefore ask the proponents of the King Project: have you ever done any kind of survey to determine if indeed the majority of the Peoples of Matebeleland, and indeed of the Ndebele themselves, in this 21st Century, really want a King? Or is this just a project of a few driven by nostalgia from past times?

Do the kids growing up in an Internet-driven society of the Computer Age in which Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Google dominate world communications and TV screens are blurring images 24/7, in which some ‘kids' launch multibillion dollar companies like Facebook, Twitter, etc, and Elon Musk launches an electric Tesla Car into space, really want an archaic institution of the 19th century, one which hasn't existed for over 100 years? Have these been consulted? Are there any survey results somewhere that can be referred to?   

What happens to those who don't recognize this King?

As already seen above, the majority of the Peoples of Matebeleland are not Ndebele, and reading the temperature on social media, one can see that, excepting the fervent proponents of the King Project themselves, there is a lot of derision of the whole idea of a king in this 21st Century. This of course raises the question: assuming the King is successfully enthroned, presumably over a certain demographic and territorial space, what will happen to those who don't recognize or bow down to this king?

Oh yes, in the 19th century the solution was easy – bekunyakaz' Umkhonto – as the song still says today. But how about in a 21st century world where democracy is the aspiration of all, and there are Bills of Rights enshrined in Constitutions? Can potential for civil conflict, if not outright civil war, be completely ruled out in Matebeleland if and when at some point in the future this king begins to assert his authority over those who don't recognize a kingship? That is an important question all of us ought to think about.

How does he promote, protect and preserve the culture and languages of the non-Ndebele?

Speaking to the institution of Traditional Leaders, the Constitution clearly states that part of their role is to protect, preserve and indeed promote the Culture (and presumably Languages) of their constituents. Not to mention that one of the contenders to the Ndebele throne is Xhosa speaking and a Xhosa in every respect, the question has to be asked, how will he promote and preserve Ndebele Culture and Language, or Kalanga, Nambya, Venda and Tonga Culture and Language, for that matter, assuming, as the proponents thereof want it, that he were King of Matebeleland?  

Does Matebeleland need a King or a Powerful Regional Political Coalition?

I have previously posted on my Facebook and Twitter feed that I believe the whole King Project is digressing Matebeleland from the important business of capturing and retaining REAL REGIONAL POLITICAL POWER. The proponents of the king themselves keep repeating that he will be a CEREMONIAL, CULTURAL HEAD, and yet Matebeleland is now consumed in this fracas. Meanwhile, per the Constitution of the land as it is today, REAL POLITICAL POWER can only be contested, captured and exercised by POLITICAL PARTIES.

Whilst Matebeleland is busy consumed by questions surrounding an allegedly ceremonial, cultural king, REAL POLITICAL POWER is slipping away, to the benefit of Gukurahundist Colonialist both in Zanu and MDCT. By the time we wake up from this nostalgic slumber, there will be no Matebeleland to talk of as the Gukurahundist Shonalization train plows ahead in Matebeleland.

I therefore submit, as I have argued in the past, that what Matebeleland needs is a POWERFUL, ETHNOLINGUISTICALLY NEUTRAL, REGIONAL COALITION OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND CIVIL SOCIETY that can effectively contest, capture and retain REAL POLITICAL POWER, and UNITE the Peoples of Matebeleland IN THEIR DIVERSITY.

This power has to be derived from the vote of the Peoples of Matebeleland and the Constitution, and the Coalition will exercise the same to the Economic, Political and Cultural Freedom and Prosperity of the Peoples of Matebeleland. What is the point of having a CEREMONIAL, CULTURAL King if he is not going to exercise POLITICAL and ECONOMIC POWER? How does that benefit the average person in Matebeleland?

Kotjidzani kuti tibe na He usina masimba othamila tjimwe bagali bekuVenda, kuBuKalanga, kuHwange, kuBaTonga, kene pakati kwa ibo Matebele? Atitongobani siriyasi banhu be Matebeleland tiletjedze zana matope. Ndaboka, ndili Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo Ben-Yehuda, n'Kalanga we Bulilima-Mangwe. 


Source - Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo
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