Latest News Editor's Choice


Opinion / Columnist

King Mzilikazi Reloaded: A story of how we begin to remember

23 Apr 2013 at 06:07hrs | Views
"NO NO NO I will never say progress is being made....If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches there's no progress..you pull it all out , now that's not progress. The progress is healing the wound the blow made," Malcom X


If I  may take the liberty, I have to accept that after a number of emails in response to the second article including people who engaged me both vis-√ɬ†-vis and telephonically I was faced with an almost impossible task of making a coherent and objective selection of emphases and themes about this great man, King Mzilikazi the bull elephant. Great ideas that need to be pursued came through and they shall be re-visited in the not so distant future. I have maintained that it is not my intention to be scholarly in approach but in this piece there will be sprinkles of scholastic nature, ziyabe zithe gqa gqa njengamafu lapha lalaphaya.

Though very broad in range, again lol! I believe the piece is informative and observant and at times not for the feint hearted or should I say not for people of 'provocable' disposition. I try to provide a distillation of history through vivid stories, resonant symbols and striking images that should appeal at all levels. At some point I digress and explain the hidden true meaning of the word Matabele or Shona amongst other things. There are however limits to the piece which are left to the reader to fleshen up the skeleton. But for me, as long as the piece appeals to heart, senses as well as mind, I will be happy and at no point shall I pretend I am all knowing. This piece is long but shorter than the previous one. Yebo Yes, Sharp Go Jwang! I cordially  invite you on the journey into Mzilikazi's mind once again. Woza sambe Re Ka O fela!

I begin on a philosophical plane in the first six paragraphs of the piece and I then revisit some more Mzilikazi quotes for substantiation purposes. Please bear with me when you find my piece caught up in the past tense and the present continuos tense. That is deliberate. It is for imagery sake.

Since this piece is centred around a person, King Mzilikazi the Bull Elephant, it outlines a range of ways in which he has been interpreted and the crucial roles these interpretations play in setting limits to our thoughts and how they play out in contemporary Zimbabwe . To the defeated and conquered Mzilikazi invites all vile names. As many know by now, insults are the  refuge for cowards. To the Matabele he is a king, hero and conqueror. To the student and philosopher he is one of the greatest African military genius of his time. The picture that resonates in all these three interpretations is that of a military giant and warrior. I however argue in this piece that these interpretations are very limited and they rob Mzilikazi of his real legacy.  I will use an allegory  to introduce my argument. If Mncumbatha, his Prime minister were to be resurrected today to address a lecture on Mzilikazi's greatest attribute I believe the title of his paper would be: How to found a nation out of chaos. The paper would expand on how to forge a nation out of diverse ethnic groups that have faced extinction due to the chaos brought about by European expansion into interior South Africa. I therefore expand on this theme which explores the paradox of nation building and violence.

The piece is located in a historical and philosophical context whose argument is driven by four positions in Mzilikazi's nation: science and technology, theories of evolution, origins and morphing of tribal/national names and religion. These four are by no means exhaustive.

And as we begin to read this piece we should be aware that never before have the sins and turmoil of a generation been lumped on one person as they have been done on Mzilikazi. Before I expand I would like to say Mapondera, Lobengula, Mkwati, Tengela, Soshangana, Sechele, Kgosidintsi, Ntsikana, Mohlomi, Nyamazana, Khama, Leander Johnson, Rhodes or Manthathisi who all lived in Mzilikazi's century were not priests. These were warriors. They killed or facilitated murder to carve out a piece of land or more. If there is any who got a slice through diplomatic means I would really love to have evidence forwarded. Eleven of these operated in present day Zimbabwe. Why conveniently lump all their crimes or should I say conquests on Mzilikazi? Only heaven knows. Can we hate Hulk Hogan for defeating everyone and for everyone's injuries at summer slam? That would be dishonest if not stupid. Maybe blame the game, WWF.

It must be categorically and unapologetically made clear that the invasion of European settlers, consequent slave trading and search for cheap labour triggered the exodus of people around the Southern African region on a large scale. Even moving from the Transvaal by many Sotho and Nguni groups was because many Boers who had rebelled against the British administration which governed the Cape Colony had decided to settle in the Transvaal.

The preceding point is not something to be taken lightly. A number of philosophers have struggled with that question all over the world. For example Hegel believed that any idea comes before reality and that ideas are seen as dominant forces in history and that ideas rather than individuals are ultimate causal agents in historical developments.

In other words any change or historical process always had ideas as its focal point. Does this apply to Mzilikazi? Did the idea to found a nation come first before the reality? Or the reality that was wars caused by the trekking Boers into interior SA come first? Maybe as the Greek Archimedes and his eurekaness 'the guy discovered that if he gets into a tub some water has to spill to make space for him' so the arrival of the European spelt movement. Prof Sabelo Gatsheni Ndlovu discusses that in detail in his various works on the Ndebele nation. And Mzilikazi was neither the first nor the last to migrate.

But again someone could point to the Mzilikazi-Shaka relationship using Hegel's interpretive frames of what he calls the 'negation of the negation'. While problematic in simpler terms it means a subject destroys all negative and limiting elements that stand over and against an individual and consequently the individual begins to exist in his or her own account. In other words it is that eureka moment when the process of the emancipation of the mind begins. It is freedom. The freedom could be ideological or through warfare. For example the people of Matabeleland today have been oppressed, subdued and suppressed and have remained resolute in not only voting for their oppressor but to speak the language of the oppressor. Some also conveniently or shockingly forget that the language of the conqueror in the mouth of the conquered is the language of a slave, klaar. To digress, you see when the slaves reached the point of the negation of the negation they even rejected the English language and spoke English in their own way and they still do today. But prior to that we should not forget they were part of the process of enslaving themselves by adopting the English language in the first place. Maybe they had no choice.

Hegel's negation of the negation is not only limited to the slaves.  It applies also to Americans after the civil war. Americans changed basically a lot of things to do with their oppressor the English. They also changed english words including spellings. Not only that but in sports too. For cricket they formed baseball for football they formed their own American football etc. One finds it amusing that certain so called revolutionaries work hard and are even praised at speaking English well, they dress English, eat English convoy is English but are called revolutionaries. They remind me of the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Django Unchained. One has to watch it to understand this farce. So did Mzilikazi's idea produce the reality or the reality came first?

I know it is a bit boring here. The idea here is divided into two, founding a nation and migrating. The reality here is also divided into three founding a nation, migrating and the arrival of the European. Feels like ntsoro or chase neh? Hold on. Siyayicazulula kancane kancane.

 But Karl Marx and Engels dismiss Hegel and assert that change is evolutionary. They are saying Mzilikazi was part of an evolutionary process. Change they say, occurs in material conditions and in concrete historical processes. Their argument hinges on the idea that any change is an interconnection between the historical, political and social spheres. In a nutshell they are saying Mzilikazi emerged from cumulative and successive environments and so maybe did Shaka. Their ideas had nothing to do with their existence or approaches.

What do I say? Or rather what do you say about these interpretive frames? I think Hegel is a bit mystical on his emphasis on the idea instead of historical processes. Kunzima phela la! Kolema batho, toopela tikabona. Mina I think they are interlinked. Historical processes produce ideas and ideas also produce historical processes. In other words, the historical struggle for resources, community and protection produced the Zulu nation. And the idea of freedom or absolute power, the negation of the negation also produced Mzilikazi. But on the other hand historical struggles for resources, community and protection produced the Ndebele nation where different groups joined Mzilikazi voluntarily or were captured. By the way historians conveniently forget that Shaka was very happy when he discovered that Mzilikazi was not captured or killed during the final raid. It seems Shaka actually knew that they would not capture Mzilikazi. Furthermore it is a known fact that Shaka told the amaNtungwa that remained that they could follow Mzilikazi if they wanted to and those who wanted to stay would be treated well. Of course hoards of other Nguni groups followed later. These facts rubbish the limited idea that Mzilikazi ran away from Shaka.  To use flight as the only interpretive frame to understand Mzilikazi's migration is not only divisive and misichievous but is a deluded, deranged, dumb and deceiving worldview that warps and  has proven not to be only infectious but a tool that has warped many an intellectual capacity in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. To be blunt Mzilikazi split or separated from Shaka. Is it not foolish that Shaka dies in 1828 and Mzilikazi arrives in Zimbabwe in 1839? It is fascinating that Mzilikazi runs from a dead man for eleven full years.  Not to mention that Moffat points out that Mzilikazi condemned and strongly at that, the assassination of Shaka by his brothers.  

Back to Mzilikazi and Moffat.
 
Moffat narrates the first time Mzilikazi saw a wagon at close range. This time it was a different experience  from the 'gangnam' style spectacle where the gun got the best out of both the cow and Mzilikazi who scurried to his ixhiba with shock tucked himself indoors like a baby tucking itself in its mother's jali or ntsaro.I always go ggn (ga gilikidi ngohleko) when I try to visualize the scene, ggn.  No disrespect to the king who is recorded as extremely sociable and full of jokes. Just to veer off phela uMzilikazi was younger than Shaka by three years but were the best of friends because of two main things. First both were outstanding in war and incredible athletes. Second Shaka was a stern and ever serious man while Mzilikazi was a jovial, handsome (I did not say Shaka was ugly, its simply not in the narratives) and full of jokes. As a result it is said they balanced each other out in terms of character.

About the wagon Moffat says:

'As the wagon drew near, Moselekatse continued to stare at their motion, particularly, the wheels, when they halted and the oxen unyoked, he approached with caution, holding a firm grasp of me by one hand and while he held the other on his mouth. He at first spoke little, but examined them, especially the wheels, very minutely….when told of how many parts each wheel was composed, his surprise seemed to reach climax'

Moselekatse asked, "do they give them medicine? Umncumbatha replied, 'nothing is used but fire and hammer and chisel'.

There is one thing that strikes me about Mzilikazi's reaction. Ok let me put myself in his shoes. I see a car for the first time, what would be my reaction? For imagination sake, maybe the first thing would be excitement and I would ask for a ride or be impressed by the colour. But Mzilikazi examines the most important thing and does not care about the colour or size of wagon. The wheel is the most important thing in a wagon. I cannot imagine myself examining the engine when seeing a car for the first time. Mzilikazi goes straight to the wheels. He wants to understand the mechanics of the car. 

This scene lives up to Moffat's description of Mzilikazi that, 'Moselekatse is undoubtedly shrewd, observing and very intelligent for his generation but is very much limited by exposure'.  It is not the first time that Mzilikazi exhibits this inquisitive trait. At some point we see Mzilikazi paying great attention to the way in which tin plates are cut and soldered by Moffat a skill that the bakalanga master with ease not to mention the excellent pottery done by the Bakwena who produce the cutlery for the nation. To digress Bakwena or oNgwenya are a diverse group although all of them trace to Sotho/Tswana origins. They are a nation but in Zimbabwe all of them are called Sechele(Stshela) which is limited. Bakwean constitute of boSechele, Shongwe, Kunene, Thebe, Molopyane, Mare, Magopa, Monaheng of course the Sechele are the most senior. Back to emuva, I don't know much about skills possessed by amaNtungwa who many silly people call amaNdebele or real amaNdebele. I know of Sithole, Dhliwayo or Hlatshwayo who are shona or Ngoni. Boom goes some theory. But I think they amaNtungwa excelled in war.  It is therefore not surprising that Mzilikazi has women and  men of different ethnicities specialising in different things for the sake of the nation.

 It is interesting that uMncumbatha already knows how the wheel is made.
The encounter with the wagon cannot be limited to mechanics. The wheel itself represents both innovation and conflict, new meshings and confrontations. Here the Western and African cultures collide with a high chance of repelling(To me Mzilikazi represents Africa but to haters I know he represents the Ndebele). However we see a commingling, an intergration. For example there is a society shift. Mzilikazi ends up owning the biggest wagon in Southern Africa. It might seem as calm on the surface and ineffectual but we see how for example language changes. When amatjaha stop or move the wagon we see Dutch or Afrikaans words such as trek or vaag absorbed into the Ndebele language. Acquiring a wagon in itself is also a window into the future. Not only that, but it symbolises arrival, destiny and settlement. The wandering nation has displayed so much faith in its Exodus processs, a lot could have happened. With the wagon it is now here to stay and the only movement now can be ideological. There is an exhilarating promise of emerging into a new life. Isizwe sesizinzile after a gruelling motion for survival.  

Besides the wheels, Mzilikazi many a time displays great respect for someone who has knowledge. For example, he says to Moffat at some point, 'I come to you as a child because no one has told me about these things you are telling me about not even my father Mashobana'.  As a result Moselekatse treats Moffat who is younger than him as his senior.

In fact this discussion reveals that Moselekatse was open to new beliefs. Mzilikazi seemed to believe in reincarnation. For example he made it clear to Moffat that his father Mashobana was dead but Molimo had raised, more literally made another father in Moffat. This introduces us to issues of religion.

Moffat and Mzilikazi find themselves engaged in a discussion on religion that lasts as long as their relationship goes. Mzilikazi displays a belief in reincarnation as an individual but he cannot deviate from the amadlozi worship which his nation follows otherwise he could be an outcast. The nation under Mzilikazi is built on inclusiveness and collectivity not the Mugabe nation which is conspicuous for exclusion. As a result the difference between the degree-less Mzilikazi is that he is a nation-builder while Mugabe is a nation-wrecker. I have to concede that Mugabe is seen as a revolutionary in greater Africa which is starved of role models. I mean you have to understand the African. He is has sufferd from two traumatic experiences. Slavery and colonialism. As a result he/she is ever in a state of defence. His role models are Hitler, Mugabe, Idi Amin, Bokassa or Pol Pot. Its not that he loves them. No. The African is evil. He likes anyone who inflicts pain to others as long as it is not inflicted upon himself. But when the pain is inflicted on him he screams like a cyrene.

Before colonialsim the African is not like that. Lets take a look at Mzilikazi as the African in perspective. He inherits some of his views from his predecessors. I use Ngomane's framework for elucidation which is pro Marx and Engels. He explains community or nation through the ntu derivative:

Ulutho- smallest particle or cell
Into- the thing or phenomenon
Isitho-the organ, or portion of a phenomenon
Untu-the stomach muscle in which the Ntu consciousness was concentrated
Umuntu-the personification of ntu that is human beings
Isintu- humanity
Ubuntu-the practise of the law of Ntu

What is clear with Ngomane's derivatives is that they focus on the fact that nothing exists of itself by itself for itself, each is related to all and all to each. To prove this death in African communities means a community loses a part of itself. I remember watching Gaddaffi being shoved left, right and center  the by young boys and only to be killed like a goat or Savimbi's lifeless body boxers showing. The way they died, I felt something dying in me. That is despite the fact that they had themselves killed many people before. It is the nature of ubuntu. But at times, as kwatsho iTKZee laboMageu, 'if you not with us you are not a member'. We see Thatcher dying and people singing with joy. At times it comes to a point where someone ceases to be part of abantu because of their ruthlessness. Africans still don't celebrate the death. But due to the evil surrounding us now we can sing, 'yahambi inja, phansi kumanzi sizoyigebhela'. Note this, they(tyrants) cease to be human or umuntu they have to be inja so we can disrespect them. Another example, the viral Jozefa story. 'UJozefa bekayinja  ubethanda igold medal, ungabeka isitshwala lapha ubeke igold medal laphaya elambile uJozefa bekakhetha igold medal'. So to avoid the pain we have to reduce abantu to izinja. Back to religion and Mzilikazi.

Mzilikazi is very scientific on religion and is not wholeheartedly committed to any specific religious view of the world.

For example when Mzilikazi is asked on what he believes in by Moffat he muses over many views of God as reflected by his diverse nation. He seems to believe there is a supreme being though. For example he says his people believe in Molimo, Moffat asks him what is meant by Molimo he says that's what the Bechuana call him. He says the Bakwena call him Modimo. However the nguni call him Setutu. Mzilikazi said he prayed to Molimo but as Moffat observes, he says it appears Mzilikazi was speaking to his late father. Frankly it seems Mzilikazi had a fixation with his father because many a time he refers to him in many discussions.

In one of the discussions Moffat emphasises that there is God and people will rise from the dead and atone for their sins. Mzilikazi in jest asks, ' shall  Mashobane, my father, rise from the dead? When Moffat points out to him that death was only a separation between the soul and the body Mzilikazi remarked that the soul cannot be seen and how so. They had a struggle here Moffat trying to explain that the soul was like the wind. The discussion seemingly went for years because Moffat lacked sufficient evidence to convince Mzilikazi on Christianity. However towards the end it seems Moffat had won the battle but with disastrous consequence to the warrior nation. I give two examples.

First when Moffat is about to leave, Mzilikazi remarks, 'do not think of going back yet. You must preach the word of God to my people. They are very ignorant and you see how they like you'. Second there is a clear change in the belief system of the Matabele nation as observed by one medical doctor that moved with Moffat. He says, in the past the warriors and the people would say they will do their duty and go and stay with their ancestors, in the process they would point downwards to where they thought there was a city where they would meet with their beloved departed ones. Because of this sometimes I have the image of Demba Ba when he scores bowing down to Allah and kissing the ground. I don't mean to say he believes that Allah is in the ground I know it's a sign of humbling oneself before God. But I am trying to visualise the different ways and signs used by the Matabele to symbolically thank God. The doctor observes that with time many people started to face upwards or point to the sky when referring to God. Basically the way Didier Drogba will do after his sliding celebration. I am not a Chelsea fan but Liverpool. I like seeing that when Ba and Drogba score against Manchester United. Manchester United fans please don't stop reading lol!

I think the belief in the Christian god left a serious mark. Mzilikazi observed that 'a man afraid of death makes a good slave'. When people were believing in amadlozi they could go to war and die anytime baye kwelabomkhulu without qualms. But here comes a god who burns people. Eish Brika bhova ungaya empini ufe ube ususiy egehena. Akutothama vele igoko ngcono ndiletje, ndifilani kumante? ggn
If there wasn't fear for hell I believe a lot of people would not be taking an kaak from anyone including tyrants. Ubugwala! Batho bako gae batshaba! Maybe lokuthanda imali. Greed bayathengwa. We have seen Senators who are formerly herdboys and airtime vendors crossing the floor for the latest Samsung galaxy phone.

Here is my proof that chaps of the past were not scared of death:

A man caught sleeping with one of the King's wives is sentenced to death. Mzilikazi: you ought to die but for the sake of my friend who hates taking away of human life I spare you: but you must leave the town and dwell away with the poor, that I never see your face again' To this the man replied: Oh my king, do not afflict my heart, I am a Mantoto(indoda) a letebele(he must have been of sotho origin), I cannot be disgraced, I pray the king of kings, to allow me to be killed'.

There is one thing that is still humorous to me. When Mzilikazi was told that God cannot lie, he appeared startled. I wonder what his experiences were of God. Mzilikazi was even more startled when Moffat said all mankind, of whatever nation were made of one blood and derived their origin from one common parent. Mzilikazi a firm believer in evolution out rightly questioned such a view by presenting immediate evidence. This is how Moffat frames the discussion:

'he turned the conversation on the bushmen, of which a few are in his dominion and who, he thought, were a mongrel race'. he pointed out at the difference of physiognomy as well as the difference in the colour of the skin'

Mzilikazi seemed to have a pseudoscientific idea of evolution. He believed the bushmen were a different breed of human beings. I mean this is a highly subjective judgement one can interpret as rational or not but so is Darwin's ideas. Personally I don't accept it owing to my Sarwa ancestory. We have never been accepted as complete human beings. For example we try to adopt a kalanga identity which works for a bit but the kalanga continually remind us today that 'tibakhwa' and even my own beloved paternal grandmother  woud always remind us that 'mubakhwa' if we misbehave. Of course the tswana/sotho and bakhwa are inextricably linked. But that is not the story but these beliefs make me believe that my ancestors were surely hunted in the past by the same people who have claimed serious victim hood.
Moffat continues:

And he(Mzilikazi) enquired whence originated the puny race of bushmen. In response to Mzilikazi's question Moffat says: I observed that the appearance of man often accorded with their way of living and the nature of country inhabited, that the dogs of the poor in his country were much smaller than those who attended his person, though evidently of the same breed----this he admitted but said how can we account for the language, so entirely different from the people among whom they lived'

To me Moffat's articulations are insufficient. I have observed in my family and distant families and other bushmen descendents is the striking inability for people to gain weight and at times height while the food is almost the same across ethicities in contemporary societies. There are some other personality traits ngamabushmen. I remember, for example I have heard a lot of stories from ex-ZIPRA cadres about ex-ZIPRA bushmen. One ex combatant had this to say:

"Ayi okungabantu lokhwana ngamazanka zanka, phela kwakutshiya isibhamu kuhambe kuyejaiva lezakhamizi iviki lonke. Kuthanda ubumnandi. Kwakungalahleki, kwakusilonda kuze kusithole phela sasicabanga a ukuthi kuzasithengisa. Kodwa isibhamu kwakusitshaya. Kuthi lesibindi'

On my maternal side again my great-grandfather  Maphane a bushmen whose children and grandchildren still display all the physical features of bushmen except language who died  in the 1980s is said to have displayed the same traits in world war two such that in the end his role was limited to the kitchen. Mzilikazi's view of the bushmen made me realsie the role of the bushmen in all the wars has been undermined. Only one great person in bushmen society and mythology that has been great is Nelson Mandela and that aspect is suppressed. This would be a great field to research in a new, democratic and independent Zimbabwe if the name is still the same.(I would prefer a name of a natural phenomenon and not structures of dubious and inconclusive origins. Names like Mosi Oa Tunya, Limpompo, Save, Matobo, Zambezi or simply a minority language)

Of course I do not expect much today in apartheid Zimbabwe where people have failed to do a TANU or Nyerere by forcing people to be shona and put shona narratives to the fore. We cannot be apologetic about that, it is fact in Zimbabwe there is Shona Apartheid which is evil and must be pointed out. And it must not be seen as a fight directed at the Shona but at a system that is orchestrated from abroad just like it is done in Kenya between the Kikuyu and Luo or in Nigeria between the Yoruba and Igbo. I realise there are other groups in those countries but the tensions between these stand out.These ethnic bigotries are the root cause of all ills. For example we tend to promote prejudice not merit. Lets take a look at the latest Highlanders versus Dynamos football match. We see triumph of prejudice over merit and that manifests itself in all spheres of our life. Of the three political parties today everyone will tell you who is the best leader but they all so tell you they will vote on 'pride and prejudice and not principle. And after that you hear the very same person saying we are cursed! That should be left for another day.

Back to Mzilikazi:

The emphasis here is that Mzilikazi's nation was diverse and despite being confounded by the origins of the bushmen(many use the Ncube surname today while in Tsholotsho most use Mathonsi while some are Bakwena and Moyo around Kezi, Plumtree and Tsholotsho) his nation remained diverse and his clan forming the minority. I wonder why most have taken those three surnames in particular.

Lets look at some symbolism:

Mzilikazi has his solid bronze arm ring lying at the Victoria and Albert museum. It contains gold and metal used for ornaments by Phoenicians. Phoenicians are an ancient semitic civilisation but at times it refers to a region than to a shared ethnicity. The bandle can be a field of study in itself. For example how did it come to be in the posession of Mzilikazi? One guess could prove the theory that the kalanga and the lemba groups are of semitic stock amongst others propagated by Ndzimu-Unami Moyo amongst others are true. The bandle while made of gold, bronze and other metals represents the argument of this piece. The diversity but robust nature of the Ndebele nation.

What am I saying in all this?

In Mzilikazi there  is a common thread that links heterogenous ethnicities  which provoke reflections and an need to counter the architects of colonialist history that confine us to romantic versions of the tribal past which makes us lose sight of the challenges that are faced in forging nations. Yes we cannot grow by digging the past without reconstructing it through urgencies of the present. We need to do away with condescending world views that seek to divide. For example Mzilikazi is portrayed as a savage and thug while one district administrator says the following of the Shona people:

'the ordinary native of this country is the dirtiest and laziest of his race I have ever encountered, they have no respect for themselves, no morals, no idea of truth, cannot be trusted with leadership and no sense of shame, instead of being raised in the scale by the advent of the Ndebele who have good morals and cleanly customs, they have dragged the conquering race down to their level'

But the problem is that some use this history to justify their evil acts but if quotes such as these were to be raised they would be construed as ethnocentrist. Baxter captures the trend succinctly. He says factual examination of tribes blunders into territory both rich with political interpretation and impoverished of fact. He says the arrival of the white colonialist in the late 19th century represented the first opportunity of a systemic anthropological examination of the Mashona, and even then was conducted with many pre-conceptions. Often it was documented he adds, as a thinly veiled attempt by early missionaries to define and justify their own turf wars, and later to support African history as it was written by white historians for white consumption.

It is therefore important to learn from the excellent past African leaders using African goggles. If dialogue and respect fail we must also understand that war is a solution not a crime and it is the responsibility of an oppressed generation to fight for its freedom. It is either flight or flight. Battles should not be left for future generations. And flight should not be seen as cowardice ngoba ukuhlehla kwenqama asikho kubaleka isayo thatha amandla. Fight forges new identities and nations.

For example AmaNdebele does not mean men of long spears or shields whatever. It is derived from letebele a kwena or tswana word that used to refer to aggressive African ants that move in a convoy and when disturbed they spread around to attack the intruder. Many Nguni nations due to the nature of their warfare had preceded Mzilikazi in the Bataung, Batlokwa or Bakwena nations. When they saw the marauding Nguni raids on their way they will scream from the top of the mountains 'matebele a motselenge' meaning the ants/nguni are on their way. Even today any Nguni group Zulu, Xhosa or Swati is called a letebele in many Tswana areas. While derogatory when referring to people as ants it also refers to the agression and type of warfare. With time the term could have morphed to the dubious man of whatever spears or shields. What is interesting for me is that can the Ndebele escape their fate which is inscribed on their name? It is the curse they carry? They have to be warriors. And the warriors are not simply the Nguni, anyone who joined them and became part of their warfare became Ndebele too and at one point or another they will be called to display their warrior nature but it should be coupled with Mzilikazi's philosophy of nation building.

Prior to the Matebele there was a woman called Manthathisi , a warrior who defeate the Bakwena, moshoeshoe, bafokeng and any other band that came were referred to as the Mantatees even if they were not affiliated to Manthatisi. This is a pointer to the issues of naming during the era. Manthathisi was of the same generation as Shaka and Mzilikazi. In fact she was so powerful such that Mdlaka, Shaka's commander when bringing back news to Shaka he described her in the following manner, "the entire southern region curses her very name and ancestry'. shaka is reported to have been fascinated by manthatisi's courage though he called her a homeless vagabond.

It is interesting how initially what were good names morphed into bad while bad names morphed into good. For example hole is today a derogatory name. But it was originally a name that referred to clothing. Amaholingubo because the kalanga and the shona had traded with the Portuguese for a long time and rolled blankets around their waist as a manner of dressing. Remember picutres of Kaguvi or Nehanda? However a name that has been preserved is Shona a very derogatory name. The name is derived from the Tswana term 'letsine' which is a liquid strained from a mixture such as fermented beer. In a nutshell it means dirt. Of course the name became official in the 1920s. Sorry for the digression.
 
Yes it is a bit of idiocy to blame Mzilikazi for the fall of the Lozwi and other imaginary empires. We know there are four things that are conveniently forgotten and for whatever reason I don't know

1. These empires were already disintergrating and very fast at that because what had initially put them together was the trade with the Portuguese and Arabs. When the trade disintegrated allegiances declined because of scarce resources.
2. The Sohangane led shangaan devastated eastern Zimbabwe and most are still settled there as Ndau and have assumed a shona identity and consequently and hilariously claim victim hood too. They were maimed by Mzilikazi. Foolish because even in Lobengula's time the relatinship was very cordially such that Lobengula took a wife from there indlovukazi uXhwalile.
3. Zwangendaba had skirmishes with Soshangane in eastern Zimbabwe and was defeated. The result wa dabulap the breadth of Zimbabwe causing havoc and killed the last Tjangamile. But all that was lumped on Mzilikazi
4. In their entry into Zimbabwe the now newly called Matabele nation did not wreak havoc as maintained by many because the first group led by Gundwane Ndiweni which crossed throught the Limpompo river was women, children and the elderly followed by cattle and livestock and small militia for protection services. The other group led by the bull elephant himself wnt through Botswana and had the crack armies and in its entry to Zimbabwe it is only known to have killed king Rusumbami of the Nambya. After settling in Zimbabwe raids in neighbouring Mashonaland, Botswana and Zambia were common. But they were not invented by Mzilikazi. They were the order of the day and even Mzilikazi's cattle were raided too. He was indeed also a victim.

In conclusion a little bird tells me there is another Mfecane looming.

I am forced to stop here because there are a lot of things on the Bull Elephant. I have only used one third of my notes. I don't promise any more articles unless more emails come through addressing issues that could be in my notes. And if people raise poitns that they may want me to share with others. However in the next article which is ready I am exploring the death of Lobengula. There are five versions of the story, with two that could have a shock effect. I however strongly believe one. 

In the words of King Haile Selassie the first I conclude: "until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and  second-class citizens of any nation......And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war"

As long as APARTHEID continues in Zimbabwe,  Zimbabweaness, oneness or sanity will remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued. And there will be ....... You guessed right!    


Source - Tshepo Mabalane Mabalane
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Subscribe

Email: