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Of Nathaniel Manheru, the Shona, the MDC, the Ndebele, Bakalanga, the Monomotapa Kingdom, and Today's Zimbabwe

06 Oct 2013 at 17:10hrs | Views

"Madhuku, Priscilla: Hanging by the noose of own philosophy"

In his article with the title above, one Nathaniel Manheru, rumored to be presidential spokesman George Charamba, makes sweeping claims concerning Shona history, which he uses to justify, I should say, Shona hegemony in Zimbabwe. He claims for the Shona a vast kingdom which swept from the Indian Ocean to Botswana, into which he force-marches Bakalanga, Vhavenda and the Ndau (interestingly a people of Nguni stock who are descendants of Soshangane from Zululand). The fellow goes on to claim that great civilization for the Shona, claiming in fact, quoting the late Stan Mudenge, that the "Shona civilization" was the "Rome of Southern Africa."

Having made those claims, he sees Shona lost glory in the present Zimbabwean set-up, and even under further threat from calls for Devolution of Power fronted by the MDC as led by Professor Welshman Ncube. He then attacks Professor Ncube (a Kalanga who he confuses for a Ndebele from Zululand) and the MDC Secretary-General Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (a cousin of the Kalanga who he confuses again for a cousin of the Ndebele - her maternal line is of the Ncube clan).

Manheru sees calls for devolution of power, which are really about self-government and self-determination of all the peoples of Zimbabwe, as a threat to the territorial expanse of the once mighty "Shona Kingdom." As such, he sees the Zanu PF "victory" in the 2013 elections as a Shona victory over 'Matebeleland' (a confused name itself), and actually celebrates that Shona-led parties - Zanu PF and MDC-T, emerged 'victorious' over the, in his thinking, "tribalistic MDC".

The "indigenous Shona" and the "ownership" of Zimbabwe
Manheru claims that the Monomotapa (so-called Mwenemutapa) Kingdom was a Shona polity, and that all the civilization associated with it is a heritage of the Shona.

Reading through the Zanu Grand Plan of 1979, reviewed in 2005, one finds that this is the dominant theme that runs through Zanu politics, the thinking that Zimbabwe is by right a Shona state by the Shona for the Shona; everyone else is a settler, and as such, they either have to submit to Shonahood or be driven off from the land.

But is Zimbabwe really a "Shona State"? Are the Shona the only true and legitimate "indigenous owners" of Zimbabwe? Were they really the Monomotapa Kingdom people? Did the Shona really once occupy the whole land that is called Zimbabwe today? Have they any better claim to Zimbabwe than anyone else?

Dear reader, please forgive me the length of the article, but we have to answer these questions to the best of our ability, for in there answer lies the ideas that drive the dynamics of the political economy of Zimbabwe. Who gets what, where, how much and why depends largely on the reading of history, a reading which concludes that there are some people who are indigenous (read Shona) and others who are settlers (read 'Ndebele' - wrongly used with reference to Bakalanga, BaNambya, BaSotho, Vhavenda, etc).

A quote from the Zanu Grand Plan can help drive our point here. An excerpt reads: "…comrades, come to think of it - a settler is a settler - PERIOD! What peaceful coexistence can there be to talk about between the majority indigenous Shona and the occupying force of those of Ndebele extraction. A black settler is as unwelcome as a white settler in our country [as always in Shona thinking the term "Ndebele" is used with reference to Bakalanga, BaNambya and Vhavenda, a people whose ancestors settled 'Zimbabwe' over 1500 years before the Shona].

1. Were they really the Monomotapa Kingdom people?

Nathaniel Manheru takes pride in the civilization of the Monomotapa Kingdom which he labels a Shona state, and as such, he believes that Zimbabwe should be a Shona state. But were the Shona the Monomotapa people? (Please note that I am using the term "Shona" here loosely, for some of the people now called Shona are descendants of the Kalanga just like one may find the Shangaan of Soshangane - a people of Nguni stock - now referred to as Shona).

To answer this question, let us look at the first document ever penned concerning the Monomotapa Kingdom. This we have from the Portuguese chronicler, Diogo de Alcacova, writing 500 years ago on 20th November 1506. Writing to the King of Portugal about the kingdom he stated:

The kingdom, Sir, in which there is the gold that comes to Sofala is called Ucalanga [Bukalanga], and the kingdom is very large, in which there are many large towns, besides many other villages, and Sofala itself is in this kingdom if not the whole land along the sea … And, Sir, a man might go from Sofala to a city which is called Zumubany [Great Zimbabwe] which is large, in which the king always resides, in ten or twelve days, if you travel as in Portugal; … and in the whole kingdom of Ucalanga [Bukalanga] gold in extracted…

I do not need to make any further commentary on the letter, for it is clear that the Monomotapa Kingdom was also the Kingdom of Bukalanga. Of course at this time Bukalanga encompassed Bakalanga, BaNambya, BaLobedu and Vhavenda. Contrary to the claims of Manheru, Zanu PF and Zezuru-Shona historians, the Monomotapa Kingdom was NOT a Shona state, it was a Kalanga-Nambya-Venda Kingdom!

1.1. "But the term Shona is a recent one"

In engaging Shona people on this subject, they have often claimed that by the Kalanga the Portuguese were also referring to the Shona. Really? If so why are the Shona not claiming the historic Kalanga identity (and language)? Are we to assume that they prefer a foreign (Ndebele and/or British)-imposed name - Shona - than their own historical name - Kalanga - if indeed the Portuguese were referring to them as Bakalanga?

Perhaps none puts it better than Aenias Chigwedere. Of all his confused histories, he could not help but accept the evidence concerning Zimbabwean precolonial history as it stands. He wrote:

We have important names bandied about in this country. One of them is certainly KARANGA. The Portuguese make constant references to it in their documents after 1500 [Chigwedere confused the Portuguese rendering for Makalanga - Mocaranga - for Karanga]; one of the names debated by the settler regime for possible assignment to the whole of Mashonaland just before 1930, was KARANGA: we have a whole region today that claims to speak a dialect called CHI-KARANGA; we have yet another region or district that indeed speaks KALANGA today…

May I point out that … I make no distinction between KARANGA and KALANGA for indeed, there is no difference between them. The original name was KALANGA. But the Shona language, like every other language, has been evolving and continues to do so. One result of this has been that the letter "L" has been dropped and substituted for "R".

The original name KALANGA inevitably changed to KARANGA. The letter "L" has however been retained in the Plumtree area where the language spoken there is still very close to the original KALANGA language … large numbers of descendants of the original KALANGA people are still in that area to this day (Chigwedere n.d., 6-7).

Space does not allow me here to digress into the Kalanga vs. Karanga debate. I have addressed the issue in my book, The Rebirth of Bukalanga. The long and short of it is that I have argued there, with much evidence, that the Karanga are a hybrid of the Kalanga and 'Shona' (that is, the Zezuru).

2. When did the Shona arrive in Zimbabwe?

Dr George MacCall Theal, an acclaimed historian who translated vast volumes of Portuguese documents concerning Southern Africa into English, wrote in 1907 that:

In 1505, when the Portuguese formed their first settlement on the southeastern coast, the Makalanga tribe occupied the territory now termed Rhodesia and the seaboard between the Zambesi and the Sabi rivers.

Before the commencement of the eighteenth century that tribe was broken up by wars … and about that time a considerable immigration began to set in from the north … These immigrants, who were the ancestors of the people now called by Europeans Mashona, came down from some locality west of Lake Tanganyika in little parties, not in one great horde. The first to arrive was a clan under a chief named Sakavunza, who settled at a place near the town of Salisbury. The details of this immigration were not placed on record by any of the Portuguese in the country, who merely noticed that there was a constant swirl of barbarians, plundering and destroying, and replacing one another;

and when recent investigators, like Mr. R. N. Hall, of Zimbabwe, and Mr. W. S. Taberer, the government commissioner, endeavored to gather the particulars from the descendants of the immigrants, it was found impossible to obtain more accurate information from them concerning the events of distant times than the general fact that their ancestors came down from the north about two centuries ago.

Of course "two centuries ago" in Dr Theal's time, 1907, would have been the early 1700s. By this time, the Monomotapa Kingdom proper had already fallen, replaced by the two other indisputably Kalanga polities - the Togwa Kingdom and the Lozwi Kingdom.

The Shona proper - or Zezuru - arriving in Zimbabwe in the 1700s, 300 years ago, were not the Monomotapa Kingdom people. They arrived too late for that. So Manheru's pride in the Monomotapa Kingdom Civilization is based on myth. He is simply, in typical Shona-style, stealing and re-appropriating to his people a heritage that does not belong to them!

In fact, any Shona worth their salt would simply disassociate themselves from the Great Kingdoms of Bukalanga - the Monomotapa, Togwa and Lozwi Kingdoms - for it is impossible to imagine that a people so backward and uncivilized would have established so great Kingdoms.

Travelling through Mashonaland one would be shocked that a people who claim to have established what is undeniably the greatest civilization Africa South of the Sahara, can't even, in the 21st century, construct just a decent hut. I have often wondered if those huts can accommodate just one bed!

How could a people so notorious for mismanagement, maladministration, corruption and theft have managed to establish so great a Kingdom, especially one in which theft was one of the most punishable offenses? How could people so political immature have established a Kingdom sweeping from the Zambezi to Polokwane (north-south) and the Indian Ocean to the Kalahari Desert (east-west)?

3. Did the Shona build Maphungubgwe, Great Zimbabwe, Khami, etc

The question was properly posed by S.M. Molema in 1920 in his book, The Bantu, Past and Present: An Ethnographical and Historical Study of the Native Races of South Africa:

The latest archaeological researches show that the ruins are neither so mysterious nor so ancient as they have been supposed; that they are not eastern or anything else but African in origin. More precisely, they show a rude civilization in which geometry was unknown, they are remains of mediaeval structures, and they were built by a Bantu people - the natives of South[ern] Africa. The Mashona, however, only arrived in the eighteenth century. Who occupied the country before them? Makalaka [Kalanga]; and who before?

Manheru claims that the Shona built Great Zimbabwe. The Zanu Grand Plan, which has been built into school history books, claims the same. But is that true? I have thoroughly addressed that question in Chapter Eight of The Rebirth of Bukalanga. I do not have space here to provide detailed information than point out that the archeologists who worked on the ruins, upon whom many credible and unbiased writers rely for their own record, point out that these edifices were the work of the Kalanga, not the Shona.

The archeologists referred to are Dr David Randal McIver (1906), Dr Gertrude Caton-Thompson (1929), Professor G. P. Lestrade and the University of Pretoria Archeological Committee sitting under the chairmanship of Professor Leo Fouce (1937), Professor Keith R. Robinson (1953), Roger Summers (1971) and Peter Garlake (1973). None of these archeologists conclude that the Shona, as Manheru and his Zanu PF would have us believe, were the people behind the Zimbabwe Civilization.

In fact, Professor David Beach, one time professor of history at the University of Zimbabwe, wrote:

"Apart from the case of the zimbabwe on Gombe mountain in Buhera, there is no connection between the dynasties of the shava belt (Mashonaland and Manicaland) and any zimbabwe-type buildings, and their history cannot be projected back to the Great Zimbabwe period"

4. Was 'Matebeleland ever "Shona land"

Seemingly drawing from his party's Grand Plan, Manheru implies that 'Matebeleland' is "Shona land", and therefore any tendency towards Devolution of Power is actually infringing on the Shona right to enjoy perpetual rule of their land. But have the Shona ever settled in 'Matebeleland'?

We find answers in history again. Professor Gerald Fortune, one time professor at the UZ and Manchester University I believe, citing Professor Thomas Huffman of Wits University wrote in 1973:

One of the most interesting conclusions to emerge from the identification of the Leopard's Kopje tradition and the discovery of its relationship to the subsequent states of Togwa, the Tjangamire Lozwi, the Ndebele in Rhodesia, is that the language spoken by the peasantry in the south-west of the country, namely Kalanga, must also date from the tenth century.

TjiKalanga as a language dates back in 'Matebeleland' to at least 900 AD! I have showed in The Rebirth of Bukalanga that it may actually date as early as 100 AD when looks at the works of Cosmas Indicopleustes of Alexandria, Ibn Al Wardy and El Mas'udi which talk of gold trade with Southern Africa earlier than 500 AD. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea indicates that this trade may have been taking place as early as 60AD. Of course the people known to have been involved in such trade are the Kalanga.

We also have the record of Professor Keith R. Robinson who noted the following concerning settlement in 'Matebeleland' by the Kalanga, archeologically referred to as the Leopard's Kopje Culture people in archeological circles with reference to the period before 1000 AD:

With regard to the Leopard's Kopje Culture I think it may cover a long period, because it was associated with gold mining [which had been taking place since the earliest centuries of the Christian era], and the late occupation, as pointed out by Summers, began about A.D.900. I believe that this culture was practiced by the bulk of the people in Matebeleland and south of this area during the greatest expansion of the Empire of Monomotapa (Robinson 1958, 108-121).

Commenting on the pottery found in ruins around Matebeleland, Professor Robinson observed in a later work: "In Matebeleland pottery of Leopard's Kopje type has been recovered from ancient workings. This is hardly surprising as the Leopard's Kopje Culture seems to have monopolized much of Matebeleland over a long period, and may have supplied the labor required by a succession of rulers"

The question that arises is: if Bakalanga and their ethno-racial compatriots the Lobedu, Nambya and Venda have been in continuous occupation of the land now called Matebeleland since about 100AD, at what point exactly has it been Shona land that Manheru and Zanu PF claim for the Shona?

It is at this point that one hears the confused tales of origins in Guruwuswa, with Bukalanga, what is now termed Matebeleland, pointed to as the land of Shona origin. Of course the confusion becomes more pronounced because in the Guruwuswa tales, we are clearly told that Shona elders pointed to the "north" as the location of their Guruwuswa.

How on earth can Matebeleland be "north" of Mashonaland? Added to the confusion is the claim that this Guruwuswa, according to Chigwedere, was a "land of tall grass and rather few trees … west of Lake Malawi" (The Karanga Empire, p.32). How could the Shona have originated in Matebeleland and Malawi at the same time. Mr. Manheru sir, we are tired of your Shona lies!

5. Is Devolution of Power (or Federalism) foreign to the Monomotapa Kingdom?

In typical Goebbelsian Big Lie fashion, Manheru has the balls to tell us that Devolution of Power as championed by Professor Welshman Ncube, SG Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and the MDC in general is an antithesis to the Monomotapa Kingdom.

Mr. Manheru sir, you are a liar of Hitlerian and Goebbelsian proportion. Your claim that Devolution of Power or anything related to it is in contrast to the historical make up of the Monomotapa Kingdom shows the lie that your Shona history narrative is. It shows that you and your fellow Shonas are foreigners and strangers to the Kingdoms of Bukalanga - the Monomotapa Kingdom, the Togwa Kingdom and the Lozwi Kingdom.

If it were not so, you would have known that these kingdoms were never unitary, monolithic states of one culture and one language. They were always confederacies of three languages - TjiKalanga, TjiNambya and Tshivenda. That is why they could hold together even over so large territorial expanse.

Anyone who understands the history of the Monomotapa, Togwa and Lozwi Kingdoms would be the number one proponent of Devolution of Power and Federalism, not an opponent. Mr. Manheru sir, I can ask you: how do you read your history? How does your boss Robathi Mugave read his history? How do the authors of the Zanu Grand Plan read their history?

Clearly, only Shonas who have never known what a true kingdom is will insist on a unitary state, for running a large polity of diverse people is completely foreign to them. People who have never known anything beyond a local chieftainship cannot all of a sudden be expected to run a country of fifteen different ethnolinguistic groups and come up with any success in that!

6. Have the Shona any better claim to Zimbabwe than others

I have already indicated that the Shona are actually recent arrivals in Zimbabwe, arriving 300 years ago. Yet today these are the people claiming to be the "indigenous Shona" and brand everyone else a "settler". What a shame. What is that but abuse of hospitality!

The Shona are no more indigenous to Zimbabwe that any other people group. If anything, they are actually the latest arrivals, or should I say, settlers. The Europeans, in the form of the Portuguese, arrived earlier than the Shona, arriving in the 1500s, 200 years before the Shona. The Ndebele, so reviled by the Zanu-Zezuru-Shona establishment, arrived 100 years earlier than the Shona in the 1600s, although they crossed the Limpopo as they could not supplant the powerful Kalanga at that time.

How then dare Manheru and his Zanu-Zezuru Gukurahundist Genocidaires claim that our aspirations for self-government and self-determination through devolution of power are misplaced? How dare he celebrate the stolen Zanu PF "victory" in the last elections as a triumph of the indigenous Shona over the "settler" 'Ndebele'? I am very angry as I am typing these lines that I am literally pointing my middle finger at Manheru and his Gukurahundist Zanu PF. Sir, nxaaaa to you and your evil and Gukurahundist Zanu!

7. To the People of Matebeleland

During the campaign for the 2013 elections MDC President Professor Welshman Ncube always said: "the most powerful weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." He could not have be more right than that. What we think of ourselves and of this country is the most powerful weapon that the Zanu-Zezuru Gukurahundist Genocidaires will always use against us.

Now is the time for us to stand together in our diversity, understand and believe that we are the true and legitimate owners of this country, and none, except the Khoisan, has a better claim to this country than us. The Zezuru-Shona are the true "settlers", and we are the truly indigenous people.

Will we take that word, believe in ourselves, trust our own, vote for our own, and defend our territory and sovereignty? Manheru actually writes in celebration that the MDC "was wiped off the radar mainly by Zanu PF, marginally by MDC-T, both of them ironically with Shonas for their presidency." Is there any bigger insult one can imagine on a people?

People of Matebeleland, our freedom lies with us, not with arrogant and Gukurahundist Shona-led parties. Now is the time to stand for and with each other. Salvation will not come from the Shona. Us expecting salvation from the Shona is like humanity expecting salvation from Satan himself! How can the perpetrator of evil be the savior at the same time?

The choice lies with us. As we look to 2018, will we keep bootlicking Shona parties that celebrate our demise, or will we reject them all and come up with our own unashamedly ethnic-based regional party? Ask the Zulu what the IFP in its heydays did for them. South Africans owe it to the Zulu and IFP that they have federalism as a system of government today.

Ask the Tigrayans in Ethiopia. The rest of Ethiopia has the Tigrayans to thank for ethnolinguistic federalism in that country. By the way the Tigrayans only constitute 6% of the Ethiopian population. Yet through the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) they led the ouster of the communist dictator Haile Mengistu Marriam and the establishment of Ethiopia as an Ethnolinguistic Federation guaranteeing self-government and self-determination to all the peoples of that country.

The ball lies in our court. Bootlick Shona parties - and remain in bondage - or stand with our own and enjoy freedom, self-government, self-determination and economic prosperity.

And for you Manheru and your Shona compatriots I live the following paragraphs, for I don't know how you read your history:

The Makalanga in the region of Southern Rhodesia… seem to be of different stock from other Mashona tribes and apparently are of alien origin. [They]… have preserved their distinct physical features, so many of the royal families of Rhodesia seem to have retained "Hamitic" characteristics for some time. The early Portuguese noticed the difference in appearance between the Batonga, Barwe, and Monga on the one hand, and the Makalanga on the other, the latter appearing to have been "not of a very black color" and "men of great stature". Many other physical attributes have been ascribed to the Makalanga in order to distinguish them from the other natives; "They are a noble race, and respected among the Negros"; "they are very strong, light and agile" and "are very proud" and "each one seems to be a king of the woods." - H. A. Wieschoff, The Zimbabwe-Monomotapa Culture in Southeast Africa, 1941

[W]e came upon a nest of native kraals [in modern Mashonaland], and alighted to inspect them. There are those who say that these people are the real Mashonas, who have given their name to the whole country. This much I doubt; at any rate they are different from the Makalangas, with whom we had hitherto been entirely associated, and have been here only for a few years. When Mr. Selous first visited this valley on one of his hunting expeditions in 1883, he found it quite uninhabited, whereas now there are many villages, an apt illustration of the migratory tendencies of these tribes. They are quite different in type to the Makalangas, and, as I should say, distinctly inferior in physique. They build their huts differently, with long eaves coming right down to the ground. Their granaries are fatter and lower, and made of branches instead of mud, these two facts pointing distinctly to a tribal variation - Theodore Bent, The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland, 1892.

Ndaboka imi n'Kalanga weBulilima-Mangwe

Source - Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo
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