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Bulawayo township names: a history narrative

01 Jun 2014 at 19:56hrs | Views
FROM just one African township in 1894, Bulawayo today has more than 16 townships in the western suburbs. There are numerous aspects that we could deal with when it comes to the history of the townships. However, here we are going to deal with the naming of the townships; the meanings behind the names.

In some earlier article, we wrote on Bulawayo's first African Township, namely the Location or Makokoba. We did then indicate the origins of Makokoba. For nearly 35 years, Makokoba was the only township for Africans in Bulawayo. In 1931, the Southern Rhodesian government of Sir Godfrey Huggins built the Luveve African Village. Again, we have written on the origins of the name Luveve as part of the commemorations of Bulawayo's 120 years anniversary.

After 1931, the next township to be built was Mzilikazi. Unlike Luveve which was sited far from Bulawayo, Mzilikazi Township was close to town and to Makokoba in particular. It is generally observed that the Bulawayo City Council had a policy of documenting Ndebele history through the naming of townships, streets in the townships, and names of beerhalls.

Mzilikazi Township, built in 1945, was thematic in terms of naming. The township itself was named after the founding king of the Ndebele nation, King Mzilikazi Khumalo, who led his people out of present day KwaZulu-Natal in 1820. He finally settled in the south western part of Zimbabwe in 1840. He died in 1868 and his remains were interred in a cave on Entumbane Hill.

Many structures within Mzilikazi Township were named after King Mzilikazi: Mzilikazi Primary School, Mzilikazi Memorial Library, Mzilikazi High School, Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre.

More townships were built in the post-World War II era. In what was later to be termed the Bulawayo African Townships (BAT), Barbourfields and Nguboyenja were added. Barbourfields was named after a Bulawayo mayor, one H R Barbour. Nguboyenja, on the other hand, was named after one of King Lobengula's sons. Nguboyenja was one of the royal sons who were whisked out of Rhodesia by Cecil John Rhodes ostensibly to give them western education in the Cape Province.

Nguboyenja's mother was Sitshwapha Ndiweni. Apparently, Nguboyenja became a barrister. The colonial authorities, keen to ensure there was no resuscitation of the Ndebele monarchy, played Nguboyenja against the Ndebele chiefs. Hidden from Nguboyenja's view, the chiefs, seeking to curry favours with whites, denounced the ruling Khumalo house. They no longer needed a king, they said. Nguboyenja was so disgusted by the chiefs' treachery (amongst them was Ntola Khumalo of Mzinyathini). From that point on, he decided to go quiet: he never spoke to strangers. He lived with Manja Khumalo in Sunnyside. When he died, he was buried at Entumbane where his grandfather King Mzilikazi was also buried.

The Rhodesia Railways, now the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), was a major employer in Bulawayo. In the early days, its workers lived within its compounds. For example Dr Joshua Nkomo lived in one of these compounds when he came back from South Africa in 1948 to work for the company.

A township was built for the railway employees. It was Matshobana Township, named after King Mzilikazi's father. Matshobana was the son of Mangethe. The other railway township was Sizinda. It was named after one of the Ndebele villages called iSizinda. At one time iSizinda village was stationed where the present township is sited. Maphisa Fuyana was the chief of the village in the pre-colonial times.

There was industrial boom in Bulawayo following the cessation of hostilities in 1945. Dr Hugh Ashton took charge of the African Housing Department. In order to provide housing for the workers, more townships were established. The first was Iminyela, also referred to as Number 1. The township, built for men only, was named after the tree species that abounds in the area. The tree is called in SiNdebele language, iminyela.

Next to be built was Mabutweni, also referred to as Number 2. Mabutweni was sometimes referred to as eZinkabini; there lived men who were not supposed to bring in their wives. Frequent searches were carried out to flash out women. Amabutho refers to conscripted men, ready to be trained as soldiers during the heyday of the Ndebele State. The term amabutho was also used in relation to Amnyama angankomo, a generative village/ixhiba under Majijili Gwebu whose commanding village was uMzinyathi (eMzinyathini).

After Mabutweni the next township to be built was Njube. Once again, we see one of the royal sons being memorialised through the naming of the township. Njube was King Lobengula's son, the first to be born after Lobengula had become king. He, alongside Nguboyenja and Mphezeni, were taken to the Cape by Rhodes in order that there be no rallying point in Matabeleland that could lead to the resuscitation of the Ndebele monarchy. Njube died in 1910 and his funeral in the Cape was attended by Nyangazonke Ndiweni. Njube's mother was Mpoliyana, a daughter of Mabuyane, Nyangazonke's grandfather. Faku was Nyangazonke's father.

Mpopoma was built next and was a favourite of many residents in Bulawayo. It provided a long term lease and accommodated lodgers. Its name derived from a stream further west which flowed towards the Khami River. When Lovemore Majayivana Tshuma sang the song Nkakhonjw'eMpopoma, he was popularising an old song which related to Mpopoma, a place in the direction of Siphaziphazi and not the Mpopoma that we know of today. However, Mpopoma in the SiNdebele language refers to a waterfall. Indeed, the stream in question had a waterfall.

In terms of numbered townships, the last, actually a set of flats, was Sidojiwe. Sidojiwe was unique in that it was established within an industrial area. It became Number 5 in the series of African townships. It was also named after yet another royal son, Sidojiwe, the son of King Lobengula. Sidojiwe's mother was Ngotsha Dlodlo, a relative of Mgandane Dlodlo the famed chief of Inxa, a section of eMakhandeni villages. Sidojiwe, like Nguboyenja, was buried at Entumbane.

Pumula was built further west and its name captured the ongoing struggles to gain longer and more secure housing tenure for Africans in Bulawayo. The Rhodesian laws stipulated that towns belonged to whites and Africans were to live in reserves set aside for their settlement. The Land Apportionment Act (1931) and subsequent pieces of legislation were invoked to ensure racial segregation.

The same theme was taken further when Pelandaba was built. Though it was one of the numbered townships (Number 6), Pelandaba became the name that immortalised the struggles for more secure tenure. The matter (the struggle) is over, indaba iphelile. Pelandaba became a prestigious township where the African elites lived. Joshua Nkomo had a house there. Reverend Sengwayo of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) also had a house in the township. In fact, Reverend Sengwayo consolidated a number of housing stands to build a bigger home for himself. A number of nationalist leaders had homes in the township: Makhathini Guduza, Zephaniah Sihwa, Todd Msongelwa Ndlovu, Edward Simela, Enos Mdlongwa, inter alia.

When space for the establishment of African townships was beginning to run out, nearby farms were incorporated into Bulawayo. What had been Curtis Farm was acquired for the construction of another township - Magwegwe. This time the township was named after King Lobengula's senior induna, Magwegwe Fuyana. Magwegwe was a descendant of Mnengeza, son of Mgitshima.

When King Lobengula relocated from eNtenjaneni (Old Bulawayo), it was Magwegwe who was asked to torch the capital town. He remained the chief induna at the new capital (eSagogwaneni/eMahlabathini). When the king fled north under attack from Cecil Rhodes' forces, it said Magwegwe was killed in place of the king. His remains, disguised as those of King Lobengula, were interred in a cave at Pashu in Binga District (site since declared a national monument). Meanwhile, the king crossed the Zambezi River (assisted by Tonga boatmen) and sought refuge among Mphezeni's people at Chipata, Zambia.

One of the townships built before independence was Lobengula. This is the township that was named after the last Ndebele monarch, the very king who gave the name KoBulawayo to his two capital towns. It was the man's contested accession to the royal throne that led to the name KoBulawayo [Place of Death], although since corrupted to Bulawayo. "Ngingobulawayo," said King Lobengula when soldiers arrayed by Mbiko kaMadlenya Masuku (chief of Zwangandaba) fought against him in 1872.

At the time of independence, Entumbane township was under construction. The name comes from King Mzilikazi's burial place, a small hill off the Old Gwanda Road. The hill is an outlier of the Matobo Hills. We should remember too that near Ngome, where the Khumalos lived in South Africa, there was a place of a similar name.

Emakhandeni is a name that derives from one of the four generative villages at the time of King Mzilikazi. It was the third to be established following the integration of the Dlodlos into the Ndebele State. The king, Mzilikazi that is, lived at eZinyosini on the Vaal River (uLikhwa). A number of villages were part of aMakhanda: iNzwananzi, iNxa, iNdinana, iNsinda and iNsingo, inter alia. Amakhanda together with Amnyama angankomo (amabutho) were in the section that was placed under Khondwane Ndiweni, sister to Cikose Ndiweni king Mzilikazi's mother. The king had meanwhile personally led aMhlophe and iGabha. Amakhanda will also refer to the place where conscripts are undergoing military training (ugalo lwesizwe).

Nkulumane Township is a post-independence establishment. The name of the township derives from Nkulumane, King Mzilikazi's heir apparent. The son of Mwaka Nxumalo Nkulumane was born in 1828 during the visit of Dr Robert Moffat. The king was then resident at Mhlahlandlela, where the town of Pretoria stands today. The LMS missionary, Dr Moffat, was coming from Kuruman, the land of the BaThlaping. That name was then corrupted by the Ndebele to Nkulumane.

Let us bring this article to a close by referring to Emganwini Township. When King Lobengula lived at what we now term Old Bulawayo, he used to visit two other villages: Emganwini and Amatsh'amhlophe (Umganwini and Matsheumhlope - the corrupted colonial versions have been retained). The name Emganwini derived from a tree found in the vicinity. The marula tree is called umganu in SiNdebele.

Place names are given in locative form, eMganwini, the place where umganu tree (marula) is found.

It is clear that in the names of Bulawayo's African townships, a lot of history is contained. If one were to deal with the numerous street names, virtually the entire history of the Ndebele people and their state would be adequately covered.

We only need to research.

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