Why the Name: Bulawayo ?

Zimbabwe2
Map of Zimbabwe

I always loved the sound of the name Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, after the capital Harare, and the largest city in the country’s province of Matabeleland. BU-LA-WA-YO… Doesn’t it roll on your tongue? Doesn’t it sound like thunder ? … like something big must have happened there? Well, …

Flag of Zimbabwe
Flag of Zimbabwe

Bulawayo was founded by the Ndebele king, Lobengula, son of Mzilikazi, when he settled in Zimbabwe in the 1840s, after the Ndebele’s people great trek from northern Kwazulu, in South Africa. The name Bulawayo comes from the Ndebele word bulala which translates to “the one to be killed.” It is said that at the time of the city’s founding, there was a civil war due to a kingship succession dispute. The dispute was between Mbiko ka Madlenya Masuku, a trusted confident of King Mzilikazi and leader of the Zwangendaba regiment, and Prince Lobengula who he (Mbiko Masuku) thought was not a legitimate heir because Lobengula was the son of the king born to a Swazi mother, of a lesser rank.

Lobengula1
King Lobengula of Matabeleland

At the time Lobengula, was a prince fighting to ascend the throne of his father Mzilikazi. It was common at the time for people to refer to Bulawayo as KoBulawayo UmntwaneNkosi, “a place where they are fighting or rising against the prince” or the “the place where the prince shall be slain“. The city of Bulawayo coincidentally has the same name as the capital of the great Zulu warrior king Shaka ka Senzangakhona in Kwazulu, where Mzilikazi and his Khumalo clan and other Nguni people came from.

In the 1860s, the city was highly coveted by Europeans, because of its land, wealth, and strategic location. Cecil Rhodes tried different tactics to trick King Lobengula. Lobengula once described Britain as a chameleon and himself as the fly. The fact that Lobengula was a force to reckon with is not to be ignored. Cecil Rhodes himself confided to Rothschild saying, “I have always been afraid of the difficulty of dealing with the Matabele King. He is the only block to central Africa, as, once we have his territory, the rest is easy … the rest is simply a village system with separate headmen …” So trickery was the only resort for Rhodes in order to get Lobengula. Thus, the treacherous Rudd Concession – 30 October 1888 (British Colonial Treaties in Africa: The Ruud Concession in Zimbabwe 30 Oct 1888).

Zimbabwe_Cecil Rhodes
Cecil Rhodes

During the 1893 Matabele WarBritish South Africa Company (BSAC) troops invaded and forced King Lobengula to evacuate, after first detonating munitions and setting fire to the town. BSAC troops and white settlers occupied the ruins. On 4 November 1893Leander Starr Jameson declared Bulawayo a settlement under the rule of the British South Africa Company. Cecil Rhodes ordered the new settlement to be founded on the ruins of Lobengula’s royal kraal,a typical action by a conquering power. This is where the State House stands today.

Zimbabwe_Bulawayo principal street in 1905
The principal street of Bulawayo in 1905

Historically Bulawayo has been the principal industrial centre of Zimbabwe; its factories produce cars and car products, building materials, electronic products, textiles, furniture, and food products. Bulawayo is also the hub of Zimbabwe’s rail network and the headquarters of the National Railways of Zimbabwe. Thus its nickname: “City of Kings” and also “kontuthu ziyathunqa” – meaning “smoke arising” in Ndebele, because of its large industrial base, and the large cooling towers of its coal-powered electricity generating plant situated in the city center which once used to exhaust steam and smoke. Today, as the rest of Zimbabwe, it slowly pushes through the steam.

Zimbabwe_Bulawayo in 1976
Bulawayo in 1976 (Wikipedia)

Bulawayo is seen as the door of tourism to the Matabeleland province, as its capital. Matabeleland boosts of Victoria FallsMatopo National ParkHwange National ParkKhami Ruins and a bigger share of Lake Kariba. As a side note, the infamous Cecil Rhodes‘ grave is said to be at World’s View, a hilltop located approximately 35 km (22 mi) south of Bulawayo, which is part today of Matobo National Park.

Well, if you visit the city of Kings, remember King Lobengula, remember his fire, and his fight for his people’s freedom from western domination… remember the greatness of the Ndebele king, and remember the fire that burns dormant in the people of Bulawayo, fanned by their ancestors. Enjoy the video below on Bulawayo.

The Rudd Concession – 30 October 1888

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A Kraal in Matabeleland in 1836

Below is the text for the Treacherous Rudd Concession which granted exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and surrounding areas between King Lobengula of the Matabeleland, and James Rudd (representing Cecil Rhodes). This eventually paved the way for the colonization of then-Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). As you can see, the concession: (1) forbade Lobengula from signing further concessions with other European powers without the consent of Cecil Rhodes/ BSAC; (2) No more than ten Europeans were to enter Lobengula’s territory at any given time; (3) Gave Cecil Rhodes and the BSAC mining monopoly in Matabeleland; (4) In return, Lobengula would get (i) A monthly payment of $ 100, (ii) 1000 rifles and ammunition, (iii) A gun boat to patrol the Zambezi... which he mostly did not get, and the terms were never respected by the British (what else is new)!!!

 

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zimbabwe_map
Map of Zimbabwe

Know all men by these presents, that whereas Charles Dunell Rudd, of Kimberley; Rochfort Maguire, of London; and Francis Robert Thompson, of Kimberley, hereinafter called the grantees, have covenanted and agreed, and do hereby covenant and agree, to pay to me, my heirs and successors, the sum of one hundred pounds sterling, British currency, on the first day of every lunar month; and further, to deliver at my royal kraal one thousand Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles, together with one hundred thousand rounds of suitable ball cartridge, five hundred of the said rifles and fifty thousand of the said cartridges to be ordered from England forthwith and delivered with reasonable despatch, and the remainder of the said rifles and cartridges to be delivered as soon as the said grantees shall have commenced to work mining machinery within my territory; and further, to deliver on the Zambesi River a steamboat with guns suitable for defensive purposes upon the said river, or in lieu of the said steamboat, should I so elect, to pay to me the sum of five hundred pounds sterling, British currency. On the execution of these presents, I, Lobengula, King of Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and other adjoining territories, in exercise of my sovereign powers, and in the presence and with the consent of my council of indunas, do hereby grant and assign unto the said grantees, their heirs, representatives, and assigns, jointly and severally, the complete and exclusive charge over all metals and minerals situated and contained in my kingdoms, principalities, and dominions, together with full power to do all things that they may deem necessary to win and procure the same, and to hold, collect, and enjoy the profits and revenues, if any, derivable from the said metals and minerals, subject to the aforesaid payment; and whereas I have been much molested of late by divers persons seeking and desiring to obtain grants and concessions of land and mining rights in my territories, I do hereby authorise the said grantees, their heirs, representatives and assigns, to take all necessary and lawful steps to exclude from my kingdom, principalities, and dominions all persons seeking land, metals, minerals, or mining rights therein, and I do hereby undertake to render them all such needful assistance as they may from time to time require for the exclusion of such persons, and to grant no concessions of land or mining rights from and after this date without their consent and concurrence; provided that, if at any time the said monthy payment of one hundred pounds shall be in arrear for a period of three months, then this grant shall cease and determine from the date of the last-made payment; and further provided that nothing contained in these presents shall extend to or affect a grant made by me of certain mining rights in a portion of my territory south of the Ramaquaban River, which grant is commonly known as the Tati Concession.

 

(signed by Lobengula, Rudd, Maguire, Thompson, Helm and Dreyer)

I hereby certify that the accompanying document has been fully interpreted and explained by me to the Chief Lobengula and his full Council of Indunas and that all the Constitutional usages of the Matabele Nation had been complied with prior to his executing the same.

(signed by Helm)

Zimbabwe_Rudd_Concession between Cecil Rhodes and Lobengula 1880s
The Rudd Concession of 30 October 1888

British Colonial Treaties in Africa: The Ruud Concession in Zimbabwe 30 Oct 1888

Zimbabwe_Rudd_Concession between Cecil Rhodes and Lobengula 1880s
The Rudd Concession

One treacherous treaty signed by the British in Africa is the Rudd Concession, a written concession for exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland and other adjoining territories in what is today Zimbabwe, signed between King Lobengula of Matabeleland and Charles Rudd, James Rochfort Maguire and Francis Thompson, three agents acting on behalf of the British imperialist South African-based politician and businessman Cecil Rhodes, on 30 October 1888. Despite Lobengula’s retrospective attempts to disavow it, it proved the foundation for the royal charter granted by the United Kingdom to Rhodes’s British South Africa Company in October 1889, and thereafter for the Pioneer Column‘s occupation of Mashonaland in 1890, which marked the beginning of white settlement, administration and development in the country that eventually became Rhodesia, named after Rhodes, in 1895.

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King Lobengula of Matabeleland

In reality, the Rudd Concession was a deceitful perfidious trick played by the British on King Lobengula to: 1) take his lands, and 2) appropriate the entire country then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from local chiefs who of course knew no English (or very little of it), with translators who very often were also cheating the kings of their lands.

The fact that Lobengula was a force to reckon with is not to be ignored. Cecil Rhodes himself confided to Rothschild saying, “I have always been afraid of the difficulty of dealing with the Matabele King. He is the only block to central Africa, as, once we have his territory, the rest is easy … the rest is simply a village system with separate headmen …” So trickery was the only way to go for Rhodes in order to get Lobengula.

Zimbabwe_charles_rudd
Charles Rudd

Moreover, when you read the concession itself, it’s written on a piece of common paper, as in a 6th grader homework sheet, not legible even by those days’ standards, let alone by a non-native speaker such as Lobengula. It was not a colonial treaty of sovereignty, but a written concession awarding exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and surrounding areas between King Lobengula of the Matabeleland, and James Rudd (representing Cecil Rhodes). For example, King Lobengula never ever discussed nor negotiated a single term in the fraudulent Rudd Concession with the British. Typical of European colonization in Africa!

Zimbabwe_Cecil Rhodes
Cecil Rhodes

This was signed on 30 October 1880. As early as 1889, King Lobengula tried to disavow the treaty, after realizing that he had been tricked. Once King Lobengula grasped the extent of this treachery (I mean, who would think that by talking to some people, ‘putting an X’ – signing some documents you don’t even understand, you are giving your entire land, sovereignty, humanity, inheritance, burial grounds, and people?), he sent a delegation to talk to the ‘White’ queen, Queen Victoria (similar to delegations sent by other African Kings, Prempeh, Behanzin to France, Duala Kings in Kamerun to Germany, etc) about the misappropriation, but his delegation was made to linger in London and was eventually never received, all while the British occupied the lands.

Cecil Rhodes was so happy about the Rudd Concession that he said, it is “so gigantic it is like giving a man, the whole of Australia”… OUTRAGEOUS!!!

For more information, please do check out the website of the late Jenny Bennett who did outstanding work detailing the story of , Lobengula and the concession hunters, and Lobengula’s betrayal, and the , or read  Arthur Keppel-Jones, Rhodes Rhodesia Conquest book.

 

Why the name: Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe2One of my very first articles on this blog was on Great Zimbabwe, the capital city of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, a kingdom which flourished from approximately 1220 to about 1420 in Southern Africa. The modern-day country of Zimbabwe is named after this great kingdom, and it is only befitting that we explore together the origin of its name. Why would a country which was named Southern Rhodesia change its name to Zimbabwe? Why bother changing names?

Flag of Zimbabwe
Flag of Zimbabwe

Well, for starters, I find it a bit sad for a country to only be known as ‘Southern something’ without no real name of its own… I know, … things happen (like countries splitting apart). Secondly, Rhodesia was named after Cecil Rhodes, the British man who committed the greatest atrocities in Southern Africa, while establishing British rule over the different African countries in the late 19th century. Therefore, once the people of Southern Rhodesia became independent from British rule, it was only normal to claim a name that was theirs, and not the name of some foreign oppressor who committed the worst atrocities in their country. It’s like seeing yourself through someone else’s lens; you only become free once you can look through your own lens, and appreciate and value yourself.

Great Zimbabwe ruins
Great Zimbabwe ruins

Thus the name Zimbabwe was chosen. The name “Zimbabwe” is a Shona term for Great Zimbabwe, an ancient ruined city in the country’s south-east whose remains are now a protected site, in the modern-day province of Masvingo. There are two theories on the origin of the word. The first theory holds that the word is derived from dzimbadzamabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as “large houses of stone” (dzimba = plural of imba, “house“; mabwe = plural of bwe, “stone“).  The second theory claims that “Zimbabwe” is a contracted form of dzimba-hwe which means “venerated houses” in the Zezuru dialect of Shona, and is usually applied to chiefs’ houses or graves. In your opinion, which of these two theories is closer to the truth?

A Conical tower
A Conical tower

Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia (1898), Rhodesia (1965), and Zimbabwe Rhodesia (1979). The first recorded use of the name “Zimbabwe” as a term of national reference was in 1960, when it was coined by the black nationalist Michael Mawema, whose Zimbabwe National Party became the first to officially use the name in 1961. According to Mawema, black nationalists held a meeting in 1960 to choose an alternative name for the country, and the names Machobana and Monomotapa were proposed before his suggestion, Zimbabwe, prevailed. I am so glad the name Zimbabwe was chosen. Enjoy this video about Zimbabwe, the country which held the great civilization of stones. I will talk about the different great kingdoms and civilizations that flourished in the area in later posts.