“Did you ever see a chameleon catch a fly? The chameleon gets behind the fly and remains motionless for some time, then he advances very slowly and gently, first putting forward one leg and then the other. At last, when well within reach, he darts his tongue and the fly disappears. England is the chameleon and I am that fly.” King Lobengula
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, …
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.
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).
During the 1893 Matabele War, British 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 1893, Leander 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.
Historically Bulawayo has been the principal industrial centre of Zimbabwe (former Southern Rhodesia – after Cecil Rhodes); 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.
Bulawayo is seen as the door of tourism to the Matabeleland province, as its capital. Matabeleland boosts of Victoria Falls, Matopo National Park, Hwange National Park, Khami 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.
Mzilikazi (meaning The Great Road), was a Southern African king who founded the Matabele kingdom (Mthwakazi), Matabeleland, in what became Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe. He was born ca. 1790 near Mkuze, Zulu Kingdom (now part of South Africa). The son of Matshobana whom many had considered to be the greatest Southern African military leader after the Zulu king, Shaka. In his autobiography, David Livingstone referred to him as the second most impressive leader he encountered on the African Continent. He was also the father of Lobengula.
The territory of the Northern Khumalo was located near the Black Umfolozi River, squeezed between the lands of two strong rival groups: the expanding Mthethwa empire of Dingiswayo and the land of the equally ambitious and much more ferocious Zwide of the Ndwandwe. Mzilikazi’s boyhood was spent in the household of his grandfather Zwide. Inevitably, as he grew to manhood he observed the less powerful Khumalo being drawn into the conflict between Dingiswayo and Zwide.
|IZIBONGO ZIKAMZILIKAZI KAMATSHOBANA
|THE PRAISES OF MZILIKAZI, THE SON OF MATSHOBANA
Bayethe! Ndebele Nation!
Last month, we talked about the griot tradition of West Africa. This African tradition of long lineages of storytellers, historians, and history repositories of the society, extends beyond West Africa, to all over the continent. For the Ndebele of Zimbabwe, the griot is known as the imbongi.
Below is a praise poem celebrating the Ndebele King Lobengula. The poem was recited in Ndebele by imbongi (griot/poet) Mtshede Ndhovu to T.J. Hemans around c.1970. Mtshede Ndhlovu was born when Mzilikazi (Lobengula’s father) was still on the throne, that is, before 1868, making him some 105 years old. His son, Bova Ndhlovu, acted as interpreter, assisting Hemans with the translation.
For the entire poem, with the Ndebele version, please check out African Poems .
Praise Poem for Lobengula
It roared like a calf. (1)
He who has books is at the river crossing. (2)
The cumulus cloud which rains from overcast sky. (3)
The words of a mountain, King of Mgabi Ndwandwe. (4)
The bird that builds with its beak pointing to a pool of water,
some say catch it some say leave it that it the way it builds. (5)
The black lion of Mabindela.
Grass does not burn in the Kalahari, some burns and bends. (6)
He was furious and then the tribes and commissioners were angry. (7)
Spoor of the leopard that disappears in rivers. (8)
The bush buck that strikes with its hooves and damaged the stones. (9)
Watch him, the destroyer, because he destroyed the commoners. (10)
He who is food they feed from for many many years,
when he dies where will they feed from,
they will eat jackals and roots.
He whose majesty is like that of his father Matshobana.
Cattle have popularity, they are lowing and attract afar.
He whose path is winding like that of ants.
The small bird of the spear, so small it can sit on the spear.
Praises Given to the Kings of the Amandebele,
Nada X, 3 (n.p., 1971).
(1) This praise-poem was recorded c.1970, when a new war for Zimbabwe was in progress. Lobengula is contrasted with Mzilikazi for failing to protect the nation. He is a calf compared to a bull and his roaring is not impressive.
(2) Lobengula signed the Rudd Concession in 30 October 1888, granting mining rights to the British South African Company. He assumed the miners would accept his kingship, but it was soon evident that the BSA were coming as colonizers. He who has books is Charles Rudd, the treaty bearer, and the river crossing is the Limpopo, the southern border to Ndebele territory.
(3) A reference to Lobengula’s responsibility as rainmaker. Later in praise [line] 12, he comes food they feed from.
(5) Lobengula’s succession was controversial, and his performance as king was disputed.
(7) The signing of the Rudd Concession led to anger on all sides, culminating the war of 1893.
(8) Lobengula’s policies were difficult to follow. See also praise 15, where his course is winding like that of ants.
(9) Again, this contrasts with Mzilikazi, the bush buck that steps carefully on the rocks, implying diplomatic skills such as wariness.
I had to share this video which talks about the Rudd Concession and how the British stole Zimbabwe, by tricking King Lobengula, and other local chiefs. Enjoy!
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)!!!
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)
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.
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.
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!
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 The Rudd concession, Lobengula and the concession hunters, and Lobengula’s betrayal, and the Repercussions of the Rudd concession, or read Arthur Keppel-Jones, Rhodes Rhodesia Conquest book.
Today, we will talk about one of the greatest chief in Mozambique‘s modern history: the Shangaan king Gungunyane, of the Gaza Empire. He governed a region which encompassed parts of eastern Rhodesia (in modern day Zimbabwe), and southern Mozambique. He was known as the Lion of Gaza.
So who was Gungunyane? Born Mdungazwe (which means ‘one who confuses the people’ in Zulu) around 1850, he will change his name from Mdungazwe to Gungunyane upon his ascension to the throne in 1884. Gungunyane was born on the Gaza territory, which extended from the rivers Zambezi and Incomati, to the Limpopo river, and would go all the way into modern-day Zimbabwe. He was the son of Mzila, who reigned from 1861 to 1884. He was also the grandson of Soshangane, the founder of the Nguni or Gaza empire, after his defeat at the hands of Shaka Zulu in 1820 in Zululand during the Battle of Mhlatuze river. In its initial stages, the Gaza empire expanded over 56,000 km2 (22,000 sq mi) of land, with its capital being Chaimite. At the death of his father Mzila, Gungunyane ascended the throne after a fratricidal battle with his other brothers.
At his ascension, the Portuguese sent him emissaries in 1885 who tried to have him sign treaties to recognize Portugal’s sovereignty in the region promising: to give his territory to no other than Portugal, to allow that a Portuguese agent reside with him as advisor, to have Portugal’s colors raised over his kraals, to allow Portuguese subjects to circulate freely in his territory, to allow only Portuguese to exploit his mines, to allow the establishment of schools and churches, etc. For which Gungunyane would retain full jurisdiction over the Gaza territory with the right to administer it, and to raise taxes. This was unacceptable to Gungunyane who refused to sign.
The southern region of Mozambique was a penetration road for the Portuguese who had been arming vassals of the Shangaan. Thus in 1888, Gungunyane and his advisors decided to move their kraals from the Rhodesian plateau to the shores of the Limpopo river. This decision will end up costing them a lot, as 40,000 to 100,000 people made the move. Several fractions left in april 1889, while the king himself moved from Mount Selinda on 15 June 1889. This decision was motivated by the desire of Gungunyane to settle an old score with chief Speranhana (who was armed by the Portuguese) of the Chopi people from between the Limpopo and Inharrime, and the need to recover his father’s land in the region of Bilene. In 1889, the Lion of Gaza invaded the Chopi territory, and installed a kraal in Manjacaze. However, the battle against the Chopi will last until the end of his reign, and will greatly weaken the Shangaan.
Throughout his reign, Gungunyane never signed any treaties, because he never trusted neither the Portuguese nor the translator (even if the translator was his own son). He was a skilled negotiator, and would always try to settle everything diplomatically. He played well the British and Portuguese interests in the region… this might have been his downfall in the end.
In 1890, Gungunyane prohibited the sale of alcohol by Portuguese merchants on Gaza territory. In 1891, the Portuguese adopted a decree to ban the sale of alcohol on Gazaland, and agreed to work with Gungunyane to implement this… but as we all know the Portuguese never stopped selling alcohol in the region (this seems like a century old practice from Europeans selling cheap alcohol in Africa, and turning Africans into drunkards).
The Portuguese never stopped trying to control Gungunyane who never stopped wanting more independence (it was his land after all). They kept enforcing treaties. In 1893, the conflict in Matabeleland between the British and Lobengula forced several Ndebele to seek refuge in the Gaza territory (one of Gungunyane’s sister was married to Lobengula) creating confusion. In 1894, the Portuguese used a succession quarrel between Ronga chiefs to attack Gungunyane. No proof was found of Gungunyane’s involvement into the hostilities. On 22 August 1894, war started, when the Ronga troops defeated the Afro-Portuguese troops with Ronga chiefs Mahazul and Matibejana of Zixaxa attacking Lourenço Marques. However, the Ronga chiefs were defeated by the Portuguese during the battle of Marracuene on 2 February 1895. The Ronga chiefs thus sought refuge into Gungunyane’s kingdom. Gungunyane kept negotiating, but now the sine qua non condition to any negotiation was the surrender of the Ronga chiefs, with other clauses such as the full control of his territory by the Portuguese, the installation of military bases, the payment
of an annual tax of 10,000 pounds, etc. For the Lion of Gaza, this meant the end of his independence. Negotiations were still ongoing, but by September, the Portuguese had invaded the territory of Cossine which was an integral part of the Gaza kingdom. On 7 November 1895, on lake Coolela, not far from Manjacaze, the Portuguese crushed 8 Shangaan regiments. Coolela became the Waterloo of Gungunyane. The Lion gathered his treasures and took off. For almost a month, Portuguese kept looking for him thinking that he had sought refuge in Transvaal. However, Gungunyane had sought refuge in Chaimite, the sacred village of the Shangaan people. While many of his dignitaries, and sons managed to escape into the Transvaal, the Lion never left Chaimite, and on 28 December 1895, he was captured there by Mousinho de Albuquerque, the Portuguese military governor of Gaza. Gungunyane was first sent to Lisbon, and then later to the island of Terceira on the Portuguese Azores, with his son Godide, some of his wives, and dignitaries. He will die there on 23 December 1906.
Under Gungunyane, the Shangaan empire grew more powerful compared to his father’s years. The Shangaan system expanded at a time when Mozambique was at the center of European greed and attacks. Portuguese who had arrived in the area in 1891, were amazed by Gungunyane’s power, and wrote that the Gaza empire was “the biggest empire that the negro race had created in oriental Africa.” Many were quite skeptical when they learnt of the Lion of Gaza’s defeat. A contemporary Portuguese wrote in 1910 that: “the king of the Vatua [Shangaan] empire was a fine diplomat who, knowing that we did not have the military strength to counter his power, managed to turn us [the Portuguese] into docile vassals.” To learn more, check out the book ‘Les Africains, Vol. 3, C. Julien, editions J.A. 1977’, as well as VidasLusoFonas, and the book Gungunhana no seu Reino by Maria da Conceicao Vilhena.