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.

Praising an African King: Praise Poem for Mzilikazi

mzilikazi
Mzilikazi, Matabele King

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.

Shaka-Zulu
King Shaka

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

Bayethe!  Hlabezulu!
Untonga yabuy’ ebusweni bukaTshaka.
Utshobatshoba linganoyis’uMatshobana.
Intambo kaMntinti noSimangele-
Isimangele sikaNdaba
Intambo kaMntinti noSimangele,
Abayiphothe bakhal’imvula yeminyembezi.
Ilang’eliphum’endlebeni yendlovu,
Laphum’amakhwez’abikelana.
UMkhatshwa wawoZimangele!
Okhatshwe ngezind’izinyawo,
Nangezimfutshazanyana.
Wal’ukudl’umlenze kwaBulawayo.
Inkubel’abayihlabe ngamanxeba.
Unkomo zavul’inqaba ngezimpondo,
Ngoba zavul’iNgome zahamba.
Inyang’abath’ifil’uzulu
Kant’ithwasile;
Ithwase ngoNyakana kaMpeyana.
Inkom’evele ngobus’emdibini.
Uband’abalubande balutshiy’uZulu.
Inkom’ethe isagodla yeluleka

THE PRAISES OF MZILIKAZI, THE SON OF MATSHOBANA

Bayethe! Ndebele Nation!
You are the knobkerrie that menaced Tshaka.
You are the big one who is as big as his father Matshobana.
You are the string of Mntinti and Simangele
Simangele son of Ndaba.
You are the string of Mntitni and Ndaba
The string they made until they wet tears
You are the sun that rose from the ear of the elephant,
It rose where upon the birds announced to each other.
You are the son of Simangele who was kicked!
Who was kicked by long feet and by the short ones.
You refused to eat the gift of meat in Bulawayo.
You are the fighter who has marks of fighting,
You are the cattle that opened the closed pen with their horns,
Because they opened the Ngome forests and left.
You are the moon the people said had set
Yet it was just rising;
It rose in the year of Mpeyana.
You are the cow that showed its face from the crowd.
You are the log from which the Zulus cut firewood until they left it.
You are the cow that, while it was just emerging made progress.

Great Quote on Shaka Zulu by Miriam Makeba

Shaka-Zulu
King Shaka, of the Zulu people

The British often talk of Shaka Zulu as the ‘Black Napoleon’, but I think that Napoleon was a white Shaka!” Miriam Makeba

Napoleon
Napoleon

Les Britanniques parlent souvent de [Chaka Zoulou] comme du ‘Napoléon noir’, mais je dis que Napoléon était un Chaka blanc.” Miriam Makeba