Ndebele General who defied Lobengula

16 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Ndebele General who defied Lobengula

AFTER the death of King Mzilikazi in 1868 Lobengula’s rise to power was bloody. A top general and leader of the feared Zwangendaba regiment: Mbiko Masuku, challenged the anointing of Lobengula as the next Ndebele king.

Mbiko was the son of Madlenya and a powerful military leader. As a reward for his bravery, King Mzilikazi had given him his daughter Zinkabi as a wife and Mbiko was elevated to royalty.

Zinkabi was Nkulumane’s sister. The Masuku clan was revered and feared.Mbiko did not believe that Lobengula was the legitimate heir to the throne. This was because Lobengula was born to a Swazi mother (MaTshabalala) and Mbiko felt that she was of a lesser class. He preferred that Nkulumane be found and made king.

Others, however, say that the issue of finding Nkulumane was just a decoy to his own secret ambitions to take over as king. He believed Lobengula had no qualities of a king like his father Mzilikazi.

The Ndebele nation’s senior political and military leadership was therefore divided into two factions; one led by Mbiko Masuku and one that was pro-Lobengula.

Mbiko decided to send a delegation to Zululand, to find and bring back Nkulumane. This was around 1870. The fate of that delegation is unknown.

In the meantime a pro-Lobengula commander, Velane, of the Mzinyathi regiment, sent his own people to another Lobengula supporter, Fakafaka Mabhena, urging him to go and take Lobengula from his regiment, Mahlokohloko, to Mhlahlandlela Palace to be officially installed as king.

The Mbiko faction boycotted the ceremony and a few days later Lobengula decided to attack Mbiko and the Zwangendaba regiment first before they pounced on him. His intelligence sources had warned him that Mbiko’s attack was imminent.

The war between the two factions was vicious and bloody. Lobengula personally killed Mbiko and set the Zwangendaba regimental village on fire. Many fled to save their families and were never to come back to the Ndebele state.

Lobengula travelled on horseback to the battlefront to motivate his warriors. He then secretly left for Mbiko’s village and found Mbiko sitting near his calves’ kraal, stabbed him with a spear and then set the village on fire whilst riding his horse.

Upon hearing of Mbiko’s death his soldiers were demoralised and fled to different places. Some Masuku people crossed the Zambezi River and sought refuge in Barotseland (Zambia).

Some retraced their way across the Limpopo back to Zululand and Eswatini.Others sought refuge among the Mataruse clan in the Zvishavane — Mberengwa region and even became culturally assimilated by that clan. Some, l said were Swazis in their places of refuge and thus hid their true ethnic identity. Others hid amongst the Kalanga people.

Lobengula had initially named his royal capital Gibixhegu, but he later changed it to Bulawayo based on the attempt to eliminate him by Mbiko and his followers. The name Bulawayo comes from the Ndebele word “bulala” and it translates in this context to “the one to be killed”.


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