Prince Nsingo Jele and the Anglo-Ngoni War of 1897-1898

09 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Prince Nsingo Jele and the Anglo-Ngoni War of 1897-1898 Ngoni People

The Sunday News

Prince Nsingo Jele was the grandson of the great Ngoni (Nguni) King Zwangendaba Jele. His father was King Mphezeni and his mother Queen Luphoko Phakathi.

After King Zwangendaba’s death around 1848 at his Maphupho capital in present day Tanzania, the Ngoni kingdom split into several groups. Prince Mphezeni led his followers southward into the present day Chipata district of Zambia in the 1860s. There he established a new state.

King Mphezeni established friendly relations with Portuguese traders, but at the turn of the 1890s his kingdom was under surveillance of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) who wanted mineral and land concessions.

To prevent BSAC occupation King Mphezeni gave a large land concession to the German adventurer Karl Wiese. Wiese however, betrayed the now old and fragile king by selling his concession to a London-based company that became a subsidiary of the BSAC.

King Mphezeni realised his mistake when BSAC prospectors flooded his territory claiming land and prospecting for gold and other minerals. The BSAC presence in Ngoni territory infuriated the crown prince Nsingo who was also the general of the Ngoni military regiments.

Prince Nsingo assembled about 10  000 of the bravest Ngoni warriors and attacked Wiese, BSAC prospectors and soldiers in December 1897 at Fort Jameson. Initially the attacks proved to be very successful as the British were forced to retreat.

The British-led forces however, mobilized and launched a strong counter-attack on King Mphezeni’s state between January and February 1898. Reinforcements by the British and heavy artillery including the Maxim Gun soon proved a decisive factor of the war.

Prince Nsingo’s forces fought with great bravery but the Maxim guns mercilessly mowed the gallant fighters in their thousands. When Prince Nsingo realised that defeat was eminent, he retreated and went into hiding.

The British overran the Ngoni capital on February 4. Prince Nsingo was betrayed and his secret hiding place was exposed leading to his capture. King Mphezeni fled into the hills upon hearing of his son’s capture. The BSAC looted all the Ngoni cattle and burnt all their grain.

Prince Nsingo was court-martialed and sentenced to death, and was executed at dawn the following morning by being tied up. The British buried him at a secret location. King Mphezeni was also eventually captured, handcuffed and paraded in front of his subjects and imprisoned.

King Mphezeni died of depression soon after his release from prison. The year 1898 marks the last stand by gallant sons of Southern Africa against colonial rule. Prince Nsingo Jele remains an icon of resistance to colonial rule in Southern Africa. — Mzala Tom



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