The dead and the living: fate of some Ndebele chieftainships in the colonial era

25 Sep, 2016 - 00:09 0 Views

The Sunday News

Cultural Heritage with Pathisa Nyathi
“But if you wish to be my enemy, you will find the king of the Matabele and his Nation are ready for you. You Machen have been in my country. I think you know us well, also your people (know) us well.”

This excerpt from a letter with a threatening undertone was penned on the 2nd of May 1870 by the recently installed King Lobhengula Khumalo. He appended his trade mark X at the end of the letter. The letter was directed to Macheng, the Ngwato chief who once lived among the Ndebele but was later released by King Mzilikazi Khumalo to go and take charge of his people.

The letter appeared in the Southern Rhodesia Native Affairs Department Annual of 1929 as part of a story written by F W T Posselt, a native commissioner, as part of a narrative regarding the fate of Prince Nkulumane Khumalo who was King Mzilikazi Khumalo’s heir apparent. However, Prince Lobengula Khumalo had since been crowned earlier in the same year, January 1870 at Gibixhegu, the name of his new capital town at ENyokeni. Following the 1872 civil war, the town was renamed KoBulawayo and was to remain the seat of power till 1881 when it relocated to EMahlabathini where State House stands today in modern Bulawayo. The name KoBulawayo was retained.

However, our interest in the letter lies in the list of chiefs who are given as having been witnesses in the king’s letter. More specifically, our interest lies in the identification of Ndebele chieftainships that have existed to the present times and those that never crossed the colonial timeline. The named chiefs are Magobela, chief of ENkanini. Apparently, there is no chieftainship of that name in existence today.

As pointed out in an earlier article, the people who belonged to this ixhiba were absorbed into chieftainships that existed after the demise of the Ndebele State. Sadly, colonial chroniclers did not bother to give us the surnames of these chiefs. To them, merely saying Magobela, Mzilikazi, and Nkulumane was enough. One’s identity is never complete when their family name is not given.

Mlizane is another witness whose ixhiba/village is given as Mhlahlandlela. Once again, his family name is not given. Mhlahlandlela is an old village name and came into existence when King Mzilikazi Khumalo lived near present day Pretoria between 1827 and 1832, prior to relocation to the Marico Valley further west. Gwabalanda Mathe is the chief that is associated with Mhlahlandlela, a unit within Amhlophe. Apparently, the chieftainship is still in existence in the UMzingwane District of Matabeleland South. Mhlahlandlela Village was vast in size, more so when it became the seat for King Mzilikazi Khumalo in his twilight years from 1863 to 1868 when he breathed his last. There were associated small villages, such as Kwesincinyane where the Ndiwenis were in charge.

In 1943 Bafana Ndiweni became chief though it was recognised that he was not descended from the original chieftainship of UMhlahlandlela. Instead, he was related to both Qaqa Ndiweni and Manyewu Ndiweni who were associated with UMhlahlandlela. Bafana Ndiweni’s successor, Bavayi Ndiweni, was deposed by the colonial government. The descendants of Gwabalanda Mathe who then lived in the Shangani Reserve (Nkayi/Lupane) were called upon to provide the rightful heir to the Mhlahlandlela chieftainship. Indeed, the Mathes did as requested and managed to reclaim the chieftainship of Mhlahlandlela. So, UMhlahlandlela is one of the chieftainships that are still in existence today.

Mpiliwa, another witness, is given as the chief of INzwananzi. This is a better known ixhiba that was part of AMakhanda section. Its location was near the present day Lochard area along the Bulawayo-Harare road. Inzwananzi Village was associated with Guguni, Malevu, Mpiliwa and Maledaniso. In 1870 the INwananzi chief is given as Malevu Magutshwa. The INzwananzi chieftainship does not seem to be still in existence although it has its descendants in Lupane District.

Chief Mankayiyana was another witness whose ixhiba is given as AMagoloza. Probably a Thebe man, his family name is not given. The chieftainship does not seem to be still in existence today. While we say this, we should point out that what were formerly fully fledged chieftainships in the pre-colonial period were demoted to headmanships in the colonial period. It is such headmanships that require upgrading to their original status.

In Matabeleland South as is the case elsewhere, there are a number of headmanships in this category such as Kgoatalala, and Magaya. The next witness was Sifo the chief of AMatshetshe. Through the letter that King Lobengula Khumalo wrote in May 1870, we get to know that Sifo whose family name was Masuku, was still alive and chief of AMatshetshe. At the time of colonisation his son Manyakavula Masuku was in charge of AMatshetshe, having been deployed to the present day Colleen Bawn area to counter European invaders coming from the south. The chieftainship, whose identity is still intact, though no longer living in its traditional home, still exists in Matabeleland South’s Gwanda District.

Finally, the last chief said to have been a witness was Loyiswayo. We do know that this is in reference to Loyiswayo Dlodlo the chief of INxa, the oldest ixhiba under the Dlodlos of Emakhandeni. The other prominent village in the Emakhandeni area was Insingo under Mehlomakhulu Dlodlo umfokaLinganisa Dlodlo and, in the colonial period, was under Msindazi Dlodlo prior to evictions to Tsholotsho under Siphoso Dlodlo. Inxa does not seem to be in existence today, though INsingo still is, in Matabeleland North’s Tsholotsho District.

Loyiswayo Dlodlo’s son, Mgandane, led the royal delegation sent by King Lobengula Khumalo in July 1893 to investigate the matter regarding the confiscation of royal herds by white colonists resident in Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) in what came to be known as the Victoria Incidents. These incidents, in which Mgandane Dlodlo was killed and had his head decapitated, sparked the Anglo-Ndebele war of 1893 which led to the demise of the Ndebele State.

Let us give an example of one chieftainship that enjoys dual existence, in Matabeleland North’s Lupane District and the Midlands’s Zvishavane District. The senior house of Indinana, descended from Ntembuzane Matshazi, exists in the Midlands Province. Ntembuzane Matshazi took precedence over Memezi Matshazi another son of Chief Mfangilele Matshazi, son of Mbungwana Matshazi on account of his mother being a daughter of King Mzilikazi Khumalo, one Nsimukhulu. The wife that Mfangilele Matshazi had married was superseded by MaKhumalo. Her son was Memezi, the father of Muthi. This junior house became a headmanship in the Lupane District going by the name of Headman Goduka. Goduka, who became headman in 1957 and died in 1985, was the son of Headman Muthi the son of Memezi, Chief Mfangilele Matshazi’s son who was superseded by Ntembuzane Matshazi, nephew of King Mzilikazi Khumalo.

Indinana has been in lucky in that from a single ixhiba it has yielded both an existing chieftainship and a headmanship. This is probably a unique phenomenon, one without precedent, a result of the splitting of the Matshazi family following land alienation and subsequent resettlement in two different areas — Zvishavane and Lupane.

Share This: