The Sunday News
FROM a high up vantage point along the highway leading from Bulawayo to Beitbridge one’s attention is drawn to an expansive area down below that is covered by white tents. From here you see lots of private cars and buses that have brought several people to the place which is accessed through some old tarred road. You also see some robust electricity poles. The rest of the homesteads around are not at all provided with such facilities. As I drive down the meandering steep road I get a fuller panoramic view. It’s a sea of people brought here from various parts of Zimbabwe. You may be forgiven for thinking this is a State occasion.
When I left Bulawayo I switched on windscreen wipers. It was drizzling and uncharacteristically cold, for this time of year, probably colder than all the days of this year’s winter months. Who has died, you could wonder? Deaths of kings were, in days gone by, associated with tumultuous changes in the weather. Yes, Zimbabwe had woken up to the news about the passing on of former President Robert Mugabe. Well, there was something else about to take place at the Ngondoma homestead near Mawabeni (Matabeleland South province). Some royal wind is blowing. Today (7 September 2019) the Rozvi King is being enthroned.
The Rozvi Kingdom came to an end in the wake of the arrival of the Swazi band under the leadership of Queen Nyamazana Dlamini. The small group comprised the breakaway remnants from King Zwangendaba Jele’s group. I would soon get to know that at the time of the demise of the Rozvi State the senior houses had already relocated to the eastern part of the country. The junior house to which Tjilisamhulu belonged remained behind. The Mambo who was killed by the Swazi belonged to that house.
A large performance stage has been set up. Powerful speakers are nestled on the stage. Next to it excited dance groups are playing drums, big ones and another type known in this part of the world as ndandanda. This is a small hand drum with a skin on one end and is beaten with a short and thin stick. Later hand pianos, mbira, were added to the musical repertoire. Wild dancing is going on. When I arrived I was led to where Mike Moyo was holed up. It was a certain Nyathi who led me there. The said Nyathi belongs to the Sihlahla section of the Nyathis; he is the one that had been sent to invite me to the function. More reminders came closer to the day.
Moyo, I would later learn, and his wife, a MaNdiweni are hidden in one room situated at the back of the homestead. Cattle are penned in the byre close by. Moyo is the man that is waiting to be unveiled as the Lozwi/Rozvi King to the expectant crowd. That he was being installed had not been revealed to me. All Nyathi said was I was being invited to Moyo’s function. Of course I knew there was something Lozwi/Rozvi about it, but not the auspicious royal installation. Moyo came out of the private room to greet me. We sat in sofas and on opposite sides of the sitting room there were two big seats covered in white cloth. Little did I know then that these were the thrones for the King and Queen. After the exchange of greetings I went outside to collect a notebook from my car. I was regretting why I had not brought along some writing paper. I could sense some juicy and history making stories worth penning.
While strolling to my car, another car’s horn blew piercingly. Normally, I do not respond to car horns. Indeed, I did not, even on this particular day. Then suddenly I saw next to the driver’s window a man I knew well. It was Hlabezulu Khumalo, King Mzilikazi’s descendant. In fact, Hlabezulu is a descendant from the Ndebele monarch’s oldest son Mangwana by Queen Dlodlo. The Ndebele King was seated in the back seat of the car and Hlabezulu is here to request me to come and meet up with him. I am to meet with King Bulelani Lobengula Khumalo. The delegation is on its way to Mhlahlandlela where there is a function to commemorate the demise of King Mzilikazi in September 1868.
The royal party was on its way from South Africa and decided to pass through the place and register its presence. It was left to me to take the king to one who is soon to be installed king. By that time, the Press had identified King Bulelani Lobengula Khumalo. Cameras began flashing paparazzi style. We went straight into the room where I had met Moyo. The Khumalo delegation numbered four. Both Hlabezulu and King Bulelani Khumalo held their staffs high in a vertical position. I could easily read the symbolic meaning. Brief greetings and discussions ensued. There had been contact between representatives of the two parties but not much emerged out of those initial contacts. It was agreed there was a need to resume the discussions for the good of the people of the region. History decided that both kingships be located in the south western part of the country.
It was time to lead the Khumalo delegation back to their car. The Press was in hot pursuit. I brought the delegation’s attention to the Press which was seeking an interview. King Bulelani Khumalo obliged and said a few words, including a comment on the question posed regarding xenophobic attacks in South Africa. He acquitted himself well. It was time to move on to the function where they were awaited. Now the Press wanted some comment from me, and I too obliged. I went back to the sitting room where I found King-to-be having gone back into the cloister where he was to remain till unveiled to the people. By this time I was writing like one possessed by some Shakespearian spirit. That was to earn me the licence to be privy to all the goings on in the sitting room. Spiritual issues were under discussion. Reports were being made. There was a time when people were asked to move out. I remained behind documenting profusely.
I had observed a strong presence of chiefs wearing their chiefly badges. I counted and got down the names of 52 chiefs from virtually all the provinces except Matabeleland and some parts of the Midlands. The Lozwi/Rozvi chiefs dominated. Notable exceptions were Chiefs Makoni and Svosve, from Rusape and Marondera respectively. Among those present were chiefs Musarurwa, Chiduku, Muusha, Kareya, Ngezi, Mawarire, Bere, Mashayamombe, Murinye, Tangwena, Saunyama, Serima and Gutu, among several others. The chief co-ordinator was Chief Musarurwa from Chivhu assisted by Chief Malisa from Silobela. Chief Lukuluba designate, Joseph Vuma, was also in attendance.
I noticed that when Chief Malisa went to consult with Moyo he knelt down. Chief Musarurwa seemed to co-ordinate between the spiritual leaders and the chiefs. Apparently, I had been invited to speak on the mondolo/mhondoro side of things. Indeed, there were many spiritual adepts present. The most senior was the medium for the historical Musarurwa who, during Chimurenga I (IMfazo II) of 1896 went by the name of Gwangwava. He is now a frail old man who sports a grey beard and hair. He commanded a lot of respect from the other spirit mediums. The entry of the spiritual entourage was attended with honour and dignity.
– To be continued