The Sunday News
The story of Princess Mncengence is a tragic political story of sibling mistrust and betrayal. Mncengence was regarded as the first “queen” of Bulawayo after the coronation of King Lobengula in 1870.
She was the sister of King Lobengula. The king appointed her to occupy the office of Indlovukazi until he had married a new royal wife who would occupy the office of the Queen and bear him an heir.
It said that Mncengence was very close to his brother and was part of the team that engineered his rise to power and helped him consolidate his authority despite opposition to his kingship by Mbiko Masuku and the Zwangendaba regiment.
Mncengence became so powerful that she performed the duties of the queen during the Inxwala ceremony of 1874. However, she fell by the sword after King Lobengula ordered her execution at the peak of her political career in 1880.
King Lobengula assigned Mncengence to handle part of foreign affairs related issues. She became part of the king’s inner circle. Between 1870 and 1880, all foreign visitors went through Mncengence who also sat in the bilateral meetings with the king as his advisor.
Mncengence was the only woman in the Kingdom who acquired a wagon. Her wagon attracted a lot of attention as it was drawn by about 50 men, who had to sing accompanied by her private praise poet, for her grand entrance at state meetings.
Her political star fell from glory after the king married Princess Xhwalile Nxumalo, the daughter of Mzila the King of the Gasa empire founded by Soshangane. Queen Xhwalile whose royal house was Emganwini was married for the sole purpose of producing an heir for the king.
According to Nguni customs, the heir of the King was the first son to be born after he had ascended to the throne. Princess Xhwalile who was also born from royalty had been identified as the rightful person to produce an heir for King Lobengula.
However, the princess suffered a lot of miscarriages. The other senior wives the King married also had many complications and failed to conceive. This led the king to consult one of his diviners Gulukudwana Zondo.
Gulukudwana fingered Mncengence as the cause of the misfortunes of the royal wives. She had bewitched the royal queens!
He said she did so in order to remain as the “queen” and enjoy the privileges of her close proximity to the King.
Mncengence had also created a lot of mistrust among the elite due to her close associations with white people. Mncengence refused to marry Ndebele men, saying she preferred whites. Her romance with popular hunter and trader George Arthur “Elephant” Philips was scandalous.
Whenever white people got into trouble, they often ran to her for refuge or protection. She would also negotiate with the King concerning their private trade, mining, hunting, missionary work and business interests.
It was also rumoured that an English trader Tainton was working on a possible marriage between Mncengence and one of Queen Victoria’s sons.
Such rumours angered the Ndebele ruling establishment. There were concerns that her conduct put the King and the Kingdom at risk.
On the advice of Gulukudwana the King ordered the execution of Mncengence and six other people who were alleged to have been complicit in her witchcraft. Gulukudwana said “Umthakathi kancengwa, uyaphohozwa ngenduku!”(There is no mercy for a witch, she must be executed). – Source: @RealMzalaTom