THERE are several stumbling blocks against resolution of the Ndebele monarchy issue.
The first is that those who are not members of Lobengula’s house cannot join in the identification of an heir to the crown. King Lobengula’s descendants say only members of his house are by tradition required to identify the heir to the throne.
There is also the emotive issue of the role of chiefs in the process in the identification process. Lobengula’s house says their role is limited to officiating in the rituals to install or inaugurate the new king. The controversy has further been bedevilled by assertions that Lobengula was a mere ijaha when Nyamande was born. But no dates have been offered when Lobengula was crowned king or when Nyamande was born, although it is accepted he was the new king’s first son.
It is further alleged that the “white man’s history” says Lobengula was inaugurated in 1870 and Nyamande and Mhlambi were born in 1873. But because the inimitable and “immortal” historian Mr Pathisa Nyathi has said it, the reading public has simply closed its mind to the fact of history by accepting his word as gospel truth.
Is the reading public so gullible and ill-informed?
On the question of the traditional protocol to identify a successor, a number of chiefs have openly flaunted their support for Bulelani Colin Khumalo’s camp. This has tragically torn apart the monarchy and the people of Matabeleland beyond the bounds of reconciliation. This is regrettable because they have usurped the rites that are the preserve of the royal family. Chiefs are subordinate to the king and must not assume the role of king-maker.
Leaders of Lobengula’s house say most chiefs in the former kingdom were appointed by the king and therefore are subordinate to the king and cannot usurp the king’s authority or that of his children to identify a successor.
They point out the fate that befell the chiefs who installed Nkulumane as king, although he was the rightful heir.
They also assert that Bulelani Colin Khumalo’s bid to succeed Nyamande ignores traditional norms.
It is asserted by the Lobengula house that those who are behind Bulelani are not members of Lobengula’s house. The interference of outsiders, the royal family says, is an attempt to take away the monarchy through a coup.
Mzilikazi had several wives and many sons. His first son was Muntu followed by Mangana, Qalingana, Lopila, Mahlahleni, Hlangabeza, Ngulukudela, Nyanda and others.
Lobengula was of course the one who became king after the Nkulumane fiasco.
These Khumalos therefore can only be involved in the search for a new king by invitation of Lobengula’s house.
There is a strong but erroneous perception among what is generally called AmaKhumalo that Queen Elizabeth II is a trustee of a fund for the benefit of the Ndebele.
The perception arises out of the following.
In 1894 the Imperial Government issued two orders known as the Matabeleland Orders in Council. The first of the two ordered the seizure of all cattle in Matabeleland at the rate 200 000 head per month. The operation lasted for several months. The second Order-in-Council renamed the Kingdom of Mthwakazi, Matabeleland.
John H Harris’ book, The Chartered Million says the former kingdom was left with a paltry 40 000 head of cattle. The people’s food stores had been and the remaining cattle destroyed in a war of attrition to rape the kingdom and the people were further denied their right to till the land, to force them to surrender.
In December 1893, Major Forbes’ forces were closing in on King Lobengula, and the king sent men with “two bags of gold sovereigns” to be delivered to Major Forbes, declaring “the white man will never leave us alone as long as we have the gold”.
This interesting story comes from the book The Downfall of Lobengula authored by a panel of five including Forbes and Sir John Willoubghy. Reports from London say a man has been holding seminars on how Bulelani Colin Khumalo, as new king of the AmaNdebele will be introduced to the queen to claim the fund.
It appears therefore that reports about a fund are driven by the seizure of the nation’s cattle, in which case the money should be under control of the British Government.
On the subject of the chiefs’ role in the search for a new king, it is perhaps incumbent upon the chiefs in Matabeleland to declare their position in the current controversy. This will allay fears that some of them at least are believed to be backing Bulelani’s bid for the kingship. Such declaration will help the AmaKhumalo to resolve the succession issue which has seriously divided the already divided people of Matabeleland.
This is unfortunate because, for all intents and purposes Bulelani is not “South African based” but is a South African citizen, his mother, Mandlangamandla and father Humphrey are citizens of South African and so was Bulelani’s grandfather, Fana.
How much of Njube’s blood runs in Bulelani’s veins? He was 31 when he died in 1910.
Let me close by touching briefly on Njube’s claim on the succession question. He was born in 1879 and was sixth in line from Nyamande to be king.
By what arrangement can his descendants jump the queue, if you like, of Nyamande’s descendants, the descendants of Mhlambi and those of Sintinga Tshakalisa who was born in 1875, a clear four years before Njube.
Mr Nyathi says it is because Njube was taken to the Cape Colony to be educated. Does this man know that Nyamande, after his deposition as king in January 1897, was restricted to a “keep” for 20 years for the simple reason that he refused to be reduced to a mere paramount chief when he demanded a territory in which he and his people would enjoy the rights of independence?
Nyamande became the first political restrictee in this country. And Njube was taken away to be educated.